The original intent of this post was to write about the relationship and subsequent need for project management in delivering successful initiatives for information technology (IT). The more I thought about it, the more I could not in good faith correlate the utilization of technology project management practices as something that was not an overlying organizational need. Quite often technology-driven projects are thought of as only impacting IT. This could not be further from the truth!
Overlooking the scale to which technology drives business operations is a recipe for disaster. Taking down email, files, telecom, radio comms, network connectivity, the means to protect data and assets and/or software applications can revert organizational processes to the stone age. It could halt an organization altogether. Talk to an org that has dealt with a ransomware event. Society is well beyond the point where technology is driving business operational requirements. It’s difficult to conduct business without technology these days.
I am an advocate for high-level project steering committees to allow for decision-makers to discuss wide-ranging and impactful technology-driven enterprise initiatives. A particular department may not possess a role in implementing said project, but it may impact the way they conduct their day-to-day operations. Preplanning, communication and subsequent coordination from the basis of unilateral understanding and agreement is the best jumping-off point for a project with a multi-departmental and/or enterprise impact.
There are many iterations of enterprisewide IT initiatives that touch multiple departments and/or entire organizations. In the past three years, my organization has upgraded several large-scale and impactful technology infrastructure platforms.
Our radio systems infrastructure and public safety CAD projects potentially touched the lives of every citizen in our region. The enterprise network and citywide fiber ring expansion impacted every city employee, in turn affecting the services provided to constituents. When you’re integrating technology platforms that possess a significant impact, project management is an invaluable asset to ensure those efforts are managed in a proactive, knowledgeable and efficient manner.
I’ve witnessed numerous organizations invest in high-end infrastructure platforms and hand off the shiny new purchase to their respective IT departments to implement, thinking it would be a slam dunk. There are a lot of talented technical folks out there that may just be able to pull off a massive, critical integration to the degree needed. Unfortunately, in many cases, tech employees tasked with implementing these high-level initiatives are asked to be something they are not, in turn setting themselves and their organization up for failure.
Case in point would be a new facility build. Everything that goes into integrating a new building – and the many technology aspects essential to make it work for an organization – requires an extremely diverse skillset. That one point of contact must not only possess the ability to comprehend engineering drawings, but they must retain the institutional knowledge required to tie contract language and visuals back to the respective organizations’ technology baseline.
It is imperative that a person understands infrastructure cabling, power, cooling, internal and external conduits, building penetrations, access control, security cameras, how to tie in the private network, demarcation and much more. You can’t overlook devices, telecom and audio video needs of the end users. Don’t get me started on licensing!
Most important of all, you must be accountable and communicative per the needs of that project. You may have a dozen or more other projects at various stages of the process. And for the IT professionals wearing multiple hats out there, don’t forget about the day-to-day operational action’s IT supports! For an added layer of fun, when you build a new facility, you aren’t just designing it for the day it opens. You are preparing that new building for impending future growth.
IT professionals have a reputation for being quirky. Historically we have been known to prefer working on a computer or in a backroom data closet rather than engaging on a personal level. I roll my eyes when I hear those old clichés about tech employees. It’s not so much the type of person that gravitates towards technology versus the fact it is based on individual personalities.
The front-line support of almost every IT department out there is helpdesk operations. Soft skills and the ability of IT helpdesk personnel to navigate relationships with end users is crucial to the overlying success of the team. It’s no different at the executive level. The best IT execs are the ones that can coexist in the world of technology and communicate in a manner conducive to the understanding level of their organization.
That being said, there is a modicum of truth there that exists. The stereotype is derived from the basis of real-world experiences, so it is not a given everyday IT personnel have the skillsets required to deliver on enterprise initiatives. Hence the value of dedicated project management to offset potential communication snafus when working outside the parameters of technology.
Project management is a specialized career field that goes hand in hand with the IT profession. Having a dedicated project management presence in the office can make everyone’s life easier, inside and out of the organization.
Much like technology executives and cybersecurity professionals have come to be over the course of my career, I see project management becoming more prevalent in IT. Many organizations already have dedicated project managers in place and did so years ago.
There’s much value in having a dedicated IT project manager overseeing the nuances of enterprise initiatives. If your organization has had difficulty implementing high-level technology initiatives, project management may just be that secret ingredient for success.
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Shane “El Jefe” McDaniel is the first Director of Information Technology for the city of Seguin, Texas, with more than 24 years of experience across multiple IT disciplines. He began his technology career in 1996 through an enlistment in the Air Force supporting military intelligence, subsequently transitioning to NSA, NRO, private industry and municipal government technology operations. Shane is the proprietor and champion of Country IT, running the countryexec.com website promoting personal and professional development for future leaders. You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.