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It’s hard to overstate the importance of IT project management. Major IT projects aren’t just about installing a new tool or improving an existing asset — they’re about providing IT solutions that make businesses more successful. A successful project manager needs to understand the business’ needs and coordinate with all stakeholders to design, test and build a system that meets those needs. Although IT expertise is a crucial component, it’s only one part.

Buy-in is crucial to accomplishing IT project management strategic objectives. Getting all stakeholders invested is important in any major undertaking, but it’s especially crucial in IT project management. Internal IT projects should be strategic — even if you’re implementing a new, more user friendly interface or upgrading to more powerful hardware, the true goals are objectives that affect the organization as a whole, such as:

  • Better stability and efficiency
  • Improved business intelligence and analytics
  • Supporting long-term IT needs with minimal disruption
  • Decreased security and compliance risk
  • Flexibility to harness future technology upgrades

A traditional approach of recruiting key stakeholders and imposing the initiative on everyone else often yields poor results in IT project management. You can’t support efficiency without understanding workflow on the ground floor. You can’t minimize disruption without learning how office workers and executives use the IT infrastructure. And you certainly can’t develop an IT security and compliance program without assessing security practices across departments.

Symmetry continuously trains soft skills, because our success is dependent on listening to everyone, and designing a project that meets the needs of the entire organization. Each client is assigned an IT project manager in addition to multiple technical consultants, so that we can translate their strategic goals into concrete cloud and IT infrastructure upgrades. And the project doesn’t end with installation and launch; we stick with our partners until the new asset is fully supporting your organization.

IT project management depends on strategic planning. Major IT projects nearly always have complex trade-offs and long-term ramifications. IT project management best practices call for a strategic upgrade strategy, weighing your budget, projected growth, appetite for future projects and a range of other factors.

For example, if your company is planning an SAP HANA migration, you’ll have to carefully consider SAP Business Suite on HANA vs. S/4HANA; the first option is a little simpler and cheaper, and depending on your line of business, may make more sense. But SAP S/4HANA allows you to take advantage of newer HANA modules like Simple Finance and limit future upgrades.

You’ll also have to choose between a range of SAP hosting options; Do you take advantage of existing infrastructure with TDI, invest in a brand-new HANA appliance, or move to the SAP HANA cloud, minimizing CapEx and shrinking future OpEx? And within these big decisions are hundreds of smaller decisions, all of which will affect your future technology strategy.

As a long-term IT managed services partner, Symmetry understands the importance of IT project management. Coming up with IT solutions that meet your long-term needs is in our interest too, because it means you’re more likely to grow, prosper and stick with us.

Our IT project management services come with a technological roadmap, anticipating future needs and planning further upgrades when required. New challenges and opportunities may affect future stages of the project, but having a multi-stage plan from the beginning makes it easier to adapt. That ensures your IT infrastructure continues to support your strategic goals, no matter what the future brings.

Proper architecture and sizing requires extensive testing and tweaking. An ERP landscape is an incredibly complex thing. A cutting-edge system like SAP S/4HANA simultaneously processes purchase data, logs access, compiles real-time intelligence, controls logistics and does hundreds of other tasks — all at blazing fast speed.

In such a complex system, resources can fluctuate unpredictably. Minor software glitches, sales booms, end-of-quarter reporting demands, hardware faults, Internet outages and hundreds of other issues can combine to stress a system. If the IT infrastructure hasn’t been carefully sized and built with sufficient redundancy to withstand these sorts of problems, it can lead to massive slowdowns or even outages, when the system can no longer cope.

It’s crucial that organizations understand the importance of IT project management in ensuring proper sizing. Symmetry carefully plans and tests every system to meet clients’ needs by use case, baking in an extra 20% of resources over projected peak demand to cope with unexpected surges. For SAP Implementations, Upgrades and Migrations, clients are able to test drive their IT solution early in the IT project management process, using our SAP HANA Proof of Concept Lab.

