If you’ve ever managed a major IT project, you’re probably well acquainted with Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Every project is going to have some rough patches. The key to overcoming these challenges lays not with the execution of the plan, but with the preparation. Here are four things to consider when you’re planning out your next long-term IT project.
Know Your Needs
Believe it or not, understanding exactly what your company needs from a project and translating that into a well-defined strategy with realistic goals may be the difference between a success and failure. First, it’s best to look at the big picture.
- What is the desired result?
- What does the project do for your business?
- How will the implementation of this project affect other departments?
- Will the project directly impact clients/prospects?
- Will there be any downtime?
- Does the team need to be educated about this project?
Budgeting for the Unknown
Prices go up. Projects get delayed. Accidents happen. More often than not, you’re going to run into an unplanned incident during the duration of your project. The best way to make sure that your budget doesn’t come up short is by anticipating that there will be unforeseen expenses. Whenever possible, it’s preferred that you give yourself a bit of ‘wiggle room’ within your budget. Of course, you can’t predict the future - but you can look to previous projects for an idea of what sort of snafus you are likely to encounter. Giving yourself a bit of cushion when planning out your budget might end up saving you big time down the road. And if it turns out that you didn’t need that extra money, then congratulations! Your project was completed under budget!
Determine Benchmarks and Measurements
Especially important during long term IT projects is figuring out ways to measure and gauge the project’s progress. You will want to determine a plan for these measurements before you begin the project. This will help you maintain forward momentum, keep your budget in check and show areas that need improvements for the next time you have a similar project. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are ways to measure that success. Keeping track of the following metrics will help you get a grasp on the way your project’s progress throughout the execution:
- Actual cost
- Cost Variance
- Earned Value
- Planned Value
- Return on Investment
Too often in a project’s execution, only the project managers will know how the project is fairing. Everyone else is only privy to the sections of the project that apply directly to them. Project managers are there to drive the project - and part of that is communicating with resources - both inside and outside of the project. For example, if your project is going to require your network to be offline, giving advance warning to those who will impacted by this downtime is not only courteous, but keeps your project on track. There is nothing like having to delay your progress because there was an important meeting scheduled for the time you had planned on bringing the network offline.
There are many programs and applications available to those who are looking for ways to improve organization and communication throughout your project. Project management software gives PMs a unified solution where they’re able to track inventory, budget, KPIs, resources and a whole host of parts of a project in motion.
As with most things in life, projects rarely go as planned. The only thing that a project management team can do is make an effort to plan ahead, anticipate needs, and be ready to face whatever challenges are thrown their way. Do you have an IT project in mind but are unsure of how to manage and execute it? Contact Sagacent today at (408) 248-9800.