Why you can manage that IT project yourself, but you really shouldn’t

An IT project manager can work fractionally i.e. one or more days a week to deliver your IT project on time and on budget while you get on with your job.

Why can’t I just manage the project myself?

I hear this a lot, usually from senior managers who already have too much on. Ops and finance directors in SME businesses are smart, capable people who are used to taking on additional responsibilities to drive the business. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

One FD recently asked me that exact question. I’d invited myself to the kick off meeting for an infrastructure and hardware refresh project, where a team of three were being lined up to deliver some sizeable change to a tight timescale. I listened to the detail of the proposed work, and then walked through some standard project manager questions.

  • What are the key success factors?
  • When does this need to be done by?
  • Who’s going to deliver it, and will they be doing this alongside their day job?

By the end of the meeting I’d pulled together a rough Project Initiation Document (PID) which outlined the size and scale of the work required and some key risks that could prevent progress being made. I identified the need for regular team meetings to keep the remote project team working to the same pace. I sketched out a timeline that proved the arbitrary two months for delivery was impossible, and looked more like six.

From that point I could elevate the FD to being the project sponsor and key decision-maker. This slight distance from the project gave her the space to think and influence. The project team needed me to work closely with them on what they were doing in a given week, to chase, find information, schedule work and decide what and when to escalate to the project sponsor.

I worked one to two days a week on that project for six months. Time the FD would have either lost from her day job, or not been able to devote to the project – losing momentum and failing to deliver a valuable project.

IT project managers give you control and visibility

It’s an uncomfortable fact that 80 per cent of IT projects are unsuccessful. IT project managers mitigate this risk.

Whether they come in at the start or get passed the baton, these are the top three governance docs all good project managers use. 

PID - Project initiation document

This requires everyone to have the same understanding of the scope, timescales and budget. The document is nothing fancy, but it gets everyone to agree on the definition of done, and how the benefits will be tracked.

Fluid Project Initiation Document

RAID log – Risks, Actions, Issues and Decisions

The project manager uses this to navigate the work with no surprises. The RAID log shows all the possible and actual concerns, the risks and issues, and makes sure everyone knows what’s expected of them and when, that’s the actions and decisions. It’s usually a table listing scenarios, with scores aligned to the potential impact.

Fluid RAID Log

HLR - Highlight report

This is a one page report for the sponsor and the stakeholders, drawn from the RAID log. It’s not clever or complicated, a quick glance at the traffic lights tells you what’s happening.

Fluid Highlight Report

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