03 Apr 2013

5 ways to keep IT projects under control

Taking responsibility for an entire project is a difficult job, and you can never manage every aspect of the project at once. How do you make sure your staff, contractors and resources come together to exceed expectations?

Do your groundwork

Put some serious time and energy into assessing the viability of your idea, and getting advice from technical experts if you need to, before committing to putting a team together and really sinking some money into the project. Some projects fail because of mismanagement, but there are lot that were bad ideas to begin with.

Know your team, and partners

Make sure you’re confident about third-party vendors, staff or developers before you enter into an arrangement with them. Ensure they’ve got the experience and business reputation to back up their sales claims, and have detailed discussions that enable them to understand the business problem your project aims to solve. You should learn how to best motivate and communicate with each member of the project team to get the most from them.

Define and defend a scope

Once you’ve clearly defined (in detail) what the scope of a certain phase of your project it, stick to the plan. When you’re halfway to your agreed milestones is no time to utter the words “what if we…?” Unless you’ve found a fundamental problem with your solution that can’t be worked around, ideas that occur during Phase 1 development should be put on the list for phase 2, which will have its own scope.

Provide transparent communication

For any sizable project, using email as your main form of communication becomes a nightmare very quickly. It’s simply too hard to find that particular message with the vital attachment in the sea of correspondence a project generates. Store all vital resources, timelines, meeting minutes and contracts in a shared location such as a SharePoint intranet, or employ specialist project-management software to make sure everyone’s in the loop, that the relevant resources are available and that records are kept.

Plan for setbacks

Make sure you’ve identified risks during your initial, scope-defining stage, and have detailed plans to manage these risks, as well as anticipated responses in place in things go awry. It’s not overly negative to have a detailed awareness of a project’s vulnerabilities – it’s realistic, and it makes your project staff more secure knowing that the collective boat won’t sink if something goes wrong.