This shows them the practical benefits of the system, with precise performance metrics, demonstrating improvement in response time and load time for core business processes, like reporting and data analysis. It also lets our SAP project management team tweak the system before building it, which reduces the cost, length and complexity of executing and tuning the project.

In many cases, Symmetry’s breadth of services and knowledge also allows us to create system architecture that better matches our clients’ needs — particularly for clients requiring hybrid cloud hosting solutions. For example, many organizations need onsite servers and networking to address high availability needs or to support a legacy silo, but they also can benefit from the flexibility of the cloud. Symmetry is able to link onsite hardware to your assets in Symmetry’s cloud, forming a unified network — something most of our competitors can’t do.

We can also transport your servers into our data center and run them for you, boosting security and simplifying your internal IT while allowing you to benefit from existing hardware, or postpone upgrading a silo in favor of more immediate needs.

IT project management requires precise planning. One of the reasons we love to use Proof of Concept in SAP project management is that it allows everyone to get on the same page. Our customers can understand precisely what we’re providing, both in terms of infrastructure and performance. But to translate that into a viable project, we spend a lot of time gathering information. We’ll look at network and IT resources, business needs and goals, hosting and staffing preferences and many other factors before proposing a precise IT solution.

There’s no room to figure things out as we go along. All information has to be gathered and every detail has to be plotted out before the start. Otherwise, scope creep, inaccurate dependencies, cost overruns and missed waypoints can undermine the project from the beginning.

In Symmetry’s IT project management approach, project waypoints are defined precisely, so that both the client and the technicians know just where the project should be at any point. Interim goals are charted, necessary downtime is carefully scheduled to minimize disruption and precise costs are calculated and provided up front. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting, when and what it will cost before the project starts.

Robust execution decreases the risks of IT project management. No project is completely risk-free; even with great planning and skilled partners, there’s a chance something will break or go wrong. IT project managers need to build in safeguards to insure a little bad luck doesn’t derail the entire endeavor.

A results-driven partner needs to understand the importance of IT project management in ensuring success, even if everything goes wrong. Project managers should use extensive what-if planning, and an upgrade strategy that minimizes the consequences of any failure. Each stage needs extensive testing and a backup, and core infrastructure needs failovers and rollbacks available at all times.

In some cases, this determines the ideal course of a project. For example, companies moving their ERP to the SAP HANA cloud can use Symmetry’s cloud disaster recovery to facilitate migration and upgrade, rather than upgrading first and then installing DR. For example, we can execute a failover and run production on your DR installation while we’re upgrading your core infrastructure, then preserve changes and failback when the job is done.

By carefully planning each stage of the process to minimize risk, our IT project management team not only does the job more reliably, but we also decrease cost and time requirements. A few extra hours in the planning stage can shave weeks or months off project time by preventing unexpected problems from popping up later in the project.

IT project managers must test under real-world conditions. Insufficient testing is one of the biggest problems in IT project management. Even if they test every subsystem individually, IT project managers can completely miss serious problems that will show up on go-live, or shortly thereafter.

It may simply be because the people who put together the system don’t understand the business end of it. Alternately, if the manager isn’t providing managed IT services post go-live, they might decide that it isn’t their responsibility. Whatever the reason, failing to test the landscape under real-world conditions can prove disastrous.

For example, some SAP project managers will test an SAP landscape in a quality system, but not test it under actual production conditions. The problem is, the project manager has unlimited privileges in the quality system, but typical users are supposed to only have the permissions they need to do their jobs.

When the system goes live without sufficient testing, users may lack required permissions, bringing departments or even the whole company to a standstill. Alternately, users may have too much power, creating serious security and compliance risks. For example, if a user can create a vendor in the system and pay the vendor, then that means the system isn’t SOX compliant, and could be used to embezzle. It’s possible to use GRC software like ControlPanel GRC to detect these issues post launch, but it’s still going to be more work and pose more risk than getting it all right the first time.

