Tips for Meeting IT Project Deadlines

Meeting project deadlines can be challenging for any company and IT team. Whether it’s scope creep, poorly estimated timelines, or illnesses within your staff, there are plenty of things that can go wrong with a project. Missing project timelines can be expensive and potentially damaging to the reputation of your company. This is why we put together the following tips to help you meet your project timelines.

What is Expected of You?

The most important first step to ensuring that your team reaches deadline for a project is to clearly define the scope of work and requirements at the beginning stage. Before you can estimate how long a project will take, you need to have a firm understanding of what is expected. Don’t be afraid ask questions and get all of the details. The details can be critical for understanding the volume and depth of the steps that are required to complete the project.

Get it in Writing

Once you have this information, make sure you write it down. This will allow all team members, as well as overseeing managers, a chance to review the scope of work and make changes before the start of the project. It is good to have an agreement where all parties understand exactly what is expected of each team member involved in the project.

Break it Down

Once you have a clear understanding of what is expected, you can then break down the project to its milestones and individual tasks. Once you have the individual tasks, estimate how long each one will take. Tip: make sure you give yourself some extra time and pad each milestone a little. Changes and unforeseen complications are bound to occur, especially in technology development, but IT projects affect other departments and these other departments will need to be told a deadline date so that they can plan their own projects accordingly. By padding each milestone you will increase the likelihood of meeting expectations.

When is it Due?

Once you have identified how long each milestone will take your team, estimate a final due deadline date. This date is important for other departments, who are depending on the completion of the project, a solid timeframe to look forward to.  It will also give your team a goal to work towards and you will be able to communicate on a daily bases if your project is on schedule or running behind.

Focus, Focus, Focus (on the Task)

Once the project work is started, make sure you track each task individually and monitor when it has been completed. This will allow you to know when certain pieces of the project are taking longer than expected. By focusing on individual tasks, you will keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the overall complexity of the project.

Communicate

During each milestone of the project, communication is key. You can establish a communication plan at the beginning of your project so that everyone knows when you will be communicating with them. By keeping them in the loop you can greatly increase your chances of success.

Don’t Over Commit Your Resources

Make sure you don’t over commit your resources whether it be employees or outsourced freelancers. In the case of freelancers, keep in mind that many work for other companies and will need some flexibility in their scheduling. Keep this in mind when you are developing the overall timeframe of the projects deliverable deadline.

Overtime – As a Last Resort

If for some reason your project misses a, deadline because of poor planning or other factors out of your control, it may be necessary to for participants to work overtime. This could lead to additional costs, and even burnout of team members which can then lead to mistakes in development…which means more work overall and the risk of not making the final deliverable deadline.

Conclusion

Staying on timeline during a project is critical. IT project deadlines affect other departments and the company as a whole. Most of the time, missing deadlines can be avoided with the tips listed above. It is important to properly document projects so that you can learn which tasks took longer than expected, and what type of unforeseen obstacles occurred. This way you can plan the next project better and increase efficiency within the IT department.

Meet W. Andrew Loe III – Onehub Lead Developer and Sailing Fanatic

It’s time for another staff spotlight! This month, meet Andrew. Andrew is one of our Lead Developers and is a fanatical and outstanding sailor of the great blue seas. Find out how Andrew got started with sailing and how you can follow his maritime adventures below.

Andrew from Onehub

Andrew’s Love for the Ocean Sport
We had a great conversation with Andrew about his love of sailing on the open waters:

Q – How did you get into sailing exactly?
A – My parents had some experience racing and cruising. When I was seven, we lived on a boat in the Caribbean for 18 months. When we got back to New Orleans, they took me out to the lakefront where we saw a group of kids racing Optimist dinghies. I said I wanted to try it, and that was the start.

 Q – What is it about sailing that makes it an addictive hobby for you?
A – First, I like competition; sailing provides plenty of opportunities to race and challenge myself. It is one of the oldest Olympic sports, and many of the trophies have been around for over 100 years; there is a lot of history to try and overcome. Second, I love how dynamic it is, each race is different from the last.

Q – Does sailing help your brain stay sharp for all the stellar code you write for Onehub?
A – I feel like coding and sailing have a lot of overlap. Writing good code is still a very young and changing process. Programmers are learning new techniques nearly every day. The adaptive skills I’ve learned from racing all these years have prepared me well. I am comfortable picking up new tools and techniques, but smart enough to know when to wait for something to prove itself. It’s a delicate balance of risk and reward, much like a race.

Q – What is the craziest or most exciting sailing story that you can share with us (PG-13 version!)?
A – I’ve had a lot of wild encounters all over the world, but I recall one specific event close to home when I was about 14. We were racing on Lake Pontchartrain when a bad storm cell developed causing the wind to go from 15mph to 60+mph in a matter of minutes. To avoid destroying our boats, we flipped them over and sat on the bottoms to ride the storm out. After the cell passed, we righted them and kept on racing. Sometimes you have to adapt to the circumstances!

Q – How can we keep up with your ocean adventures?
A – I was the skipper for the Seattle Yacht Club and Sail Team Seattle challenge for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup that took place September 7-14, 2013 in Newport, Rhode Island. There is excellent coverage available on Youtube including our at showdown with the eventual winners. In addition to the Invitational Cup, I do some blogging about sailing, kiteboarding, and snowboarding adventures on my journal.

