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6 basics for successful project management in IT practice

SCRUM, Kanban, DevOps: Frameworks and methods that many IT students know from their project management lectures. Sure, theory is important during your studies - but anyone who has ever sniffed into business knows that it often doesn't work the way it does in a textbook.

How does IT project management look like in practice? A question that many IT graduates ask me. That was the reason for me to ask my colleagues about this topic and to gather their experience from many years of IT project management. I have summarized the top 6 basics for successful project management in practice for you in this article.

"If you do the project management basics correctly, the customer will be 95 percent satisfied." - a quote from my colleague Jan Temminghoff, who is responsible for project management training here at mindsquare. Perhaps formulated a bit provocatively, but certainly correct in essence.

Basic 1: Use agile methods and adapt them to your purposes

Every method and every development framework has its justification. In practice, however, companies often choose a project management method and adapt it for their purposes. At mindsquare, we mainly use agile methods such as SCRUM and Kanban, which we adapt to the respective company into which we are introducing software. The general trend is towards the SCRUM approach, especially in development projects.

A common argument against this method: The customer often lacks a clear definition of the end result at the beginning of the project. He doesn't know what he's getting and that makes it difficult for him to spend money on it. To do this, we often also use the process-oriented project management method PRINCE2, for which every employee who attends our internal Management Consulting Academy is certified.

This is officially called "SCRUMbut" (traced back to "We use Scrum, but ...") when individual elements in the SCRUM are dispensed with and thus deviated from the standard.

Perhaps our most important learning curve for successful project management: Find a method for your project in advance and adapt it individually. Nobody gets a price for being particularly meticulous about a method - what counts is the result.

Basic 2: Define clear roles and areas of responsibility

In order to be able to apply your project approach successfully, you have to clearly define the areas of responsibility and roles within the project team. Because as important as your project team is: It represents one of the greatest risk factors for the success of the project. Our standard process model provides 9 roles and 2 control institutions, whereby individual persons can also assume several roles.

The roles are as follows: sponsor and budgeter, product owner, project manager, communication manager, project delivery manager, senior supplier representative, stakeholder representative, project team member and the end user. In addition, there are two bodies that can be called in to resolve conflicts: The Scope Committee and the Steering Committee, which acts as the highest decision-making body.

The team only functions as such if everyone knows what role they play, where their areas of responsibility lie and where they don't. That leads me straight to the next point.

Basic 3: Communicates openly and transparently

The understanding of roles described in Basic 2 is essential to enable efficient and clear communication. Problems that arise are then communicated honestly and early on, and you can react in good time. In this way, negative effects on the project can be minimized. A trust-based (customer) relationship can only develop if your project team communicates transparently on a day-to-day basis.

This has an enormous impact on the project climate, the motivation and thus the efficiency of your project team.

Basic 4: Continuously monitor your project progress

A keyword that we often hear: proactivity. Means: to be self-determined and to take the initiative. This also applies to project management. Regularly compare the expenses incurred per work package with the associated plan value. In this way, you can provide information about the current budget situation at any time, identify any delays at an early stage and initiate appropriate measures proactively. This cost and performance transparency is important in every type of project, regardless of whether it is a fixed-price project or "Time & Material".

The client expects that his total budget will not be exceeded and that the services will be delivered in the quality as discussed in the project scope, i.e. in the project scope. The scope of the project is determined jointly at the beginning of the project. B. so that the budget and deadlines are fixed at the beginning and the scope is only roughly and variably defined. If one of the components “budget, time or quality / scope” is exceeded during the project, you must be able to initiate countermeasures at an early stage and communicate this accordingly. This only works if you regularly check your project progress.

Basic 5: Pursue open issues to be resolved

In every project, questions arise that cannot be answered immediately, but still need to be resolved for the further course of the project. It is the task of the project management to manage these clarification points and to demand them inside or outside the project team. This is the only way to prevent delays in the project. If open points arise, you should communicate and also document a specific person responsible and a target date for it. If the clarification is not provided independently, you as the project manager are responsible for control and follow-up.

Basic 6: Report regularly to your stakeholders

"No meeting without minutes" - an unwritten law for us to create bindingness in appointments. Another tried and tested method for documentation is regular reporting, e.g. B. in the form of weekly reports.

A regular written report means that you consciously reflect and creates trust and transparency for the stakeholders with regard to the course of the project. The report should at least include the results of the work since the last report as well as currently open clarification points and effects, current project risks and an outlook for the next reporting period. You should adapt the duration of the reporting period and the target group to your specific project situation - with us, a week has usually proven to be useful. Incidentally, we use this weekly report not only for our customer projects, but also internally in order to reflect ourselves every week and to keep our team leader up to date, e.g. B. about open tasks or questions that arise.

Conclusion & concrete implementation in the project

These 6 project management basics are our basis for solid, operational project management. They may sound obvious and simple, but in our experience this is precisely why they are so important for project success and customer satisfaction - and are unfortunately often forgotten.

How do we use these basics specifically in our projects? In this post, my colleague Robert from the mindforce department explains in detail how he carries out the Salesforce implementation project after 10 years of Salesforce experience with our customers.

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact me. Or would you prefer to experience the whole thing live? Then apply e.g. B. for a day internship with us.

About me

My name is Timm Funke and I've been HR manager at mindsquare since 2011. Before that, I was an IT consultant myself for 3 years. I studied business informatics at the vocational academy Weserbergland e.V.