What makes a great IT project manager
Since IT project management is a field in constant flux, there's no one universal definition of a great IT project manager. Still, there are some skills and features that can be easily adapted to any working environment, meeting new organizational needs and consequent challenges. A significant problem is the fact that project manager will mean different things to different people (even within the same organization!). Some say that the greatest IT project managers are those who are able to balance the soft leadership skills with hard and detailed knowledge of tools, methodology and technical aspects of projects. Here are 7 key features that make a great project manager for any IT department.
This is probably the most important soft skill for project management. A successful project manager must possess not only great communication skills in public speaking and transmitting the project's vision to the team, but also strong listening skills.
The ability to recognize and praise project team members is crucial as well. Projects develop dynamically and you can expect various issues to crop up continuously throughout a project life cycle. All the changes in schedule, product scope and costs seriously impact the success or failure of a project.
That's why a great project manager is an active listener and knows how to handle team members who at some point might express their concern for the project’s future. Knowing how to do it will earn him or her the respect of the team, but also offer an early warning of problems that may lie ahead.
Showing empathy is important when listening and communicating with others, helping project managers to understand what individuals or entire teams are going through. A great project manager will have an innate grasp of the total working environment and will be able to restate such concerns back to team members – all to make sure that they realize their concerns are taken into consideration seriously.
2. Adherence to standard methodologies
Leading a project team to success is impossible without understanding and enforcing standard project management methodologies and organizational processes. One important aspect is the knowledge of of the Project Management Institute’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (called PMBOK® Guide), or Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodology.
Great project managers will also have extensive knowledge about the organizational policies to help the project flow much smoother and lead it faster to completion. But that's not the end of story – project mangers must also ensure that all team members understand and follow those standard processes.
The importance of standards is quite clear. Imagine what would happen is every single project manager had their own method – team members would be forced to lose time on learning it every time they're being managed by a different person. And no organization can support such a loss of resources.
Standard processes help project managers detect the critical path and actually help in communication when team members formulate their status reports in accordance with a particular methodology.
What does integrity mean in the context of project management? Basically, it's about loyalty and honesty shown to every single team member. Great project managers are able to quickly gain the trust of their team and are able to set a certain ethical tone on the projects.
They set the rules, but also show that they follow all of them themselves. Just because the emphasis is placed on projects' profitability doesn't mean that certain values must be forgotten during its realization.
Great project managers won't need to bend their work ethics to achieve specific goals – in fact, they should always be able to come up with different solutions to a problem.
4. Problem solving
This is a skill belonging to the hard skill repertoire of great project managers. A project manager is the leader of a team, but this doesn't mean that he or she is responsible for solving every single problem encountered during the realization of the project.
In fact, great project managers know how to collaborate with experts and consultants, making the most from their expertise to tackle key problem in the most efficient way. Nobody expects project managers to have a ready-made solution to every issue, but great project mangers are those who are able to use the knowledge of their team members and even stakeholders to produce a successful collective response to problems cropping up while delivering a project.
5. Understanding of the supported technology
Whether it's hardware or software, a full understanding of technologies being used on the project will give any project manager a real competitive edge. There are many people who claim that a project manager can manage every kind of project.
But they're clearly wrong – we've seen various IT project managers losing control of a project because their technical leads provided incorrect information like requests for unneeded software, unrealistic estimates or erroneous reasons for falling behind schedule. This happens precisely because the project manager has no experience to tell the difference.
All the above doesn't mean of course that a project manger should be a tech expert – simply that he or she should possess sufficient knowledge to fully understand requests coming from the technical staff. This knowledge enables project mangers to question and evaluate all the estimates made by the tech pros.
All in all, a reasonable technical understanding with a dash of strong communication skills is essential for IT project managers. This is how they can explain technical issues to the non-technical members of the team and gain respect from the tech staff of the project.
6. Key leadership features
A project manager is first and foremost the leader of the project. This means that his or her behavior, methodology and communication will set the tone for the project – one of the crucial responsibilities of a project manager is providing a clear vision about its objectives to the team.
A great project manager is someone other people follow naturally – a person who bears a sense of foresight and responsibility. Such a manager is able to anticipate potential problems and make sure that the team is ready to solve all issues quickly and efficiently.
Features that draw others to follow a project manager are also his or her enthusiasm and passion for the project – there's nothing more damaging to a project than spreading a negative attitude about about it all over team members.
7. Task delegation
This skill correlates with the general ability of project managers to build trust among their team members as well as between themselves and their team. Being a leader doesn't mean being responsible for every single task that makes up for the totality of the project.
Project managers value more the general vision instead of fragmented insights into the details of this or that task – it's the former that allows them to lead the team to success. By delegating tasks to team members, project mangers show their trust. It's essential that they know how to judge team members and assign tasks in accordance with their strengths and weaknesses.
The task of IT project managers is often perceived as slightly more complicated than project managers working in non-technical areas, but the truth is that a certain degree of technical knowledge not only makes a project delivery more exciting, but also far more rewarding for the project manager in question. That's why IT project management based on this specific skillset is simply be the best solution for the dynamic reality of the tech world.
The article was written by Monica Wells of http://www.bankopening.co.uk/