Ah, the joys of being a project manager. From being treated like a servant of management and not being included in key decisions, to having priorities, tasks and deadlines constantly changed on them -- and then being blamed for delays and slipups -- IT project managers have a lot to deal with.But what if project managers could change all that? What if a genie could grant IT project managers three (project-related) wishes? What would project managers wish for?
CIO.com decided to find out -- and asked IT project managers, If you could have three project management-related wishes, what would they be? Here are the seven most-wished-for items.
Wish No. 1: To be involved from project inception. "Genie, use your magic to let project managers set the conditions for success," says Chet Anderson, program manager, Trissential, a management consultancy focused on business improvement.
"This means involve them from the start so that the right resources are budgeted for, correct assumptions are made and the right questions are asked," he says. Anderson (and other PMs) also wishes that management understood that "experienced project managers know the challenges involved in getting vendors to satisfy expectations and that their input into the RFP, vendor selection and contract conditions is crucial to achieving a fruitful outcome."
Wish No. 2: The ability to put -- and keep -- together the perfect team for each project. "If only I could have a solid handle on what people and skills are available at any point in time, so I can assemble the perfect team to meet the specific requirements of the project," says Jeff Jackson, vice president of Development, Compuware Changepoint Business Division.
"My wish would be to always have dedicated resources," says Mary Beth Rath, project manager, Custom Software Solutions at SWC Technology Partners, provider of IT solutions to midsize organizations. "This would avoid switching gears and ramp-up time, to ensure we can deliver against the project schedule," she explains.
Wish No. 3: To have powerful yet simple-to-use project management tools. "I wish for a magic wand to wave and take away the reporting nightmare I face every quarter," says Jackson.
"Today I live a nightmare that consists of multiple spreadsheets, conflicting data, inaccurate information and missed reporting deadlines," Jackson explains. "If only I had one source for all project-related information -- and the ability to react quickly and take corrective action when a project begins to go off the rails."
"From a software perspective, what every project manager wants is a software solution that can plan, schedule and work with shared resources in the larger enterprise environment," says Daniel Kushner, project manager at MBX Systems, a provider of network server appliances.
"The obstacle is that by the time you need a solution like this, you are likely to have a number of home-brewed or off-the-shelf solutions you have already invested in, and no one wants to waste money on a new solution with significant overlap with older systems," Kushner says.
"Increased visibility across the entire team is important for successful project completion," adds Bryan Nielson, work management expert and strategist for AtTask, a project management solutions provider.
"If the IT project manager doesn't know what his employees are working on, he doesn't know if he can assign additional tasks or if the task is moving forward," Nielson explains. "With a cloud tool that keeps the project in one central location, the whole team can see the project details, in real time, eliminating extra emails that flood inboxes every day."
Wish No. 4: To have clearly defined project objectives and requirements. "Very often IT development projects get launched with general or imprecise objectives and/or product requirements that create land mines later on in the project lifecycle," says Edward R. Jones, director, Professional Services, Diligent eSecurity International.
"It is reasonable that a project may have to be initiated with some unknowns or unclear items," Jones says. But "it would be great if the project manager is made aware of these so they can include the need for their refinement as a part of the effort."
Wish No. 5: To get buy-in from stakeholders and end-users. "Another wish would be to have the ability to identify key stakeholders who will validate priorities and major decisions," says Rath. "This would help ensure not only that the budget is properly managed, but that the most important items are delivered [on time]."
Similarly, it would be nice to have "sponsors who want to hear what risks are associated with their requested changes and who will own those risks, once they understand them and request to go forward anyway," says project management expert Mark Calabrese.
"Nothing sucks the wind out of your team's sails more than an end-user who is lethargic about engaging in the process and/or suffers from paralysis when it comes to providing feedback when you need it the most," says Cory Crosland, founder and president, Croscon, a custom technology & engineering service firm. So "finding the right stakeholder [or stakeholders] is critical."
Wish No. 6: To be treated with respect. "Genie, make people recognize that project managers are skilled leaders who are uniquely qualified to help you achieve your aspirations," wishes Anderson -- and many other project managers. "Do not use project managers as highly skilled administrative assistants to conduct your meetings and take meeting minutes," he says. "They are bona fide leaders with advanced skills to energize and motivate people that they have no direct control over."
Wish No. 7: To be allowed to adjust projects as needed (without being second-guessed). "Even if you've perfectly spec'd out a project, there are gremlins waiting for you at every turn," says Crosland. "Especially on longer-term projects, the business and its requirements may shift from underneath you," he says. And good project managers have to quickly adapt.
"Grant project managers the flexibility required to adjust the project approach as needed," without "burdening them with unnecessary processes and checklists," says Anderson. "Skilled project managers know how to apply the appropriate management techniques to achieve optimal team performance," he explains. "If you hire for the right skills you won't need as much process control anyway."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.