An IT Project Manager’s guide to a good night’s sleep

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David Cotgreave
David Cotgreave
David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, brings over 25 years of experience in Programme Management, Consultancy and IT Leadership, not only to this next edition but to his current role at Stoneseed Ltd, a company he founded in 2009. The company offer a unique proposition - Project Management as a Service (PMaaS).

If you’ve ever had a sleepless night over an IT Project, you can take some solace from the fact that you are certainly not alone. In fact, if you haven’t suffered any anxiety that has awoken you in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, you should think yourself really lucky. That or worry that you’ve missed something.

In this blog, we explore…

5 Causes of IT Project Manager nightmares – and solutions for a good night’s sleep.

1 – Staff / Resource Shortages

In the case of staffing levels, as anyone who has managed a project through the flu season will confirm, this can happen suddenly. You can be left with having to re-allocate tasks at very short notice which can lead to overworked talent and overloaded resources. Then, there is the altogether more predictable and yet, surprisingly, even more common ‘deadline to resources available ratio’ – when you have two days, ten jobs and an exhausted team of four to do them.

Explaining the situation to stakeholders and requesting more time is an obvious, yet underused, strategy in these circumstances – they’ll usually respond with understanding.

Furthermore, the Project Management as a Service market has talent and resources on tap to help cover any shortfall you have and you should broker a relationship with a partner before they happen. Choose someone who will get to know you and how your work and your projects and portfolio so that when all your staff do call in sick or that deadline looms, they can be ready to hit the ground running.

2 – Loss of Control

A common cause of PM insomnia is the feeling that you don’t have control of your IT Project. This usually happens when there’s a lack of transparency into the project when team members aren’t updating the collaborative software or are working in silos and not communicating properly or relying on one team member to collate project information.

When you read back the list of reasons the solutions are obvious aren’t they? Knock down the silo walls, introduce collaborative Project Management tools and train your staff how to use them and why they must. It can be easier said than done though! Taking a regular helicopter view of your project can give you a feeling of control, alert you to future roadblocks and give you time to prepare for them. End to end Project Management Office solutions are available to parachute in extra governance and control too – ask your Project Management services partner.

3 – Lack of Space to Breathe

Have you ever put in place the perfect project plan, hit every milestone along the way only to find that a last-minute spanner in your works throws everything off course? Often Project Managers tell me that they’re worried that there is no space for error in their planning and usually it is because they have agreed to unreasonable stakeholder requests or expectations.

You should always build wriggle room in both your timescales and budgets – do you always have a contingency budget? Expect and plan for the unexpected.

Your trusted Project Management services partner can provide an external, independent fresh pair of eyes that can spot potential bottlenecks in your planning.

4 – Prioritisation Elsewhere in The Portfolio Delays Your Project

One of my PM friends called me recently almost in tears. The project he was working on was on time, on budget and had already delivered on key business promises when another more urgent project landed in their in-tray. And … you’ll love this … the team were expected to keep the original project on time too! The stress that this had caused was immense, I’m clenching up just writing about it!

“What can I do?” he asked. But he already knew, he had to control what he could control, reassign tasks, understand and manage the stress of her team and communicate the reality of this major change to the plan to all the stakeholders. I also told him to investigate extra budget to graft in Project Management as a Service talent. When he did all this it was generally agreed that to deliver both projects – extra funding would be needed for complementary talent.

5 – Am I Making the Right Calls?

Project Management can be a lonely pastime sometimes and even with all your experience and knowledge you never really know if you’re getting it right until you hand over a successful IT Project.

A PM friend called me with a different angle to this anxiety. He didn’t know whether his boss or project sponsors knew the calls he was making and whether they understood the decisions or thought that they were the right calls!

Usually, from either angle, this is addressed by proper documentation of decisions. When you can look back on the stimuli that led to the decision you can quickly dismiss any anxieties and reconfirm, in your own mind, the validity of the call you made. Also, you can demonstrate the thinking to your seniors or stakeholders, if needed.

Collaborative tools and working practices also help – when your team is keeping the central project database up to date you are dealing with transparent, real-time issues. Less guesswork – however, informed and based on experience it is – is always a good thing. Like playing poker with a full deck rather than the one where the dog chewed the ace of spades.

The Project Management as a Service market has talent and resources on tap to help with most IT Project anxieties and, to repeat advice from earlier, you should broker a relationship with a partner before those sleepless nights start. Choose someone who will get to know you and your projects so they can be ready to hit the ground running.

Sleep well.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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