The Mystifying IT Project Manager
Everyone has been talking about how important IT project management is for corporations. I thought it would be interesting to cut to the chase and uncover what is driving the demand for stellar IT project management, and look at the skills successful individuals in this position need to possess.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 74 percent of all projects fail, come in over budget or run past the original deadline every year, resulting in approximately $75 billion spent on failed projects. These factors are largely driving the need for trained, qualified and certified project managers, and this area is expected to grow by as much as 20 percent per year. In today’s competitive marketplace, it is critical that companies have an improved understanding of IT project management and have competent professionals who can manage these efforts.
Which brings us to the mystifying IT project manager, the one designated to keep the department on task and projects on time. We all know the obvious qualifications of a project manager, such as organization skills, multitasking abilities, critical thinking talents and belief in a structured process. Here are the additional top skills and characteristics an IT project manager needs to possess to excel in this role:
- Technical background with business understanding. IT project management does not necessarily require a deep understanding of technology, but that the general concepts are understood. Generally, individuals who totally understand the business side and do not have an appreciation for the technology fail, as do those who are heavy on the technical knowledge without diving into the business aspects.
- Being a team player and motivating stakeholders. Part of this role includes seeing the project through initial planning, uncovering business requirements, development, quality assurance and deployment of the finished product. The focus needs to remain on keeping a high level of customer service under any circumstances while working effectively with all teams involved. The project manager is the one to motivate and lead project teams to superior performance levels by gaining acceptance of the process within the organization. An important component includes ensuring that available resources are used in the most effective and efficient manner.
- Effective mix of people skills and assertiveness. IT project managers need to bring all stakeholders to the table and effectively reach a consensus about the business requirements. Then throughout the project, daily situations arise where they need to go back to the technical team and point out where things need to change. This requires a personality that is able to minimize conflict and keep egos intact.
- Communication skills, both written and verbal. Since IT project managers conduct the project meetings, their communication skills need to run on a two-way street. The ability to listen, process and question are all of equal value. Critical thinking skills are vital for gathering information, creating a healthy communication climate, defining problems and generating solutions. On the written side, IT project managers need to document business requirements to reflect the project specifications and enable the team to refer to documentation for clarification. Additionally, they provide summary data to keep senior executives in tune with what is happening and where things are going.
- Problem-solving while minimizing conflict. Making sound decisions and solving problems independently is required, as is the need to know which decisions require a team effort. Additionally, an IT project will often by its nature create a paradigm shift in business practices and workflow. The successful IT project manager is able to conduct and review user analysis and develop action plans that will assist in the coordination and execution of change management.
For those of you looking to pursue formalized learning in this area, certifications such as IT Project+ from CompTIA and Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI are of immense benefit. Many organizations now require project management certification as a prerequisite for employment or advancement within the organization as they look to take the mystique out of IT project management.
Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.