Project management is an exponentially expanding field. A 2017 report predicted that by 2027, there would be over 80 million project management professionals worldwide. In the Information Technology (IT) world specifically, hours billed in project management positions grew at higher rates than nearly every other IT position.
There’s good reason for the growth. Project managers affect how efficiently projects are completed by building the project team dynamic, mitigating risks/issues, and ensuring projects’ success metrics add value. The difference between having a skilled project manager and having no one in that role could be the difference between spending hundreds of thousands of extra dollars and multiple months completing a project and closing a project out on time and within budget.
Project managers, especially those in IT, have the skills to move these projects along. Before we get into what those skills are and how they can benefit a team, let’s talk a little more about what an IT project manager does.
What is an IT Project Manager?
An IT project manager is a professional who helps an IT team plan, execute, and deliver projects according to stakeholder expectations. Their primary goal is to deliver the project on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of various stakeholders, which can be internal to the organization, external, or both. Sometimes this project manager is also a team lead, but most often an IT project manager is an individual role whose sole purpose is to deliver projects on time.
Project managers work in all fields, but IT project managers specialize in projects that exist in the IT space. Some of these projects include:
- Creating a new app or system
- Restructuring a wireless network in your office
- Implementing new software
- Putting together a help desk that serves customers
These are just some IT projects that could use a project manager to help move the tasks along in a timely and efficient manner.
6 Skills an IT Project Manager Brings to Your Team
IT project managers are skilled at many things, from keeping a team on track with deadlines and project delivery to communicating with employees across the corporate spectrum. With help from Kristin Morey, Insight Global’s Director of Enterprise Portfolio Management Office, let’s dig into some of these skills and how they can help a team succeed.
Project Managers Are Incredibly Organized
IT project managers are highly organized. They make sure the train leaves when it says it’ll leave, it stays running, and gets to the destination on time. They’re usually managing multiple projects at once, too.
IT project managers keep projects organized through a variety of tools (more on that in a minute), templates, and processes. Certified project managers also took courses on proper project management flows (more on that in a minute, too). Despite these tools, templates, and processes, though, every project is different, and skilled project managers know to maintain organization across any sort of delivery timeline.
Morey says organization is “incredibly important” to a project manager’s success. “In the midst of calm or chaos,” Morey says, “an IT project manager can guide a team to its end goal.”
They Communicate from Top to Bottom
IT project managers communicate with all levels of your organization, from C-suite executives to entry-level employees who are just getting started in their career. Knowing how to clearly communicate with this range of stakeholders is vital. Various groups within an organization need to know different kinds of information. IT project managers know how to communicate what those groups need to know.
“The project manager is responsible for helping unite the team around their common goal,” Morey said. “So that means understanding and speaking the language that everybody can understand, right?” Project managers understand that you can’t go into a meeting with someone who doesn’t know about Kafka clusters—a technological approach to streamline sharing data/events between systems—and start talking about them in a complex way. “When you don’t meet your project teammates where they are,” Morey said, “you lose them and they tune out.” (Or, the project manager would have to be able to communicate in a clear way what they are and why they’re important.)
Beyond the basics of communicating clearly across levels of an organization, senior IT project managers are skilled at knowing the energy someone needs to communicate with, Morey says. Is the task at hand urgent? How does the person they’re communicating to respond to certain types of communication? Knowing this is a skill, and that is all connected to…
They Have a Feel for Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient, or EQ) is the ability to understand your emotions, but also the emotions of those around you. Having EQ is a soft skill, and project managers wield it often in the IT world.
With EQ, Morey says an IT project manager can:
- Help build a team dynamic, through knowing how certain people perceive and react to tasks, news, responsibilities, and more
- Unite people and personalities with a common goal
- Know when it’s just not someone’s day, or when they’re struggling or behind and are too worried to say something
- Properly allocate tasks and responsibilities across the team (and know how people will respond to them)
Project Managers are Skilled at Managing Meetings
Have you been in a meeting that’s gone nowhere? Have you been in a meeting that’s gone everywhere but the place you expected it to go? Have you had meetings that have wasted everyone’s time but the person who scheduled it? The answer is yes—we all have.
Project managers—especially in the IT field—know what needs to be a meeting and what doesn’t. Time is precious with project delivery, and experienced project managers will know when everyone needs to come together, and when updates can happen over email or an organization’s preferred chat tool.
Aside from knowing when meetings need to happen, project managers are also excellent meeting facilitators. This includes:
- Starting and ending a meeting on time
- Knowing how the meeting technology works
- Setting an agenda and sticking to it, unless meeting attendees agree to pivot
- Knowing who does and doesn’t need to be in a meeting
- Identifying action items and who owns them
These may seem obvious to running an effective meeting, but what if there was a dedicated person making sure all meetings happened like this, especially when trying to deliver an IT project on time? Your project delivery might just run a lot smoother.
They Know the Brand
Companies, teams, and individuals all have a brand and personality. Whether they’re clearly defined or not, project managers—once they’ve worked with each party—learn to know what those are.
Knowing a person or team’s brand is important when knowing how to communicate with them, what tone to use, what information they need to know and so much more.
For instance, some leaders, Morey says, operate with an “FYI” mentality, where they mostly just want to be made aware of decisions and how they’ll help the team. They don’t need to know every little detail or reasoning behind the decision. Some managers, though, operate completely differently. Knowing the brand of everyone involved in the project will help the project move more efficiently.
Project managers make sure the company brand and tone are consistent across all delivery phrases, too. If you’re hiring on a project manager, you can try to sniff out their experience with your external brand in the interview process.
IT Project Managers Have Technical Skills—Both in PM Platforms and with the Industry
Many of the skills we’ve talked about so far are soft skills. A good project manager—one that enhances your team—will have a set of hard skills, too. These include:
- Managing budgets
- Setting measurable, achievable goals
- Project management processes and methods
- Risk management
- Skills in platforms where these hard skills are utilized, like Excel, Smartsheet, Jira, Asana, and more
As we mentioned previously, certified project managers have taken courses to get a project management certification. Some well-known project management certifications are:
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Google’s Project Management Certificate (via Coursera)
Project managers can be skilled and provide value without these certifications, too. Morey says that some technical skills and experience she looks for when hiring IT project managers include:
- Working with both co-located and distributed project delivery teams
- Experience managing teams across multiple time zones
- Handling large budgets and projects with varied stakeholders
- Diverse industries; experience managing different kinds of projects
A skilled IT project manager can be the difference between a project completing on time and efficiently and a project finishing past its due date amidst chaos. Identifying project managers—both experienced and entry-level—with any of these skills can add value to your IT projects.
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