Why effective project management is crucial for remote IT teams

by Staff Writer

Laptop covered in sticky notes

As more teams transition to remote working arrangements—some permanently—the right technology is becoming even more essential for improving employee performance. IT departments have to quickly deploy hardware and software solutions and connect them to employee devices. Since IT teams are working remotely, too, effective project management is critical to keeping things on track.

Often overseen by a chief information officer (CIO), the information technology project management office (IT PMO) is the keeper of an organization's best practices, processes, resources, and tools. In many organizations, the IT department has the most projects to manage, and they affect nearly every aspect of the company. 

Organizations need a way to keep operations running smoothly while prioritizing, implementing, and overseeing projects. Whether your organization has an official PMO or not, project management is a vital function for every organization. According to CIO, adopting a PM methodology has a dramatic impact on IT departments—those that do are 28% less likely to experience budget overruns.

As technology has become more advanced, the role of an IT PMO has evolved. Instead of just being service providers, IT PMOs transitioned into agile partners within a business, helping organizations execute on projects by matching the best solutions with new opportunities. At the helm of most projects is an IT project manager, who assembles a team to design, implement, and audit new solutions. 

Managing remote IT operations requires clear communication, planning, visualization, and effective digital tools to carry out several essential business functions. Here are five common IT PMO workstreams and how effective project management can have a positive impact on the overall health of your organization.

Sticky note with network signal icon

Help maintain the computer network

One of the central roles in an IT PMO is tracking the installation and maintenance of networks, including laptops and desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. The IT team creates user accounts and grants access to the organization's systems. They also maintain and secure the network, troubleshooting when necessary, and updating software to protect the system from failure and potential risk from threats.

Without collaboration and a single source of information, however, remote IT teams can work in silos. Instead, an effective cloud-based, collaborative work management platform can help improve visibility and transparency into project status, and help save time and allocate the right IT resources for sprint planning. 

Translate IT needs for business leaders

The IT PMO works with procurement and IT leaders to get business executives on board with new technology to facilitate smooth change management within an organization. The challenge is that management often considers a PMO an overhead process, and 42% of PMOs experience organizational resistance to change, according to research by PM Solutions

Executives want an answer to the question, “What’s in it for our organization?” IT PMOs must change the context of new technology to address this issue, directly linking it to an organization's goals, objectives, and successes. You need to back up your recommendations with accurate data and data transparency.

Project managers can increase stakeholder confidence by delivering metrics and potential results for green-lighting new technologies. For example, they can show how the technology will save money, reduce redundancies, increase employee productivity, resolve security loopholes, automate processes, or add new streams of revenue.

The possibilities of what something can do may be endless, but you need to connect the dots for the key decision-makers who own the budget.

Sticky note showing ranked priorities

Accurately rank priorities for IT teams

IT departments often have a lot of projects going on at once, with varying degrees of importance and durations. An IT project manager would work directly with the IT help desk specialists to identify their organization's priorities and schedule work accordingly. When working remotely, this requires real-time insights and transparent delegation practices.

A lack of accountability and improper resource allocation can lead to essential projects being delayed, running over budget, or falling through the cracks. Teams need a single source of truth across projects to keep the team focused on the priorities and workflow. 

With the IT help desk, for example, project managers can use a cloud-based collaborative work management platform (CWM) to capture business requests, then assign jobs to available team members based on a realistic understanding of their bandwidth.

Low priority projects could be put on the back-burner, while top assignments can be delegated right away, with their progress tracked in real time. This way, visibility can translate into accountability.

Organize help tickets and requests

IT departments receive several types of help tickets and requests that need to be appropriately delegated and assigned. This can be a challenge when IT teams are distributed and connecting through virtual meetings. Whether or not an IT department is remote, it relies on effective collaboration and access to real-time insights and schedules to assemble the right people for the job.

Instead of relying on email and manual processes, a centralized CWM platform can improve communication and provide an easier way to delegate or collaborate. In addition, the right platform can connect your existing software tools, such as Jira, and systems commonly used by IT and engineering teams to track issues.  

Teams with greater access to real-time reporting and automation provided by a CWM platform can get time back to focus on innovation—whether that’s learning about cutting-edge technology or process improvement. 

Sticky note with drawing of a computer monitor

Measure the effectiveness of IT and technology solutions

Once networks and new systems are put in place, the IT PMO often measures the return on investment (ROI). Calculating the ROI gives stakeholders the information they need to approve or end a project. It also helps prioritize projects and can identify additional or unexpected benefits implementing a new solution could provide, such as increased employee satisfaction or new marketing opportunities.

To justify the cost of new or existing technology, the IT PMO can assess the value of the hardware and software, as well as the acquisition, management, support, expenses, and training required to use the solution.They can also record any productivity losses that can occur during implementation. 

An IT PMO can also develop internal customer surveys—covering specific functions within IT—in order to establish a quantitative baseline and track improvements in stakeholder satisfaction.

When deployed effectively, these can help IT teams see how well they perform against expectations, understand areas that need improvement, and highlight their strengths. In the new reality of working from home, even the smallest wins can go a long way for an IT department.

Building a better IT PMO

All IT departments can benefit from having at least one project manager, and large organizations who implement an IT PMO can have a better understanding of IT project risk management. Sustainable growth in any industry will rely on delivering innovative solutions to its customers. This can't happen without technology—and an IT PMO that is fully supported by an organization’s leaders.

Learn how the Smartsheet collaborative work management platform can help your remote IT team be more effective and stay on the same page. And subscribe to the Smartsheet IT Newsletter for tips, strategies, and ideas focused on helping IT professionals increase their impact on their business.