Oct 06, 2021

How to successfully plan and implement IT projects: useful tips for managers

The success of any IT project largely depends on how carefully it is planned. Head of the Project Management Centre of the Forbis company-developer of banking IT systems, dr. Miroslav Švabis shares his experience: what to consider when planning IT projects and what mistakes to avoid in the course of their implementation.

A successful project starts to become such already before it begins

According to M. Švabis, the success of an IT project largely depends on careful planning already before the start of work. He states that the first thing to do is to stipulate and clearly align with the customer all the business needs alongside with functional and non-functional requirements

“When aligning both business needs and functional and non-functional requirements, it is especially important to set measurable goals. Without specific, clearly measurable goals, it is unclear when the project can be considered completed, there may arise problems due to business of the team working on the project, or due to the exceeding of the budget, or due to unfulfilled customer expectations,” said M. Švabis.

Not less attention must be paid to thorough planning of the scope of work. M. Švabis notes that in order to design a successful IT project, a number of crucial questions need to be answered for identifying future time and labour costs.

“Will the project demand writing a specification for the customer? Will the assistance of a business system architect or analyst be required? What programming language will be used? Who will create a testing plan and who will carry out the testing? What documentation should be provided to the customer? Have the project-closing conditions been discussed with the customer? Only by answering these and other similar questions specific to your project, you will be able to determine what specialists and what workload will be needed,” stated M. Švabis.

Do plan

After having predetermined the guidelines for the future IT project, take up careful planning. Almost all planning methodologies recommend splitting the work into the smallest steps possible: thus, you will clearly see what resources will be needed to implement each work, how long it will take, and what will happen next.

“When planning new projects, I divided their implementation into phases. Analysis is a phase when a specification is prepared; Architecture is a phase when a detailed design report is got ready; Production phase involves carrying out of the programming work; during the Internal testing phase, there are prepared test cases, scripts, test plans for carrying out of the testing; Implementation phase involves project handing over to the customer. Every project is different, but this planning methodology can be applied as universal guidelines to almost all IT projects,” said M. Švabis.

A common mistake that can appear to be very costly is the lack of the detailed arrangements in terms of the customer actions. It is important to agree in advance not only on what is expected of you, but also what the customer is committed to doing. Maybe the customer will need to create a testing environment on the local infrastructure or maybe some integration with a third party is needed. Finally, it is necessary to schedule when the customer will conduct the project acceptance testing and have your team members reserved for that time. Do not rush to involve the team into other projects until the current project is officially completed.

Management of terms and expectations

One of the biggest mistakes that the IT project managers make is overly optimistic time planning. Naturally, you want to complete every project in the shortest time possible, however, often such an approach does more harm than good.

“Experienced project managers know that it is necessary to get ready for unforeseen circumstances. That is why, when scheduling the project implementation deadlines, I always extend them by fifteen or, if the possible, even by thirty percent, certainly after aligning this with the customers. Communicate frankly with the customer, and if your relationship is particularly good, openly share your thoughts on possible project implementation scenarios. Every customer appreciates openness and will be pleasantly surprised when you finish the project earlier than planned,” said M. Švabis

Last but not least, never promise what you will not be able to accomplish. When managing IT projects, it is especially important to remain objective and honest with yourself, with the customer, with the project team, and with the management of your company. A successful project manager, facing any pressure to perform tasks that in their opinion are unachievable, must communicate this openly and justify their position.

“Having faced seemingly unrealistic expectations, the most important thing is to identify for yourself and the others, why you think this is not possible, and to openly look for solutions. Often, stating specific reasons leads to finding solutions. If you nevertheless see that the goal you want to achieve is not realistic, you may find a compromise with the help of open communication – and this will be a fair agreement and a solution being sought for,” M. Švabis reasoned.