The IT Project Management Roadmap: A 3-Phase Process to Complete Your Project on Budget and on Time

You hesitate to admit it, but know it’s true. You could use technology to eliminate bottlenecks in your business and operate more efficiently. Maybe you need automation, advanced software, or a cloud infrastructure. In any scenario, a new technology could improve the productivity and collaboration of your entire organization. But there’s a small problem. How do you go about the project? And how do you complete it on budget and time?

IT projects aren’t like any other. You’ll need to identify the best IT solution among countless options, convince resistant and perhaps tech-averse employees of its value, and coordinate with vendors who may speak a bit more geek speak than you’re comfortable with. The whole process can feel overwhelming. And that doesn’t even account for the challenge of completing the project on time and budget. Which is why I want to share with you how a real IT Services Firm handles IT project management. 

In this article, we’re raising the curtain on how we at Leverage IT manage technology projects. It’s a 3-phase process. We’ll cover how to identify your goals, the vendor selection and negotiation process, implementation, and more—so you can get a real look at how the experts handle it. Ready to get started? First, let’s look at some examples of potential projects you could implement to improve your business. 

Examples of When to Use the IT Project Management Roadmap 

Before I share our IT project management roadmap, you may want a better idea of where you can put it into practice. Here are three types of projects we regularly manage with it:   

  • Centralize data in a single place: It’s not uncommon for companies to have important data scattered across their network on shared servers, personal Google Files, OneDrive, local PCs, company servers and other storage locations. Not only does this make it more difficult to find your data, but you’re also more vulnerable to cyberthreats due to an increased attack surface and inconsistent security. Centralizing data resolves these issues. It helps our clients more efficiently access their information and gain peace of mind from having organized, better protected data. 
  • Consolidate various software solutions: Just as different departments may store data in different ways, they may also have distinct processes to complete their jobs. For example, one department may manage data with a spreadsheet while another uses an ERP system. Employing different solutions may seem convenient for individual departments, but doing so creates complexity for your organization as a whole—making collaboration disjointed when departments inevitably work together. Leverage IT helps with this problem by consolidating these processes (whether for management, training, pricing, etc.) into single solutions across the entire organization. 
  • Update technology solutions: It’s no secret. Many businesses rely on outdated technology or solutions. If this is you, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is busy, and updating technology can be time consuming and easy to put off. The problem is, delaying updates is likely costing your company time and money. How could it not? With an outdated solution, your business is operating on old technology that is less efficient. Leverage can help with these updates. For example, we’ve helped companies transition from QuickBooks to mid-market or enterprise solutions like NetSuite or SAP. We’ve also replaced outdated or non-functional line of business solutions, such as manufacturing or point of sale solutions.

If you read Leverage IT’s blog How Is Digital Transformation Implemented?, you may be wondering, “Aren’t these projects the same thing as digital transformation?”

They’re similar, but there’s a key difference. Digital transformation assesses the business as a whole, while IT project management focuses on individual initiatives. The IT project management process we’re about to describe typically occurs many times throughout digital transformation as we update individual facets of the business with more cohesive, advanced technology. 

Now that you have an idea of what type of initiatives can be addressed with our IT project management roadmap, let’s dive into the details of how it works.   

Phase 1: Identify Your Business Requirements

It’s best to start every project with a bit of planning. In the case of our IT project management roadmap, identifying your business requirements is the first step. How do you do this?

Ask yourself a few simple questions: Why is this project needed? What is its purpose? 

Your answers act as your compass throughout your project. They help you identify your ideal end result, pointing you in the right direction. With that written down, it’s time to conduct a comprehensive review among your impacted departments, business process leaders, and your entire organization. Here’s how that works.

How to Evaluate Your Business

The business review process begins with the solution you want to implement. Per the examples above, is it a new technology? Are you looking to consolidate or unify resources? 

For example, maybe you want everyone in your organization to use the same communication tool for instant messaging. Right now, your departments use a range of apps, including Skype, Google Chat, and Slack. The first step is to talk to individual department leaders. Interview them and learn which tool each team uses.

Some questions to ask may include: 

  • What are your top three reasons for using an instant messaging app?
  • Why did you choose this particular tool? 
  • What does your ideal instant messaging app look like? What are its features and how does it make your life easier?  

The goal of these questions is to understand your interviewees’ business requirements in a definable and measurable way, and then document their answers. 

Next, round up all your department heads and create an overview of all their identified business requirements. Collaboration is important. You don’t want this meeting to turn adversarial where leaders are arguing about which tool is best. Instead, aim for all leaders to gain a mutual understanding of each department’s needs, and then prioritize those needs as an organization. Which business requirements are must-haves, nice-to-haves, or not really important? You’ll answer those questions in this meeting and document your priorities in a list accordingly. 