Here is an action shot of the Swan 42s that Andrew and his team raced earlier this month at the Invitational Cup. Andrew is driving boat #17!

Andrew's Boat
(Photo by Rolex/Daniel Forster)

We hope you have enjoyed getting to know our lead developer, Andrew.  Stay tuned for another spotlight interview next month.

Hilco Industrial Tells us Why They Picked Onehub in Recent Case Study

Hilco Industrial

Hilco Industrial has been using Onehub’s online secure file sharing solution since 2011. Recently we had a chance to chat with Hilco Industrial’s Director of Operations Valery Moody about why they chose Onehub and why they continue to use our product on a daily basis for a Onehub case study.

Hilco Industrial, LLC offers machinery and equipment disposition services in several high-profile industries. In the past, they used email for transmitting not only correspondence but also large files, images, and videos between team members and customers. They quickly discovered that there is little security and control over emailing important files since emails can be forwarded to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Hilco started to research online file sharing solutions in effort to resolve this issue. They knew security and control of their files were of the utmost importance, as they needed a place to store customer contracts and other confidential information.

Since Hilco Industrial has offices across the United States, they needed a way for their offices to be able to access shared files over the Internet. Hilco tried a number of online file sharing providers, but most did not provide enough control and security, were too expensive, or were not easy to use.

As part of their trial process, Hilco checked out Onehub’s 14-day free trial to see if it better fit their needs. “The trial had already shown us how easy Onehub is to use,” says Valery Moody, Director of Operations. “Then we saw that we could assign outside employees with passwords and access, set their permissions, plus brand it with our own company logo. The package was very attractive.”

At the end of the trial, Hilco Industrial decided to purchase the Onehub Business plan. Using the Business plan, they were able to build a virtual data room that was specific to their needs. Some of Hilco’s projects require internal file sharing, but they also need to give access to certain pieces of data to customers. With Onehub’s granular role settings and sharing permissions Hilco can properly control who has access to the data and what they are allowed to do with the data.

“We post a lot of proprietary information that we don’t want to give out to just anybody,” says Moody. “Onehub helps us easily control access to these files.”

We are thrilled that we could provide this solution to Hilco. Read the entire Onehub/Hilco case study here. How can we help your business securely and easily share files?

IT Plays Critical Role as Companies Move to the Cloud

Is your company’s critical data stuck in legacy applications? Sometimes, software decisions that were made years ago out of convenience are still in use today. This could mean that critical company information like client info, billing, or other data is being stored in legacy applications. As the data has grown, you have seen first-hand how these legacy apps don’t scale well. Hard drives and computers can crash or software support could end, meaning that your critical company information becomes lost forever.

Times are changing and these fears are dissipating with the move of businesses to the cloud. But how many business are really taking advantage of the cloud to avoid these detrimental data loss occurrences? In an article by Forbes, it was explained that The Neovise report attempted to shed some light by screening 822 IT leads and decision makers. It was reported that 46% of businesses had yet to move their data, content, and files into a cloud storage solution to avoid losses.

More than anything, this means that IT plays a critical role for companies who have yet to make the move to the cloud. Lets look at how exactly:

How can IT help?

As IT departments continue to mature and become more of an integral part of business, new opportunities are arising.

Part of the new IT executive’s job role incorporates helping their company map out their business processes and better understand their software and hardware requirements. In some cases during this process, companies may consider moving to the cloud if they have not already done so.

According to Gartner research, sales of cloud computing services are expected to hit $9 billion in 2013. Gartner is also forecasting a 41% average annual growth rate through 2016. As more companies are moving to the cloud, it is becoming a necessity to compete.

This may leave some IT executives wondering how they can assist their companies with this trend. Once they have worked with employees to map out business processes and software requirements, they will be able to determine where cloud services could be useful.

The IT department can help the company answer crucial questions such as:

  • Can the company successfully migrate to the cloud?
  • Do they need public, private (on-premise), or hybrid cloud services?
  • Will the new cloud service provider keep the company data safe and ensure security?
  • How will the new cloud service providers impact business processes and performance?
  • What impact will the new cloud service providers have on customer service?

Companies are moving certain business processes and software to the cloud in waves. When doing so, the IT department can play a valuable decision making role in evaluating cloud service providers and working with stakeholders within the company to help them select a provider.

After a cloud service provider has been selected, the IT department can manage the relationship between the company, its employees, and the cloud services provider. They can establish communication between the parties and make sure that project timelines are met.

In some cases, data conversion may be required from the old legacy applications to the new service provider. Typically, the service provider will provide the import format but it will be the IT department’s job to prepare and verify the data. This can frequently be a time-consuming process and sometimes takes weeks or months, depending upon the amount of data being converted.

Many companies will choose different cloud service providers over time depending on their unique business’s needs. For example, one year they might pick a customer relationship management (CRM) like Salesforce. Another year, they might pick a project collaboration tool that incorporates an online file sharing tool.

Conclusion

As you can see, times are changing for the IT professional. IT departments have grown from simply supporting computers and networks to the crucial role of helping businesses make smarter decisions and perform better. IT departments will continue to become a more critical part of businesses as more companies make the jump to the cloud.


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