How Do Project Managers Control IT Development Projects?

How well equipped do you feel you are to carryout an IT development project. Do you always get the best from your team, engage your stakeholders and retain their interest to arrive at a successful conclusion. Can you identify the behaviors you exhibit that lead to success, and those that are holding you back?
From experience, many project managers have difficulty controlling IT development projects. These projects require a high degree of planning, control and communication within the team and the wider project community.
In this article, I look at some of the behaviors managers need to exhibit to run successful IT development projects. There is nothing particularly complex here, but these things go a long way to addressing some of the fundamental reasons IT development projects fail to deliver their full potential.
After many years of running IT development projects, these are my tips for getting the best results:


Show strong leadership, making the project your main focus. Your drive and enthusiasm will filter down to your team. Think top down and be pragmatic.


Develop solutions that meet the needs of the customer and provide a positive benefit for the organization. Be goal driven.


Ensure you remain focused on delivering the best possible solution for the customer. Do not get side tracked by issues around the periphery of your project.


Remember you are delivering a solution not a technology. Do not be carried away with the technology and forget about the solution


Identify the stakeholders of your project early on. Ensure you manage the stakeholder group proactively, setting their expectations and providing regular communication. Identify any stakeholder that can be useful to you as a resource.


Make sure that you hire the required skills and experience for your project. A few high quality team members are better than a lot of marginal team members. Do not hire bodies; hire brains.


Always encourage your team to take a full part in each project. They should be encouraged to ask questions, challenge decisions, throw up new ideas and generally engage. The team should be managed as a team and not as individuals.


Work together as a team to produce the best possible results. Regular brainstorming and progress meetings are essential. Encourage participation.


Motivate your team by giving feedback in a fair and constructive way. Say “thank you” for a job well done to encourage repeat behavior. Assigning responsibility and remaining hands-off can also be motivational.


Always use the right tools for the job, provide adequate training, and support where required. This applies equally to both the technical and managerial roles.


Use an appropriate methodology to drive through results. Be careful not to get too bogged down in process though. For each process step ask, “is it really necessary; does it add value?” Remember process is not achievement.


It is usually advisable to carryout the complex work first giving you the best opportunity of identifying any problems and maximum time to resolve them. Look to reuse as much as you can from other projects or sources.


The most important part of project control is feedback. Encourage and facilitate regular feedback from the customer, team and other stakeholders.


Make sure that you resolve any issues as quickly as possible. Keep a log of issues and the action taken. Never leave issues unresolved, they usually get worse with time.


Identify risks to your project early on and monitor them on a frequent (daily) basis. For each risk you identify evaluate, document, mitigate and monitor. A risk is a problem that has not yet occurred that can only be prevented once it has been recognised and action taken.


Try to avoid mistakes but accept that they will happen. When mistakes are made correct them as quickly as possible.


Demand the same level of quality from your suppliers as you do your own team. They should be as committed as you and your team to getting a good result. If they are not then you have the wrong supplier. Be demanding but fair.


Keep meetings to a maximum of one hour and ensure you know what outcome you would like to achieve. Focus on the outcome and obtaining it, not allowing the meeting to turn into a talking shop with nothing useful as a result. Be decisive and do not procrastinate.


Test early on in your project and continue to test at regular intervals throughout the project. There is no such thing as too much testing when it comes to IT development projects. Test, test and retest.


Review the business case for your project on a regular basis to ensure it is still valid and able to produce the desired objective. Keep the project aligned to business strategy and if necessary recalibrate.
By adopting these behaviors, you will help ensure your success and guide your team to an ultimately satisfying project for you and your customer.