Being a project manager can be challenging.

Whether you’re developing a web-based platform, a new software, a mobile app, or deploying a new software system, every project manager has to juggle the different facets of IT project management.

Project teams need to stay updated on everything from the basics of project management to its predefined constraints, including resource utilization, scope, timelines, and budget.

What are common IT project management challenges and issues?

IT project management challenges are increasing with pandemic-induced social distancing and the rise of remote working.  Recent research from KPMG confirms that COVID-19 had a significant impact on more than 58% of companies, resulting in either project delays or cancellations.

Unlike a project manager in other industries, an IT project manager faces some unique challenges — issues that may boggle the minds of other PMs. What are they?

Lack of clear communication with multiple suppliers and vendors 

One of the common information technology challenges that an IT project faces is the sheer number of partners, vendors, and suppliers involved.

Each one acts as a stakeholder in your project, so managing expectations and communication while dealing with each vendor's unique processes (or lack of process) makes things complicated.

Did you know that 29% of projects end up failing due to poor communication? IT project managers have to manage communication well to avoid team conflict, ensure on-time delivery, and achieve project goals. 

Speed of progress 

IT project managers have to deal with the speed of progress — occasionally, this means that advancing technology can overtake a project.

This may lead to a review of specifications so you can figure out how this new tech can enhance the final product.

You can't simply ignore new developments, especially when customers and key stakeholders demand their inclusion in the project.

Changing priorities 

One of the biggest challenges in project management is the frequent changes in a project's lifespan. The project concepts, scope, requirements, or even the number of tasks that need to be completed in a single sprint can keep changing. This can lead to:

  • Overburdened sprints
  • Abandoned project tasks
  • A complete revamp of an app
  • Unavailability of a key project member, resulting in some vital tasks remaining incomplete
  • Sprints getting extended unwittingly

When such an event occurs, take time to review the extent of the change, discuss it with key stakeholders, and note the ensuing project impact.

This analysis makes it easier to update the new priorities, divide tasks efficiently, and provide accurate information to the client about the redesigned project deliveries.

Changes to IT infrastructure 

One of the unique information technology challenges is the impact of IT infrastructure on security and data management.

Because IT infrastructure is made up of hardware and software, any change you implement must be carefully done, so it doesn't create risk for your organization or your customers' data.

Are you deploying IT project management software? Where will it reside? Will it be able to access the customer database?

Complex dependencies between IT components 

Another IT challenge that teams encounter are the complex dependencies between IT components.

IT projects will inevitably face bugs and interoperability issues — not to mention many software updates, versions, and releases. You may even discover previously unknown dependencies between hardware, software, networks, or data.

Here's a simple example: if your printer at home has a hard time communicating with your desktop, imagine what that's like on an enterprise-scale across thousands of desktops and printers.

Large learning curves 

IT projects often have a huge learning curve because of the "first-time first-use" scenario.

At some point within the project lifecycle, team members will have to do things for the first time or be the first to use and learn new technology. This curve can potentially slow down any progress occurring during a project's execution.

Has remote working affected IT project management processes?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically challenged the capacity of organizations to deliver projects. Though some companies have adapted their projects to remote working, others have experienced significant delays or issues.

Even in a volatile working environment, utilizing these common principles can help IT project teams handle complexities in an IT service contract:

  1. Project delivery disciplines such as the adoption of Agile thinking can help teams pivot quickly, document delivery plans, and handle potential change and risk.
  2. Project leadership has a critical role to play in a remote working scenario. Leaders should help ensure clarity of purpose, own the end outcomes, and infuse teams with clear accountability.
  3. Introducing collaboration tools is vital to keep key stakeholders engaged, facilitate a centralized hub for managing change, and establish clear communication.
  4. It’s increasingly important to manage geographically dispersed team members and resources and ensure that they are aligned with the broader team and company goals.

How to overcome challenges in IT project management

If you want to overcome those unique challenges (and justify your IT project management salary), these approaches should help make the project easier to manage.

Manage vendor expectations

Vendors, partners, and suppliers are stakeholders in your project. Managing them efficiently is absolutely essential to ensure unified team communication, adapt with ease, and iterate faster to lead your Agile teams to success.

Doing this calls for the delicate art of project stakeholder management, which encompasses everything from creating a communication plan (when and how often to communicate with them) to the soft skills of soothing egos and negotiation tactics when problems arise.

Quickly pivot as required

In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, author and Scrum's co-inventor Jeff Sutherland mentions multiple instances where he successfully managed scope creep.

Each time, he would bring the project back from failure by implementing Scrum. The point is: in order to tackle IT projects with changing requirements or technology, teams need a method of execution nimble enough to pivot when needed.

This is one of the biggest reasons for the success of IT project management methodologies such as Agile and Scrum. These IT frameworks give project teams the ability to quickly pivot and answer changing customer needs as they execute.

Proactively manage risk

Whether you're talking about company data and security, or technical components with complex dependencies, every IT project is exposed to potential risks.

Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and prepare a suitable risk management plan that can be activated in the event of an unforeseen issue.

Doing this ensures that there is enough support in place for issues to be escalated in a timely manner.

Smartly reduce the learning curve 

Though there are many tips for overcoming steep learning curves, this is probably the best bit of advice.

Just as Agile helps break down IT projects into manageable phases, project teams can conquer the learning curve by mapping out a plan for learning about and implementing the new technology.

Breaking down bigger goals into smaller weekly or daily tasks helps them get done faster.

Create clear goals and document them 

Around 37% of projects fail due to lack of clear goals. The absence of clear and precise goals and corresponding documentation can lead to several project management issues.

Projects with a defined scope, schedule, and governance framework can better adapt to ever-changing project priorities and help teams stay on track.

The presence of clear project documentation also helps project managers develop a robust strategy to set up milestones and quality parameters and quantify project progress.

In addition to better resource management and clear delivery structures, having a precisely defined set of program objectives helps teams have clear positioning for key stakeholders.

IT project management books and resources

If you want to learn more, here are three IT project management books to read for your reference and inspiration:

Here are more reads on Wrike's blog:

How to prepare for IT project challenges with Wrike project management software

Dealing with IT project challenges becomes much easier when you have versatile project management software such as Wrike to help keep all teams on the same page.

Help your team handle all kinds of tasks by automating requests, creating customized workflows with premade templates, and breaking down silos between IT and business.

Use backlog organization, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards to structure sprints and plan iterative cycles effectively. This IT project management software reduces the work-in-progress and enhances project transparency to build a digital-first organization.

Empower your IT teams by prioritizing the most important tasks, accelerating automation for manual activities, and creating value for the organization by leveraging collaborative management tools. Start a free two-week trial of Wrike to discover how it can help you handle IT challenges successfully.