IT + Project Management: A Love Affair
Project management gets a bad rap. Some think that it’s redundant skillset, with new AI technologies taking over some of the PM jobs. Others claim that it’s resource sucking. Your development teams think they can manage themselves. Some believe that Project Managers (PMs) are “too structured, rigid, too technical, and not technical enough,” depending on the circumstance and stereotypes.
Some organizations and the people within them use the excuse that project managers are not real managers — and in a way, I understand that. A good project manager should lead, not simply manage.
What Is A Good Project Manager?
Have you heard of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? A good PM should be your IT teams’ Marie Kondo.
A good project manager should do two things for you:
A) “Spark joy” (by way of positive leadership)
B) “Tidy up.”
The success of her book and subsequent Netflix series means that more people are realizing they need a little help getting organized. I’m here to suggest that a keen project manager can do the same for IT projects.
Project management is crucial in the IT world.
But it’s not just that: IT and project management is a two-way love affair IT needs project management as much as project management needs IT (which is a lot). Let me explain further with two of my favorite things: personal experience and case studies (aka someone else’s personal experience). There will always be merits to using a dedicated project manager in IT.
Why Project Management Needs IT
What industry doesn’t need IT is the better question? Project management is the kind of job where the more innovation the better. As PM, I have to constantly juggle different tasks and delegate items across my team. The tasks to delegate are to navigate cloud storage solutions, figure out different ways to communicate with local and remote colleagues, collect and interpret data, et cetera.
Most project managers are uniquely poised to be a master of communication and organization across multiple groups and departments. They are a jack-of-all-trades with an email inbox that’s constantly on the verge of overflowing. PMs have multiple tendrils of the business to wrangle, from training new hires to signing off on invoices.
You will find that PMs will constantly need ways to store, sort and report data. Because the scope of project management can be quite unruly, we rely on services and software that make it less so.
The best part of IT for PMs is that it’s constantly evolving.
For example, e-communication keeps getting easier and easier. Email was great but what about instant messaging, instead? Free conference software like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts continue to advance the medium.
For scalable organization, try Asana, Trello, Monday, or any of the IT platforms designed with a sense of project management in mind. Time management needs? Try Replicon or Toggl. If PMs need a quick fix, the IT industry has probably already thought of a fix.
IT solutions “get” the needs of project managers.
The IT department understands the need for the PMs — partially because they have project managers in their midst. They also understand the challenges associated with turning the subtle spark of an idea into a fully functional product. Many project management methods, like scrum, kanban, agile, and waterfall, are popular in software development and QA.
In fact, colleges like Seneca even offer courses that highlight the progress being made in project management in the IT industry *Disclosure: I have no affiliate or sponsored relationship to Seneca college. Information technology doesn’t just upgrade project management, it redefines it.
Why IT Needs Project Management
The IT industry is uniquely poised to hone project management methodologies. Mainly, because IT projects are ideal candidates for implementing PM strategies like kanban and fine-tuning the way they work. Imagine this: A 155% increase in productivity output over the course of nine short months by reimagining the queuing, planning, organizing of workflow.
The increase is what a 2005 report on Microsoft’s IT department outlines — whereby the XIT Sustained Engineering team (now the XIT Sustained Engineering) went from the worst-performing IT team to the best.
“Much of what constrains the productivity of software engineers is not related to the method of engineering but to the management, planning, scheduling and queuing of work. Without adding resources or changing any of the engineering methods, it was possible to increase productivity by over 100%.” From Worst to Best in 9 Months: Implementing a Drum-Buffer-Rope Solution in Microsoft’s IT Department
*Disclosure: I have no affiliate or sponsored relationship to the source of the above quote.
A PM named Dragos Dumitriu stepped in to observe the team’s inner workings and assess the way they were spending their time and resources. This is what project managers do: They take a look at all the moving parts and optimize them, taking account of everyone’s needs and making tweaks that benefit all.
Dumitriu’s strategy was mostly organizational in nature. He decreased the amount of time and resources spent on estimations to infer each new task’s priority, for example. His project leadership increased productivity within the Microsoft IT team without introducing any changes to engineering methods, nor requiring (costly) additional resources.
The strategy is just one example of the ways in which project management and IT services have overlapped to produce amazing results.
The things we learn from these intersections can be taken into project management beyond the IT world. IT projects have data that can be sorted and analyzed, making them an ideal ground for project management development. What methodologies work, which ones don’t, and how do they affect productivity?
IT teams amplify project management techniques and in return project management elevates IT work.
PMs do more than just enforce rules and click around in their analytics software A good PM should be able to bust through stereotypes and become an impartial channel through which your internal processes can be evaluated.
They can suggest steps you can take to raise measurables (be it customer satisfaction, sales numbers, project output, error rates, et cetera!), and serve as a source of energy and inspiration in order to get you and your team where you need to go.
IT, meet project management. Project management, meet IT. These two disciplines are intrinsically linked and will continue to build upon and improve one another’s strategies and methodologies. It may seem obvious but it’s worth spelling out exactly how closely aligned these specialties are and how they continue to push and improve one another.
Make note of where IT and project management intersects — it’s where innovation happens.