The 3 Lists that Control the Success of Every IT Project

Preface: In a perfect world, key elements like project requirements and execution steps would be issued by a product owner or PM. But the real world is imperfect. What do you do when you find yourself sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire and a bleeding head, reading a manual that suggests you wear a helmet? Such a “best practice” is not very helpful when you’re in the thick of things. This post is written for an imperfect world. I’ll share what I do when reality happens—when I’m floundering for adequate direction, prioritization, or structure.


Here is how, from the chaos of tasks and daily priorities, order is born.

Recently, I found myself simultaneously working on 4 different IT projects (an upgrade, an infrastructure move, and 2 evaluations). Each day, I performed little tasks to move the projects forward, but each time I returned to my desk I kept thinking, “Is this the most important thing to do right now? How close am I to the final goal? Where am I on the map of project progress?” I needed a compass.

The solution I developed took the form of 3 simple lists: Requirements, Issues, and Execution Steps. Let’s explore each in detail.

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downward spiral

When New Technology Causes Productivity to Plummet

Technology is expected to enhance productivity

Most business cases for technology investments include “productivity gains.” Even when no formal business case is created or communicated, users, managers, and executives implicitly expect that new technology will make their lives better.

However, many organizations spend money on technology as if it were a lottery ticket—hoping they will win. We could consider technology investments to be calculated risks, but, unfortunately, that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Most investments in tech turn into mechanical implementation projects that result in more complaints than compliments.

The most common complaint about technology from the user community is that it kills productivity, exactly the KPI it aims to improve. There are two reasons:

  1. Underutilization
  2. Poor maintenance and support

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How to Prioritize IT Initiatives Without Losing Friends: 5 Success Factors

A Black-and-White Prioritization Process: Quick and Uncomplicated

First, a common definition of success: IT initiative prioritization is a mechanism to calendarize and budgetize investments in IT, which is agreed upon by all stakeholders. This is a stretch goal for most organizations. In fact, some may argue that achieving a consensus among all stakeholders is not possible. But the only way to increase IT’s effectiveness is to drive consensus on how to use limited resources to achieve the most critical outcomes.

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PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member with a Personal Agenda

Part 4 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members that require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output out of folks who see the project as a way to achieve a personal agenda. In one way or another, these team members have no interest in doing what is best for the team, but rather what is best for themselves.

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The 4 Most Important Skills for an IT Project Manager

The title of Project Manager (PM) assumes a specific set of skills. While PMs certainly qualify as leaders, and the best possess the same qualities that define a great leader, project management is not an abstract art.

PMI defines a framework that is universal enough to apply to any project execution, anywhere in the world, under any conditions, yet, with a very precise set of tools. Some innate talents cannot be taught, but for the purposes of project management, the most important skills can (and should) be learned—and they improve with experience.

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man losing it at his desk

PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member with Personal Issues

Part 3 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members that require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output out of folks who have personal circumstances that are objectively more critical to them than work.

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The 5 Secret Jobs of an IT Project Manager

Did you think a Project Manager had just 1 job? There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than simply “managing a project.”

PMs are often overwhelmed, and always looking for spare time between meetings to get work done. They are pulled in a number of directions, and can easily be distracted from more important tasks. If they’re not careful, they get caught up in politics above them and drama below.

How can a PM stay focused on the most important activities that will best serve their project, organization, and career? By performing these 5 hidden functions:

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PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member Who is Coasting

Part 2 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members who require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output from folks who lost interest in work because they expect to exit soon.

Coasters Need TLC, Too

Some project team members know their days of working for the company are counted. Some are coasting towards retirement. Some know their jobs will likely go away when the project is complete. Typically, they just stop trying. Without emotional buy-in, these team members are often more harmful than they are helpful.

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