10 things I wish I had known when I became an IT project manager

10 THINGS i wish I had known when I became an IT project manager

How to manage it?

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. Management means also efficiency in climbing the ladder of success but the leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. I’ve been learning those things for years since I became an IT project manager and I want to share my experience to spare you all the needless mistakes.

1.    The great importance of planning

Every minute spent on planning the project is worth ten times more than an hour of building the solution. All the time that you put into thinking, planning, drawing mockups, drawing the whole system. The more details you include and the more time you spend with your team the better and the bigger is your chance to avoid redoing things multiple times. It gives you a great chance of delivering the project on time and making fewer mistakes during your journey.

Every minute spent on planning is worth ten times more than an hour of building the solution. Click To Tweet
planning is the key

Planning your actions is the key thing in timekeeping.

2.    Bit-by-bit

When I became an IT project manager a few years ago, the key point was to hand over a completed project after 3 to 6 months. Obviously, it was the effect of gathering the specifications from the customer during meetings, creating mockups and building the projects. If only I had known that the best solution is the Agile method, so working with the client weekly or at least monthly. This way we are building our solution, beginning with the smallest but the most important element. We deliver the product that is brought into action and because the customer is using it he can tell us what his REAL needs are. When a company meets software after 6 months their demands may not be the same at all. Tracking and monitoring the process is crucial if you want to succeed in IT world.

3.    Changes DO NOT ENTER

Another mistake that I was making at the very beginning was changing the original plan and agreeing on adding a new feature before the end of some project phase. If we have something scheduled we should work little by little and don’t throw new things in the middle of each step. It doesn’t work at all and doesn’t help when it comes to your relations with the client too. Believe me. When you are managing an IT project you have to trust your skills and do your best, even if it includes a debate with the customer about not doing sth at the moment they want . It’s the right direction. In the long run, it’s beneficial both for the project and your relationship with the client.

4.    Make it double, avoid trouble

Completing most of our tasks takes longer than expected. Especially developers think that everything is just the matter of 15 min or an hour. One of the methods that work is exactly what Timble tries to do. When I was working with developers I was always trying to estimate time for the tasks. This time was important for me, but it was even more important for the devs. There is a rule that worked well in Inwedo and works in Timble. If you are a developer and you are starting a new task, with no compulsion to track your time – always do it. Sit down and think how much time will it take. Then make it double. Still, there is a chance that you will not manage to complete your work at this time. Always add some extra time. Always.

5.    Checkpoint

Let’s say that after estimating time just like I mentioned in the previous paragraph you’re giving yourself 16 h. After 8  hours so right in the middle, there is a time to see how is your work going. If half of it is done – you’re awesome. Good job! But if at this point you haven’t even done ¼, it’s a perfect moment to ask yourself WHY? What can you do to meet the deadline? Maybe you should consider using new technology, a different approach or perhaps you just need someone to give you a hand.

6.    Big Goals to reach

To successfully manage yourself, your team and your time – estimating and tracking are the core elements. I used to be a developer myself, so I know that the best idea is to look at what you’ve done during the whole day or week. It’s the most valuable lesson and a great self-discipline mechanism. You learn which of these things were really important and which weren’t. Personally, when I’m planning my time I write down all my tasks. Then I assign priority to each of them. Next, I consider which one will move my project forward. If I have any doubts I check my main goals for the year or month and verify what supports them best. During busy periods I’m always marking things that have to be done urgently – today or this week. Works like nothing else.

7.    One Man Hero

Yes, I used to be a One Man Hero. And it was great for the team. I was sitting down with them and solving problems they had. I was stepping out of the project manager role and becoming a developer. Unfortunately, the management aspect of my company was suffering due to the fact that I was always putting these problems first. It never turns out well. Don’t be like me, don’t be a one man hero, let your employees be heroes too.

Don’t be a one man hero, let your employees be heroes too. Click To Tweet

8.    Getting things done

They say you need 21 days to develop a habit. For me, it was a year since I read “Getting things done”. This whole time I was working on starting with the hardest tasks and I’m still doing this every single day. After dozen days or so you begin to notice that it’s the best thing that happened to you. Fight the beast and then it’s going to be only better and nicer. Who doesn’t like that? It changes your whole day, I would even say whole life. Postponing hard things and going to bed with them doesn’t help you sleep well.

Going to bed with unfinished tasks doesn’t help you sleep well. Click To Tweet

9.    Challenge Accepted

Only after finding the perfect team, which looks at the task from the challenges perspective, not problems, it turned out that this is what really builds the project. The people. Their approach helps to make it happen – ain’t no mountain high enough! If a team meets some difficulties, but at the same time brings solutions and discusses it, just sees the light in the tunnel, it’s more likely for them to find it. If someone starts with the problem and thinks only about the fact that something might not work or how much effort you have to put into something – you are not going anywhere.

Project manager - the good team is the key

The right team is a great support to the project and power of the company. 

10.    Reaching to the choir

If I had to give just one advice to new IT project managers I would tell them to meet with someone who knows the job for a coffee. Sit down, talk and learn. You can also watch some materials on YouTube and Google it. I’m sure that someone already solved the problem that you have. For example time estimation – there are tones of methods which can even calculate the probability. Spreadsheets, which add risk to your project. There’s also a planning poker where you can make a bid on how much time something will take. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. So be prepared. You will avoid many mistakes.

Dominik Goss

CEO at Timble :)

This entry has 2 replies

  1. Vera says:

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this. A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

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