Phase 2: Explore Solutions and Select the Best Fit

The next phase of the IT project management process can feel overwhelming. Partially because of the many steps and time commitment, and partially because the solution selection and negotiation steps can feel intimidating. Afterall, you’re making a big decision. A decision that will impact your company for years down the line. There is a lot at stake. Choosing wrong could negatively impact your entire organization’s productivity, morale, and even profits. For these reasons, companies often hire an outside provider to spearhead the IT project management process. 

While we at Leverage IT can manage the three phases mentioned in this article, our clients often find our experience and industry contacts make us incredibly valuable during Phase 2. Our vendor relationships and decades of experience negotiating IT products ensure you get the best deal on your ideal solution—helping you stay on budget. With all that said, let’s dive into this multi-staged phase of acquiring your new technology.

Find Candidate Solutions

With your list of documented priorities in hand from Phase 1, you’ll identify 2-5 candidate solutions that fulfill your business needs. Then, similar to Phase 1, you’ll go through an interview process. However, this time it’s with your prospective solution providers, rather than your internal leaders. 

Once you’ve found some vendors who meet your criteria, you and your stakeholders (department heads, managers, etc.) will arrange demos and overview sessions. In these sessions, record the demo and document your experience with it. Doing so ensures you can adequately compare the solution with others you’re demoing.

Evaluate and Score Those Solutions

After demoing all your candidate solutions, score them against your business requirements established in Phase 1. Note, it’s not uncommon for business requirements to change during the vendor interview/demo process. For example, you may find that one vendor’s product has some functionalities you love—things you and your team hadn’t considered initially. Don’t be afraid to update your business requirements to include these functionalities. 

The evaluation and scoring stage is an iterative, evolving process. Be open to new insights. You’ll likely begin to understand how the new technology fits into your organization. You’ll envision how your staff will use it and how it will impact their current processes and tools. 

Prioritize Solutions and Negotiate with Vendors

You’ve got your candidate solutions. You’ve evaluated them. Now, it’s time to narrow down your choices based on how their functionality aligns with your business requirements. You typically want to choose two to three providers who you’ll then negotiate with. 

Your goal in negotiations is to secure the best terms, price, and post-implementation support. As this is a challenging task for many business leaders who lack technology experience, I’d like to reiterate that Leverage IT can manage this task for you as your project manager. Regardless of whether we have a pre-established relationship with the vendor, we’ve done these negotiations hundreds of times. We can get you the best deal and terms of service, and keep you on budget. Contact us to learn more.  

Purchase the Solution and Create an Implementation Plan

In this last step of Phase 2, you’ll wrap up your negotiations, select your ideal provider, and purchase the new technology. With your solution in hand, it’s easy to get excited and want to jump right into implementation. We advise against that. Instead, take some time to develop an implementation plan with your vendor. 

Your goal is to get a clear idea of how the implementation process works, who needs to be involved, and the associated costs. Will there be downtime? Will you need to make any subsequent purchases to update any of your existing technology? You’ll be much more likely to stay on time and budget if you have a clear understanding of the implementation process and what’s involved beforehand. 

Phase 3: Implement Your New Technology

Phase 3 is where the magic happens. You’ll finally implement the solution you worked so hard to plan for and select in Phases 1 and 2. Whoever is leading your IT project management process, it’s important for him or her to collaborate with the vendor, you and your stakeholders, and your internal team. Collaboration will help you avoid costly miscommunications, unmet expectations, and setbacks.

In Phase 3, the project manager is responsible for coordinating all activities among involved parties. These include coordinating meetings, the migration, training, testing, Go Live decision points, and ongoing support. How your project manager handles these tasks will directly impact whether you finish on time and budget. However, there’s another stage of the process that is equally important to meet your targets. 

Post implementation is critical. You’ll need an ongoing support plan when employees inevitably run into technical issues. Change management and knowledge transfer also contribute to a smooth technology transition. Addressing them will help you set employee expectations, reduce their resistance to the new technology, and provide them the knowledge and tools needed to succeed with it. 

Staff training and technology maintenance should be included in this process. Addressing these helps ensure your new solution runs smoothly and your employees quickly become comfortable with it. I recommend incorporating all these factors into you and your vendor’s implementation plan from Phase 2. 

Turbocharge Your IT Project Management Roadmap

You started this article hesitant. Unsure how to go about your IT project and overwhelmed by the road ahead. I hope that by sharing our own IT project management roadmap, you feel confident you’ll get where you need to be on time and budget. 

But if a map isn’t enough and you’re looking for someone to jump into the driver’s seat to take you to your destination, Leverage IT is here for you. We’ve managed hundreds of IT projects over the years, and our experience, connections, and project management technology can make your road ahead a smoother ride. 

Regardless of which new technology you wish to adopt, our Navigate – Digital Transformation service can help guide you through each phase of the process—from planning, selection and negotiation, all the way to implementation. Contact us today to learn more.

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