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What Skills Does An IT Project Manager Need To Be Successful?

What Skills Does An IT Project Manager Need To Be Successful?

October 24, 2014
Posted by: Jerry Foley

By Jerry Foley, PMP, ITILv3 Expert, CCNA, MCSE, DCJS #11-4301

First and foremost, the IT project manager needs an understanding of the IT discipline. Simple being a good technical resource is not usually enough to manage an IT project with an expansive, diverse project team membership.

For very small IT projects, a technical resource with some management experience might be well positioned to deliver a successful project. Good, straightforward management and task organization might be all that is required; i.e., set up a work plan, gather skilled resources, relate the goal of the effort to the resources, and get the work done.

For larger projects, where the risk is greater, the stakeholder community is more diverse, and the project team requires more and varied skill sets, a good manager with some IT skills might not be sufficient for the tasks. Something more is needed of the project manager. That something equates to:

  • Leadership --- The ability to get people to come together and do what they might not do otherwise on their own, and appreciate the value, and the need of working together toward a common goal. No matter the challenge before the, if a good leader can bring a team together and relate the value of reaching a goal, the team is more likely to embrace the goal regardless of the obstacles they might face.
  • Communication Skills --- The demonstrated ability to listen: to speak, write, and organize thoughts rationally; and to relate those thoughts to a diverse group of individuals. Communication underpins the success or failure of every project, particularly when the number of stakeholders is great. The project manager must be a communications leader, even if a dedicated communications manager is assigned to the project.
  • Interpersonal Skills --- The ability to relate to others with varied backgrounds, skill sets, and backgrounds, in a variety of stressful business, political, and socially dynamic situations. It is easy to organize resources and encourage them toward a goal when things are going well. It takes real skill to relate to those same resources when they are in crisis, professionally and personally, and help them to get back on track and retain their place on the project team.
  • Experience with IT projects --- There is no replacement for experience. Good IT project managers bring a background of working in the IT industry, or at least some technical training to augment their business background. They relate to the technical staff in a manner that facilitates the interpretation of business requirements into technical terms that can be linked directly to how the solution should be constructed. Absent this experience, good IT project managers recognize the need to gather experienced technical resources around them, to complement their own skills.
  • Problem -skills --- Someone once said that a project is a problem scheduled for a solution. A good project manager can accurately define the problem statement that drives the project, identify potential solutions, direct the team toward the best alternative solution, and make that solution a reality.
  • Time management skills --- All projects work under time constraints. Managing to a schedule is fundamental to project management. Project managers must recognize these requirements and possess the ability to organize tasks and resources within time constraints.
  • Ability to develop people --- The ability to recognize the capabilities and limitations of team members, identify the gaps between the project's needs and the team member's abilities, and develop the team's membership to the point where the project can be successfully completed. The ability to accurately assess a team member's skills in a technical, business, or interpersonal area and then determine how to develop those skills in that team member is key to a project's success. Few teams assigned or hired for a project have all of the tools they need to be successful. It I sup to the project manager to identify and fill gaps in the team's capabilities, using the resources available to the project.
  • Ability to handle stress --- Projects never seem to have enough time, money, or other resources to meet stakeholder expectations. This creates a lot of stress for the project manager. Effective IT project managers manage their own stress, recognize the stress in others, and deal with it appropriately. It is essential that the IT project manager be perceived as the calm center of the storm during times when stress climbs to its peak. If the project manager appears ragged and out of sorts, the team loses confidence in that person and in their ability to function as a team. A critical item in the project manager's toolbox is effective techniques for anticipating, recognizing, and dealing effectively with stress.

IT project management is much more than technical skills or the ability to develop a project schedule using project management software. For an IT project manager to be successful, a professional toolbox that contains the skills described above is essential. The good news is that you can learn each skill by attending courses at training centers, community colleges, professional organizations, and so on.

About the Author

PMP, ITILv3 Expert, CCNA, MCSE, DCJS #11-4301

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