Are you an accidental IT project manager? Here’s how to succeed

These tips will help you manage like a pro and navigate through projects while balancing timelines, quality and cost

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

There are two types of project managers: those who have completed courses to become certified project managers and the rest of us.

In a 2015 survey of 200 North Americans who manage or participate in projects, two thirds of participants were not project management certified.  But with proper strategy and planning, IT professionals who face the challenges in playing this accidental project manager role can avoid chaos and work smarter.

In fact, accidental IT project managers can achieve success without being an expert on all the subtleties of completing tasks. The following guide will offer tips needed to manage like a pro and navigate through projects while balancing timelines, quality and cost:

* Encourage collaboration among your team.  The flames of chaos can be fueled when one or more members are managing too many tasks at once. Just one overworked team member can jeopardize the whole project. Sharing responsibilities and assigning joint ownership can ensure work is evenly distributed. Visual task management tools like Kanban boards can help. These allow everyone to see what tasks are being worked, where they stand and with whom, in order to keep things on track. Creating a virtual project space around these Kanban boards can establish a community feel and ensure all important plans, documents and tasks are easily available to team members anywhere.

Establish daily catch-ups with team members if needed to ensure the workload is even, but keep it brief. It’s also important to remember not to do everything yourself. The main trick is to prioritize and delegate as not all tasks are equally important and focusing on the right ones will help to accelerate toward the goal. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else on the team to take something off your plate. Feeling overwhelmed won’t help and accepting that you can’t do it all will improve your work life.

* Communicate the end-to-end plan to make sure all team members involved in the initiative know the end goal and the tasks to help get there. Gantt charts are one way to showcase this as an alternative to a plan drawn up on a whiteboard. It’s important to have a bird’s eye view of which tasks are currently in motion, which are running simultaneously and if any tasks depend on the completion of others. This overview will avoid any sense of confusion and lay it all out. This will also greatly assist with communications to stakeholders, as keeping them up-to-date and informed during a project is crucial to success.

When managing a project, it’s important to remember that plans evolve. Every plan is a reference for change, and it is likely scope and timeframes will require adjustments along the way. Being agile and responsive is important to keep things moving as unforeseen changes are thrown into the mix. A strategy based on overall objectives and a project timeline can help. In the end, clarifying the goal and allowing the team to do what they do best will carry the group through. Trust your team members to fulfill their roles and leverage their specific skill sets to contribute toward reaching the finish line.

* Communication doesn’t always have to be through email, on the phone or face-to-face. Using a cloud-based tool that enables collaboration within the project can greatly facilitate communication among team members that may be working on different schedules and from different locations. This will also enable stakeholders to see real-time progress and allow them to contribute and chime in when needed.

About 45 working days are wasted per year in US organizations due to inefficient ways of working. A lack of formal project management training doesn’t mean IT professionals can’t get things done in a smart and efficient way. Many accidental project managers are used to inefficiencies as they are expected to oversee a plan, organize a team, delegate tasks and track progress without being taught how. With the proper knowledge, accidental IT project managers can lower employee stress levels and improve productivity for the whole team.

Find out how to beat chaotic ways of working with the Accidental Project Manager’s Survival Guide.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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