IT Software Projects without Project Managers

Getting a project off the ground is difficult and requires many human resources. A common issue 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 – who will do all the administrative work running the projects? Far too many projects start with the lack of a team and a lack of project managers.

In this article. I will discuss some methods to improve the success of your project.

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Managing Multiple Projects

I manage over 40 contractors and oversee 10 IT/research-related projects simultaneously. I’m busy. Only three projects have a proper team, including 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, the daily grind of trying to fit in scrums, and utilizing agile principles, the ten projects are taking a toll on me and the organization’s success. What went wrong, and how can I fix this?

The primary reason for the lack of support is that the contracts were already established before a proper team could be formed. The projects may not have been aligned with the organization’s 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 projects. Also, find a way to relate the project to the organization’s mission statement or goals. Of course, this should have already been considered before the project started, but I digress. The goals may have changed. Can you redefine the project scope to align with the new goals and mission needs?

What work will you need to do 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 ask them to take ownership of this project. Get them excited about it. Reiterate how your project will help their other projects in the long term. It’s not your project at all, it’s your organization’s 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 the success of your project will help the organizational goals. Don’t be afraid to tell them you need more support. This is not a weakness. 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, your project is crucial, and they know it. You’re more likely to gain supervision support if they feel they had a hand in a decision. Let their part of this project, too.

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 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. Time is scarce; delegate when appropriate. I’ll give a few examples of how I do this.

  1. When setting up meetings, have the contractors set them up instead of you doing it yourself. 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 communication?
  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. If you send the email after making your edits, it’s legitimately your request, not theirs.
  4. Don’t show up to daily scrums. Why show up if you are not contributing because you are not a software developer? 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 scrums.

There are many other ways to delegate. The point is, don’t be afraid to delegate your current tasks. The contractors are paid for their time and 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 run out of time for multiple projects. Gather feedback from both the contractors and those you invited to your project. Keep trying and continue to advocate for support for your projects.

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