Three Keys to Ensuring Success in IT Project Management

If your company is looking to save money, start with project management.

Did you know nearly 10 cents of every dollar spent on projects is wasted because of poor outcomes? IT departments are under enormous pressure to make sure this doesn’t happen, and with the right tools and strategies in place, you can avoid wasting time, money and resources.

Here are three approaches you can use to improve your success rate with IT projects.

Improve Your Data Visibility

When a project fails, it’s often a result of poor planning.

According to the Project Management Institute, 26 percent of projects fail because they needed resources that were otherwise indisposed, and 25 percent fail because leaders wrongly estimated how much time they’d take.

Having access to the right kinds of data can help you avoid these mistakes during the planning process. That’s why it’s imperative you have a project management tool in place to see what resources are in use and on what projects. By having this data readily available you can better estimate timelines for projects and keep everything on track.

When you use a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tool that seamlessly integrates with your IT Service Management (ITSM) tool on a single platform, you can engage in resource capacity planning across all projects within your organization, including IT. This gives you a more holistic picture of the resources available across your organization and puts all the data you need right at your fingertips without needing to switch between programs.

At Covenant HealthCare they use TeamDynamix for ITSM and PPM. Covenant CIO Frank Fear said resource capacity planning has been a game changer for the organization.

Talking about the importance of data transparency and how combining ITSM and PPM has helped him better his organization, Fear said, “I have my own CIO dashboard and in one look I can see any negative survey that’s come in the last 24 hours, then pivot over and look at any project that has a status of red that needs my attention, then pivot over and look at what’s going live in the next 30 days, then pivot over and see what critical tickets have come in from the help desk that maybe affect our entire organization.”

Fear also uses the dashboards in daily huddles with his team to set priorities and see what needs to be done, “I can report on our key strategic projects and see which project requests are coming in and be able to report status on those very cleanly and clearly through dashboards. I’m able to communicate to the organization the value that all these IT dollars are delivering.”

When using the TeamDynamix platform’s dashboard, project planners or IT leaders can see instantly how staff time has already been committed. They can also track how many hours each employee is spending on various activities, which makes it easy to estimate how much time similar projects will take in the future — making resource allocation and project planning much more accurate.

With better insight, like this, you can reduce the likelihood that a project will fail because officials underestimated how much time it would take, or because the project required the use of employees who were already committed elsewhere.

Establish an Effective Intake Process

Organizations typically have more proposed work than they can deliver because their resources are limited. As a result, they have to carefully prioritize how they’ll spend their time and money.

The intake process is where IT project proposals are reviewed to determine how important they are — and whether they should get the green light to proceed, be tabled for a later date, or be rejected outright. An effective project intake process ensures that only projects adding enough value to the organization are approved.

Effective project intake requires a clear set of criteria for evaluating proposals, a process for doing so and tools that can help measure value. For example, a PPM system gives leaders insights into all of the projects in an organization and how they support the organization’s mission, as well as how much time and money they’re consuming. This helps leaders ensure that the most important, highest-impact projects are prioritized — and less important or riskier projects are deferred.

“Demand for service is skyrocketing,” Abigail Ferguson, Customer Success Manager for the City of Madison’s Information Technology, said. “But our staff levels have stayed relatively the same.”

To address the growing demand, the City of Madison is taking a proactive approach and combining Project Portfolio Management with ITSM using a single platform through TeamDynamix, “This is going to help us really get a sense of what projects align with our strategic goals. We can see what projects align with our service catalog that exist today and take a more proactive approach with our customers and other agencies,” she said.

And reactively, Ferguson said they really want to lean on utilizing their ITSM tool and tickets to help staff better manage their time and improve efficiency.

“We historically haven’t tracked the amount of time we spend on resolving tickets or on a project or task,” she explained, “So we are asking everyone to do that now using our tool so that we have a better picture of what expenditures do we have (in terms of staff time) and then we can use that to have a holistic view of resources so we can do resource capacity planning.”

Once they know their baseline for certain tasks and projects they’ll be able to identify areas where they might be able to make process improvements and provide a quicker, better customer experience.

This single platform approach for ITSM and PPM is also going to help the city identify what projects should be a high priority and what projects can be turned down or scheduled for a later time, “In government, you can’t always say no – it’s more of a ‘we can do that later’ so we want to be able to support our staff and our citizens the best we can by prioritizing the work,” Ferguson said.

Focus on Change Management

Why is change management so important? Did you know about 80 percent of unplanned downtime is accidentally caused by IT staff themselves? That’s a pretty remarkable figure.

Change management involves thinking through the potential impact of making a change, such as a system upgrade or reconfiguration—and then developing a process that will cause the least amount of disruption.

With effective change management, you can prevent unforeseen complications and your IT team can spend less time resolving issues related to whatever upgrade or enhancement was made.

The IT team at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) uses TeamDynamix for change management. With the ITSM tool NEOMED IT staff can plan effectively when making a change, to make sure they’ve thought through every implication first.

“We set up a special form within the system called a change form, and whenever a production change is pending, we have the technical lead fill out that form,” says Geri Hein, project manager within the university’s IT division. For larger changes, the change form is routed to a change control team that consists of Hein, a business analyst, the managers of the university’s IT infrastructure and database groups, and the IT director.

This process has increased communication within the IT division and helped with troubleshooting problems. Now, whenever a change is coming, the key people who need to be aware are automatically notified in advance, so they can weigh in if they foresee any risks or dependencies to ensure a smooth transition.

Changes are linked automatically to the ticket calendar feature within TeamDynamix, so IT staff can easily see which changes were made on which days. “If there’s a problem, we can go to the calendar and determine whether it was related to a particular change or not,” Hein says. “There have been a few instances where our infrastructure team made changes that we didn’t think would cause problems with our ERP system, but they did. However, we were able to track it back to the right source and easily resolve the issue.”

By adopting these three key strategies, you can avoid the problems that plague many IT projects and dramatically improve your rate of success.

This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated with new information.

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