by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

8 strategies for achieving IT goals

Oct 26, 2016
IT LeadershipIT StrategyTechnology Industry

IT executives and project managers share their tips on how to create realistic goals and the steps you need to take to attain them (with minimal delays or disruptions).

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Credit: Thinkstock

Identifying a goal is easy. Achieving it is another thing—especially if you are in IT and have to deal with other departments and vendors. Indeed, figuring out what is a realistic goal and then determining how it will be met is one of the biggest challenges IT executives and project managers face. And while project management software can help, it is up to the project leader to lay out the goal, or goals, and create a road map. Here are eight tips to help IT managers do that.

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1. Work your way backward

“It is critical to the success of attaining our goals that we know exactly what we want to accomplish,” says Susan Gilell-Stuy, executive coach at Leadership Compound. “Designing goals with the end in mind means delineating and clarifying what the ultimate goal being sought is, and establishing the path that gives you the best chance of seeing it come to fruition. Agreeing in the short term on where we are ultimately headed — even when we don’t all agree on the nitty-gritty of the how this will be done — creates [a] shared enthusiasm and investment in striving for the same result.”

2. Define requirements up front

“Clearly define your requirements prior to starting a project,” says Sanjay Govil, founder and chairman, Infinite Computer Solutions. “In the beginning, it is imperative that they are fully stated and agreed to between all of the stakeholders. Changing these requirements in the middle of a project is one of the leading causes that contribute to delays and cost overruns.”

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3. Consult with all stakeholders

“When setting goals … talk to your counterparts in marketing, product, etc. to understand factors that may impact you and your ability to set or meet a goal,” says Magda Walczak, chief customer officer, Search Party. “You don’t work in a silo. Getting input and buy-in from other areas will ensure that your goals are realistic and may even garner support for actually achieving them.”

“The entire team must be involved in the goal-setting exercise to create commitment and ownership of a project,” says Roman Fry, principal, North Highland Consulting. “Leaders may suggest goals, but the team must agree, believe and achieve by committing to each other that they will do their part for team success.”

4. Create specific, measurable goals

“If you create a goal with a measurable metric, you have an almost certain chance of knowing when [or if] you’ve achieved it and when you haven’t,” says William Hall, vice president, Learning and Development, Simulation Studios. “For example, instead of ‘reduce employee turnover,’ [make your goal] ‘reduce employee turnover by at least 5 percent in the next 6 months.’”

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5. Divide large goals into small, more manageable goals

“Trying to achieve an enormous goal all at once can be overwhelming,” says Jonathan D. Roger, project portfolio manager, AndPlus. “Instead, split large goals into smaller goals that you can accomplish in less time. Achieving a smaller goal takes less time [and] you get the satisfaction and motivation of achieving a goal [and] seeing your greater vision realized. Smaller goals are also less risky, and you can more realistically consider how much time a smaller goal will take to achieve and what challenges you may face.”

6. Use project management software

“If you are managing a large team it can be tough to keep on track of everything,” says Jennie Holmes, digital strategist, Generate Solutions. To better manage tasks, “use a [project management] platform that meets your business needs. JIRA and Wrike are two great project management platforms that work well within IT. Within Wrike you can assign a deadline, and you have a great comment feature,” she explains. “This is how you can engage your team around the shared goals. They can [provide] feedback [regarding whether] specific tasks are unrealistic/unachievable [and] can also see how their contribution impacts the wider project and timelines.”

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With project management software you can “assign tasks to team members and keep users organized and on track to meet weekly goals,” says Eileen O’Loughlin, market researcher, Software Advice. “These tools allow managers to assign due dates, set up alerts for impending deadlines and flag at risk and overdue items before they put the project in jeopardy. PM tools also act to centralize team efforts and create a shared workspace [where] users can collaborate and communicate easily.”

7. Track your progress

“Track your goals constantly, and make sure your team has visibility into them,” says Tim Burke, director of IT, BetterCloud. “The shorter the feedback cycle, the better chance your team has of achieving their goal. Having a daily KPI email, a Slack update or live dashboards the entire team can view helps maintain focus you wouldn’t have if the goals are tracked on a less frequent basis.”

8. Celebrate successes

“Celebrate your team’s success in achieving major goals,” says Nic Grange, CTO, Retriever Communications. “Winning becomes a habit,” he explains. And by celebrating wins, team members will come to associate achieving a goal as something positive and desirable. “It also helps the team form a stronger bond.”

How to play it smart

“IT managers should follow the SMART rule when setting goals with employees,” says Janet Brown, CIO, Garden City Group:

  • Specific – Ensure goals are employee-specific and can be understood with metrics.
  • Measurable – Provide specific details on what the baseline metrics are at the beginning of the year and know how much you’re trying to improve.
  • Attainable – Avoid long, lofty goals and instead set goals for quarterly and annual deliverables that can be achieved.
  • Realistic – Create goals that are within the scope of your influence and your team’s capacity.
  • Time bound – Set specific dates to review progress and make adjustments.