IT Project Management for Beginners
Project management plays a significant role in a variety of industries and fields, such as software development, engineering, construction, marketing, research, IT operations, and more.
So, when we ask, "What is IT project management?", the simple answer is that it includes those efforts involved with managing the processes and activities associated with ensuring the success of IT projects or systems management related responsibilities.
See "What Qualities Make a Good Project Manager?" for advice on how to be more successful at your job.
But it can also include the management of any IT project outside of those types of organizations that deal with IT infrastructure, information systems, or computer technology in general.
To more fully answer what is at the heart of IT project management, it helps to consider a few more questions. What is an IT project? What are the typically associated activities? What is an IT project management methodology? What project management software, system, or solution best fits my needs?
Beginner project managers can benefit from the answers to these questions as they organize and lead their teams.
What is an IT Project?
As implied above, an IT project can be any type of project that deals with IT infrastructure, information systems, or computer technology. This can include software development activities, such as programming a simple mobile app or a large scale software system.
IT project management for beginners sometimes involves web development, including updating a web page, creating an online shopping site, or even developing an entire web infrastructure.
See "Keeping IT Project Management Relevant When Everyone's a PM" for insight into how IT project management is changing.
Other common examples of IT projects include designing an organization's IT infrastructure, deploying systems and software, and employing IT security measures.
The following represent a few IT project categories:
- Software development
- System deployment
- Change management
- Needs assessment
What are Typical IT Project Management Activities?
IT project management for beginners will include managing tasks, setting timelines, making assignments, and leading teams to accomplish goals that tie into the company's goals.
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Project management expert Elizabeth Harrin says that in the past, project managers were given a project and expected to execute it. Now, they are more involved in coming up with strategies and ideas:
The early stages of any project management within the world of IT involve assessing, prioritizing, and planning potential IT projects. This includes determining the scope of work and available resources, assigning resources, and setting expectations for project milestones.
An IT project manager can expect to take on other project management activities including coordinating the project workload and workflows, managing the actual work, facilitating communication and collaboration between team members, producing project deliverables, and measuring projects' results.
What is an IT Project Management Methodology?
For an IT manager, project management methodologies are all about specifying the best way to initiate, plan, and execute IT projects. Waterfall and Agile are two of the most prominent methodologies used in IT project management, including IT project management for beginners.
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Considered a more traditional methodology, the Waterfall methodology employs a sequential, top-down approach to IT project management with the goal of eliminating risk and uncertainty up front.
As a relatively new methodology, Agile has grown in popularity with its change-driven approach that gives IT project teams the dynamic ability to quickly adapt to needed changes or course corrections.
One study found that Agile has a higher success rate, 64%, than Waterfall, 49%, when it comes to IT projects.
This doesn't mean that beginner IT project managers should adopt Agile without considering their projects' and team's needs though. It's important to consider each methodology carefully and choose the one that will help your team be most successful.
Since each project management methodology has its advantages, some IT project managers implement more of a hybrid approach with their teams, using the methodology that makes the most sense for the specific IT project being considered.
To learn more about how these methodologies work, check out our post "A Beginner's Guide to Project Management Methodologies."
What IT Project Management System Best Fits My Needs?
It depends. Individuals or small groups that only need to manage small IT project management for beginners may include spreadsheets and email.
These simple tools pack a lot of power, but they lead to significant inefficiencies, miscommunications, and other problems as projects grow in size. This leaves IT project managers looking for a better solution.
Solutions designed specifically for IT project management can simplify and enhance the efforts of IT project managers and IT teams, but you have to be careful.
Many of these solutions focus primarily on managing project execution, while neglecting other important IT project management activities, such as project assessment, prioritization, planning, collaboration, and reporting.
Some only support a specific project management methodology. The complexity and cost of many project management software or solutions make them difficult to use or make available to everyone who needs them.
Moira Alexander, a project management professional with more than 20 years of experience, suggests that beginner IT project managers consider current and future needs when they choose a project management tool:
The best IT project management system is one that facilitates all aspects of management, supports multiple methodologies, is easy to use, and is relatively inexpensive. It also makes a big difference if the solution centralizes collaboration efforts and provides the high accessibility and real-time collaboration offered by the cloud.
See "The Visibility Challenge in IT Project Management: Part One" for advice on how you can gain more visibility into what your team is doing so you can be a better project manager.