Here’s to You, Accidental Project Manager

Yes, I stole my headline from Bud Light commercials.

In IT, there’s a likely chance you’ll find yourself spearheading a project of some kind – a datacenter move, a migration, a new implementation. And, if you’re like a lot of us, you don’t always have a dedicated project manager to help track everything you and your team are doing.

It’s also common have coworkers on your project who don’t report directly up to you. How can you get everyone doing what needs to be done without feeling like you’re overstepping boundaries and giving them orders?

Here are a few strategies and tools we employ to help us on our projects that might help you.

Pin down the details in a Project Plan before you start

Gather your team and define your project’s objective. From there, you can break out what the steps to completion will be and designate milestones and timelines. Identify every team member’s roles and responsibilities and tasks. Then, get consensus from your team and any other key stakeholders (like C-levels or other top-level decision makers). People in the project management “biz” call this project planning.

Set a regular meeting cadence and stick to it

The best way to stay on track is to have a regular time to communicate with each other. In having regular discussions, it’s easier to bubble up any issues or roadblocks and address them quickly or — dare I say it? – proactively. It’s important to hold everyone accountable for attending these because they can become easy to blow off, especially when everyone gets busier or it seems like there’s nothing new to discuss. Don’t force multiple meetings when an email or post in your collaboration tool could replace them, but try to have at least one 30-minute meeting each week on the team calendar.

Store project information in a centrally accessible location

“If it’s not documented, it never happened,” our in-house project manager Nick Coffman says. Emails can easily be missed or get buried … and just because he agreed to it on the phone doesn’t mean he remembers to do it now or remembers exactly what “it” even was to begin with. And you can’t remember exactly and hold everyone on your team accountable for their tasks if you can’t keep tabs on them either!

There are a variety of top-notch collaboration tools out there that can give you this functionality. At Mirazon, we use Teams, Planner or even Microsoft Project (if the projects get complex enough). These tools allow everyone visibility and collaboration, so you can keep track together.

Set Yourself Reminders to Remind

Yeah, it’s annoying, but you will have to be the one to hold others accountable, so set up a system that will help you nudge your team about their specific tasks and responsibilities on a regular basis. Personal Microsoft Outlook calendar reminders are a simple and effective method.

Identify and work with the problem children

In an ideal world, everyone would show up to your meetings, check off your to-do lists, and use your centralized project repository (like Teams) with no problem. However, the world works in mysterious ways, and there are people out there who are great at their jobs and not so much at the administrivia. And, like my dad always says, you can’t change people but you can change how you interact with them. So, identify those on your team that need a different tack with project management. Maybe schedule separate times to call and check up on him or her. Align yourself with that teammate’s manager and meet with that person regularly to understand if there are any bandwidth conflicts or if you need someone to be the heavy to get your team back on track.

Spearheading a project isn’t an easy job. That’s why there are certified project managers out there. However, sometimes the situation calls for you to step up. In those scenarios, we hope that these tips help. And remember, project management needs don’t go away by ignoring them. Every project needs to be properly managed in some capacity for a chance at success. Don’t dismiss it. Someone has to do it and it may be you!

Dilly Dilly. (Don’t sue me, Budweiser.)

If you need some more help or guidance on your IT project, send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404!