IT Software Development without Project Managers
@ Mark G | Sunday, Jan 31, 2021 | 6minuteRead | Update at Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

IT Software Projects without Project Managers

Getting a project off the ground is a difficult task that requires many resources, including human resources. A common issue I see in large organizations is that they start projects without the proper human resources to manage them. In most organizations, starting a project requires a lot of documentation. However, I noticed one thing lacking - that is, who is going to do all the administrative work that goes with running the projects? Far too many projects start with the lack of a team and lack of project managers.

In this article. I will discuss some methods to improve your projects success.

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Managing Multiple Projects

I manage over 40 contractors and oversee 10 IT/research related projects at the same time. I'm busy, to say the least. Only three of the projects have a proper team that includes a project manager, technical lead, subject matter experts, and multiple developers. We also have product owners and engaged stakeholders. The three projects with a great team are doing much better than the other seven. Between handling personnel issues, and the daily grind of trying to fit in scrums and utilizing agile principles, the 10 projects are taking a toll on me and the success of the organization. What went wrong, and how can I fix this?

The primary reason for the lack of support is that the contracts were already put in place before a proper team can be formed. The projects may not have been aligned with the organizations goals, or the goals have changed. It's hard to give ownership or empower people to be part of a failing project. Also, many of the resources are already being overutilized on other projects. I will explain how I try to turn this ship around and give the project some energy.

Take a Step Back and Invite Colleagues to Meetings

Take a breath. Get some breathing room. Try to relate the projects to what your current colleagues are doing. Find a way to find overlap with their own projects. Also, find a way to relate the project to the organizations mission statement or goals. Of course, this should have been already taking into account prior to the project starting, but I digress. The goals may have changed. Can you redefine the project scope to align with the new goals and mission needs?

What is the actual work you will need to do in order to achieve these goals? Write this down, formally. You may need to reference this document when asking for more resources.

Next, start inviting your colleagues to the relevant meetings. Have the meeting hosts take a step back and explain the project in layman's terms, at a high level. Start the conversations with your colleagues about how you need their support to make this a success. You have to start asking them to take ownership of part of this project. Get them excited about it. Reiterate how your project will help their other projects in the long term. At the end of the day, it's not your project at all, it's your organizations project. Not one person is the real owner of the project. Don't be afraid to give credit to those that get more involved.

Get on your boss's calendar

Your boss's priorities are frequently changing. You have to communicate with the boss and let them know the situation. Don't be afraid to reiterate how your projects success will help the organizational goals. Don't be afraid to tell them you need more support. This is not a weakness. In fact, it takes a leader to be willing to ask for help. You are in this role for a reason. You have what it takes to figure problems out and come up with solutions. Part of figuring out the issue may require asking questions and asking for support. If the boss is concerned, then that just means your project is crucial, and they know it. You're more likely to gain supervisions support if they feel they had a hand in a decision. Let them own part of this project, too.

four people bumping fists

four people bumping fists

Once you have your boss's attention, make it a routine. Give them weekly status updates on your projects. Emphasize, once again, that you need more human resources on this project in order to make it more successful.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

As I said, I have over 40 contractors working for me. Sure, much of the work is software development related; however, there is nothing wrong with tasking them to do some administrative tasks, as well. Time is scarce, delegate when appropriate. I'll give a few examples of how I do this.

  1. When setting up meetings, instead of you doing it yourself, have the contractors set the meetings up. This includes a meeting agenda, looking through multiple schedules to find availability, and even hosting the meeting.
  2. Need a project road map? Have the contractors create one. After all, they want to stay in business with you. Why not have them create a roadmap that you can show off to your boss and colleagues for clearer communications?
  3. Have contractors draft emails for you. I'm not kidding about this one. Sometimes the contractors need some action from you. You have to request a software license approval, or you need to provision a server. Ask the contractors to draft an email for you to edit with your own words. I can't tell you how much time this has saved me. They need the server, but you have to put the request in. Tell them to draft the email with the proper justifications. As long as you end up sending the email after you make your edits, it's legitimately your request, not theirs.
  4. Don't show up to daily scrums. If you are not contributing because you are not a software developer, why show up? You don't need to hear and see every little detail of the project. You care about the outcomes. Start trusting the contractors to run their own scrums.

There are many other ways to delegate. The point is, don't be afraid to delegate tasks that you are currently doing. The contractors are paid for their time, utilize it.

The one caveat to delegation is not to delegate financial or strategic decision making to the contractors. This should be held in-house, internally, only.

Gather feedback and keep trying

It's easy to get discouraged when you are running out of time for your multiple projects. Gather feedback from both the contractors and those that you invited to your project. Keep trying and continue to advocate for support for your projects.

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