DIY IT

The DIY guide to IT projects

Let’s face it – you can’t call in a team of experts on every project. Sometimes it just makes more sense to do things yourself. But IT projects, in particular, can go off the rails quickly.

Here’s our DIY guide for how to keep IT projects on track and moving forward.

Planning

Every project needs to start with a good plan.

1. Begin with the end in mind

You’ll want to think hard about what your goal is with any project. “Why?” is the most important question you can ask as you get started.

For example, you want to install a WiFi network into the office. Why? Is it provide visitors with internet access? Or to make it easier for your team to move around the office? How and where you install a Wifi network could vary greatly depending on the why.

Let’s say you want to improve collaboration and boost productivity by allowing employees more mobility. That way they can work directly with other departments rather than just communicating via email. You know you’ll need a solution with good coverage all over your office.

2. Discovery

Once you have your “why”, you start the discovery phase. Take some time to think about logistics.

Would one access point work? Would three be too many?

Chances are the reality of the project is going to be different than how you imagined it during your brainstorming session. Now is the time to adjust the plan a bit. Sometimes you end up scrapping the plan entirely at this point. Better now than halfway through implementation.

You’ll be doing a lot of research during this phase. What type of access point do I need? Will the budget model work well for our needs, or should we invest in a fancier device? What would we need to do to expand our network in the future?

Discovery is extremely important for IT projects. Take the time up front to ensure you don’t waste time later.

3. Milestones

You’ll probably figure out your milestones during the discovery phase. This is a great time to organize and lay them out.

Pick goals that are easily identifiable. A recent survey found that 37% of leaders cited a lack of clear goals as the reason why projects failed.

Milestones are extremely helpful to see how far along you are on your project. They also work well as checklist items.

For example:

  • Access point locations chosen
  • Cabling measured and mapped
  • Supplies ordered
  • Access points mounted
  • Cable installed
  • Network is online
  • Network is secure

You’ll know approximately how long your project should take based on these goals.

4. Contingency plans

Think about what could go wrong and get a rough idea of what you might do in any situation What if the office next door uses devices that interfere with ours? Make sure the devices you’re looking at can switch frequencies.

Think of as many potential problems as you can up front. That way you won’t be surprised if something goes wrong.

If your project has a date that it has to be finished, work backward from that date and pick a day a few weeks ahead to have everything completed by. That way you have some cushion in case of road-blocks.

5. Budget

Now that everything is planned out, you can think about your budget. Keep in mind that one in six projects will go over budget by 200%. You (obviously) want to avoid this.

That’s why you came up with contingency plans and scheduled everything out in advance – to give yourself wiggle-room before you start to overrun. Do the same with your budget.

Execution and Implementation

Once everything is planned out, it’s time to get started.

1. Communication

Keep the lines of communication open. This is essential! Whether that mean regular status meetings, conference calls, or just progress reports via email, you’ll want to keep everyone in the loop.

This includes the team on the project as well as management. That way everyone is on the same page and can move quickly in the event of complications.

2. Stick to the plan

It’s common for the project to start to drift away from its initial goal. This is called “scope creep” and could easily throw things off track.

That’s the main reason why you decided on your “why”’ at the beginning of the project. If a change in plans doesn’t support why you’re doing the project in the first place, then you don’t need to make that change.

Even if the new part of the plan would support your goal, resist the temptation to throw it into the mix. Treat it as its own project. Especially in IT, it’s very easy to say “Well, while we’re working on this we might as well add this other thing. We were thinking of doing it anyway!”

This is a surefire way to go over budget.

The bottom line

Keep this process in mind when you’re taking on a project yourself, and you’ll do just fine. However, if you find that you have a project in mind that’s out of reach, don’t hesitate to call the experts if only for a second opinion.