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How to make the best use of IT Project Managers

Typically, IT projects are estimated by the end to end functional / technical SMEs, designed by the Solution / Technical Analysts, built by the programmers and tested by the testing friends. Assuming that the IT team is assigned on a full time basis to a project, the question is whether we need a full time Project manager or a part time Project manager. Most often the allocation is based on the availability of a Project Manager and the visibility of work. However, in my view, the below points will help optimize allocation exercise as much as possible.

Organisation structure:

In a matrix structure, if all the IT teams belong to one single IT function, I would argue whether we need a project manager at all in the first instance. The reason is that the Delivery leads in that area manage the deliverable and the Delivery manager can perform Project Manager Role along with the delivery responsibility. However, if the project teams spread across multiple IT functions, I would say we may need a full time / part time Project manager explicitly assigned.

But for a product based delivery structure which is predominantly projectized Organisation, I would argue that the Delivery managers can perform the project management role along with their delivery responsibility as all the teams most often reside under a single management structure.

Project size:

There is a perception that bigger the size of the project in terms of Dollar value more the effort needed for managing the project. Although this may be true in some cases, size should always be considered along with the schedule (elapsed time). For instance, a big project spanning 2 years and with few well established IT teams can be managed with a Part time Project manager.

Number of IT teams involved:

Largely this point is related to the first point, however it’s worth describing separately. I have seen there are discrete IT teams in large organisations even though they have to work together for most of the projects. More the number of the discrete teams involved more the effort needed for a Project Manager to manage the deliverable in matrix structure due to different management style and processes being followed in each teams.

Type of Project:

Typically regulatory projects will have very high visibility in banking organisations and it always tops the priority list compared to other discretionary projects. Certainly, we cannot afford to allocate a less experienced project manager to regulatory projects unless there is someone who can oversee.

Domain and the Systems knowledge:

Domain and the System knowledge help the Project Manager manage the Risks and Issues efficiently and effectively. Hence, a project manager having the domain and the System knowledge may need less allocation compared to the one who doesn’t possess the domain and System knowledge.

Existing Vs New Project Manager:

When the project has a tight deadline, we may need an existing project manager as any new project manager will have to have a steep learning curve which may not be possible unless the lessons learnt are shared across the organisation very effectively.

Experience level of major IT teams involved:

When the organisation is faced with an unprecedented attrition in a particular year, the IT teams may not have the SMEs who can be trusted with the quality deliverable due to inexperience. Hence more Project management effort is needed during that period.

Number and type of the Stakeholders:

Besides the IT delivery teams, number of the stakeholders in the project and their involvement & interest in the project’s deliverable, impact the Project Manager’s effort significantly and the allocations consequently.

Standalone or part of a Programme:

Due to the synergies between the projects which are part of the programme, it is possible to allocate more than one project to a Project manager but that may not be possible if there are two standalone projects.

There is no right or wrong way but if we don’t allocate the right project manager to the right project, it will have an adverse impact on the project as well as on the project manager. The high performers may find the job boring if they are under-allocated and the others feel stressed if they are over-allocated. Hence, the right allocation is key for success of the project.

The above points are based on the waterfall IT project delivery model. The allocation of the scrum master in an Agile and DevOps environment will be totally different and I will cover in my next post.

# Opinions are from a personal experience standpoint and in no way reflect the views of my current or past employers or clients.

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