5 Reasons All IT Professionals Should Learn Project Management

Ever hear anyone say these? “We’ve never done it THAT way before…”, or “We’ve always done it THIS way… and besides… we prefer to believe what we prefer to believe.” “And we believe it’s working…” 

So the question I’d like to ask is: Is it really working? Do your IT projects seem to be working out as you had planned? Do you have a plan? Could it be that there might just be a better way? 

Current studies by the Standish Group indicate that 32 percent of IT projects are successful, 44 percent conclude being somewhat challenged, and 24 percent completely fail. It looks like there’s still room for improvement. The question is, what will help us to improve our IT endeavors? A study of project management would seem to be helpful for any IT professional. 

Okay, good enough. But how does that help an IT professional in their daily work? Why should an IT professional bother to learn the discipline of project management? What is the draw? What are the benefits? How can project management help you with the daily obstacles you are facing, and what is the return on the investment for your organization, and for you both personally and professionally? 

Greater Ability to Deal with Increases in Speed, Velocity, and Change

Does the following seem to describe you? At work, you are required to “do more, with less, and at a faster pace than ever before.” Sound familiar? If so, what seems to be driving this?

Bill Gates spoke about this. In his book, Business @ the Speed of Thought, he indicated that:

  • The 1980s were about quality
  • The 1990s were about re-engineering
  • The “New Century” will be about velocity, about speed

One part of the “velocity and speed” aspect is that things seem to be happening at a faster pace than ever before. This is especially true of change. We see this all around us – the rapid pace of change. The question eventually becomes why the rapid pace of change? I believe there are several reasons. Here are just a few.

  • Rapid growth in many sectors
  • Increased amounts of competition
  • Exponential increases in the economic forces pushing down on all of our organizations
  • Rapid execution and development

Increased amounts of competition come about not only locally but globally. Technology itself is both the driver and enabler of this. Organizations must beat their competition to the marketplace with products and services that are created at a fast pace with limited resources of every kind.

How will we ever get an ever increasing amount of work accomplished at a faster pace than ever before with fewer resources available? All of this is either a recipe for disaster and increased amounts of stress, or an opportunity for organized project management.

Greater Ability to Control Schedule and Costs

As IT professionals, the days of operating in an autonomous fashion, setting our own budgets, doing our “own thing” as we knew how to do it are past. Today’s IT professionals often work with liaisons from the business sector, and we are held to higher standards than ever before regarding the ability to control project schedules and ultimately project costs. A solid foundation in project management skills is essential to being able to do so on a repeatable basis. It’s one thing to achieve project success. It’s quite another to do so in a repeatable, sustainable fashion. Those IT professionals who require the skills of solid project management are those who will ultimately achieve repeatable success, and in doing so, find themselves in greater demand. 

Greater Ability to Manage Changes and Avoid Scope Creep

Customer requirements change; schedules change; budgets change; resources, materials, and even entire departments sometimes change at a moment’s notice. A formal integrated change control system that is well documented and communicated to the entire team of project stakeholders will greatly enhance the IT professional’s ability to manage the seemingly unending onslaught of changes they typically deal with on a daily basis.

Minimize and Even Avoid Rework

A common thread which runs through many IT environments is the need to continually revisit a piece of work, often unnecessarily. This sometimes comes about due to the lack of a formal plan which details how the work should be approached before execution begins. A Work Authorization System, common in project management environments, helps to make sure that the right work is done by the right people in the right sequence. Combined with other common project management planning and execution tools and techniques, the amount of rework can be effectively minimized and sometimes even avoided. This is one of many tools IT professionals can learn to utilize which will help them to get their work accomplished within the specified time frame, with far greater chance of staying within the given budget parameters.

Improves Communications between Stakeholders

Many things cause projects and endeavors to achieve less than optimal success. Whether it is lack of requirements, lack of understanding of the requirements, poor planning, poor schedule management, poor cost management, lack of leadership, lack of management support, failure to manage customer expectations, etc., etc., many of these causes can be traced back to a breakdown in communication. The Project management Institute (PMI) encourages budget managers to spend 90 percent of their efforts in communication. Through a thorough understanding of the tools and techniques available an IT professional in a project environment, communication between all project stakeholders can be enhanced and the likelihood of project success dramatically increases.

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