Symmetry IT project managers test thoroughly at every stage of a project, not just because it prevents costly mistakes, but because it saves everyone time, money and effort. A few hours of extra testing during a project can eliminate weeks of tweaking, and cut down on emergency calls to our technicians. Putting in the time to get it right the first time makes things easier for us and the customer

IT project management requires post go-live training. Just because you have a shiny new ERP system doesn’t mean everybody is going to be able to jump right in. You need a partner who can help train and supervise users so you can start reaping ROI, as quickly as possible.

For example, if you’re upgrading an older SAP ERP solution to SAP S/4HANA, your workers may not even know what SAP Fiori is. Although it’s a more convenient interface in the long run, they’ll still need training to get used to the new workflow. Similarly, your onsite Basis administrator may lack some skills required to run SAP Basis on HANA. That could necessitate training or ongoing support from a managed IT services partner.

Often, big IT projects require staffing changes in addition to administrative ones. For example, replacing a document-centric governance, risk and compliance process with ControlPanelGRC decreases the workload. It automatically reviews permissions and access, generates reports and serves as a central repository for controls. To benefit from the increased control and decreased workload, your company may need a smaller, more highly-skilled team to handle GRC.

Whether you need training for onsite staff, temporary help while you hire new technicians or long-term IT managed services, Symmetry will make sure your organization has the skills to utilize your new resources to their fullest potential. We have an extensive in-house education program, combining classroom-style training, e-learning, hands-on experience and mentorship. Not only does this keep us ahead of the pack in technical knowledge, but it also ensures our teaching skills are top notch. Anything we can build, we can teach — and there’s not much we can’t build.

IT project management should set you up for long-term success. Go-live might feel like the end of a project, but it’s actually just the beginning of a new phase. On a technical level, there’s always going to be a certain amount of tweaking and bug fixes in the first weeks and months. Additionally, there will be a learning curve, as your workers adapt to the new technology, refine their workflow and finally become seasoned users.

But you’ll also need plans and procedures to ensure your IT landscape stays healthy and continues to support your company’s needs. Procedures for software patching and tuning aren’t enough — you’ll also need IT admin services who can monitor End User Response Time (EURT) and other metrics, and alert you when it’s time for a system upgrade.

Most companies don’t anticipate the importance of IT project management in ensuring adequate long-term system planning and monitoring. As a result, executives aren’t informed when the hardware starts to fail or the system runs low on resources. Often, by the time they realize their ERP needs an upgrade, performance and stability have significantly degraded. The CTO is forced to schedule an emergency meeting with the board and try to push through a quick project. It’s stressful, inefficient and damaging to productivity.

We believe IT project management needs to include both short-term and long-term planning. Your organization needs constant communication (and control) for the next stage of the upgrade so that you don’t start to run out of compute before you get there. With our extensive planning and the flexibility of our enterprise cloud services, you can break the cycle of gradual performance degradation followed by frantic upgrades. You’ll be able to allocate resources as you grow, keeping consistently high performance throughout your system.

IT project management requires leadership. It’s not enough to understand the hardware and software — a successful IT project manager needs to understand your business as well. Symmetry project managers are trained to communicate with all levels of your organization, test and plan extensively, and execute a seamless upgrade with minimal disruption. Whether you’re looking for performance tuning and optimization, or a complete redesign of your SAP landscape, we’re up to the task!

Contact us to learn how Symmetry can help with your IT planning and project management needs.

Randy Downey, Senior Cloud Architect

Randy Downey, Senior Cloud Architect

As the Senior Cloud Architect at Symmetry, Randy brings over 14 years of experience in Information Technology with focus in Virtualization, Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds, System Design and Implementation, Data Center Operations, and Desktop/Server Engineering. He also has extensive experience with VMware solutions at the enterprise level across multiple industries including Managed Hosting, Cloud Service Providers, Global Utilities, and Healthcare.