What To Look For In An IT Project Manager

IT projects are finally seeing an improvement in success rates after years of struggle. According to 2017’s Pulse of the Profession report, companies are wasting 21% less money on failed IT projects than the year before.

Agile development methods are one contributing factor, but what really drives success is the leadership and organizational skills of experienced IT project managers.

A quality IT project manager sets the tone for how an entire project will proceed.

They mean the difference between a project that barely meets standards (or fails entirely) and a project that succeeds well past expectations.

In fact, 80% of high performing IT initiatives are led by trained project managers.

With results like that, it’s worth taking some time to explore how to spot a good project manager.

Why IT-Specific Project Managers Matter

Agile software development has shown its worth, but it does has a lot of moving parts. Project managers make sure all those diverse components come together to create a high quality end final product.

They handle regular management duties like coordinating with their team members, overseeing operational requirements, controlling costs, and ensuring quality.

On top of those, the Agile process involves frequent and detailed communication with clients.

IT projects in particular can be challenging to manage without specific technical management experience.

Those unused to managing software projects often don’t have the knowledge base to understand challenges presented by technology.

They can’t understand technical jargon, which makes it hard for them to serve as an intermediary between clients and engineers.

Non-technical PMs also have trouble managing sprints and adjusting a project’s overall scope in reaction to change.

Qualities of Good IT Project Managers

Hollywood is full of unconventional leaders and quirky team dynamics, but in the real world there are some traits found in every project manager.

  • Organized enough for the whole team: The best PMs are more than just tidy. They’re organized enough that everyone under and above them can easily understand the state of the project at any given time. While they can’t do every bookkeeping task for their team, they can reduce the complexity of tracking efforts so technical team members waste as little time as possible.
  • Facilitates good communication: Communication is key to successful software development, and project managers serves as the communication hub. PMs need the written and verbal skills to clarify client requirements, convey those to the developers, and translate technical concerns back to the client as needed. This requires at least a user-level understanding of technical jargon. Empathy is also critical. Project managers must foster relationships where clients and developers both feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns.
  • Strong business sense: Project managers go beyond just getting the project done. They make sure it gets done profitably for all involved. Having a good idea of the business value desired by a client allows them to develop with an eye towards maximizing that value. Plus, many development firms offer bundles or set package rates to stay competitive. Ballooning costs can’t be passed on to clients, so project managers must be absolutely on top of budgets. The best guideline is to look for PMs who are aware of where a project fits within both their own company’s business goals and their client’s digital strategy.
  • Encourages teamwork: Teamwork isn’t just a buzzword. Good software is built by good teams. A smart project manager recognizes and values every team member’s contributions. Rather than waiting for conflicts to impact productivity, project managers actively work to keep the work environment conducive to good morale and motivation. They should develop a detailed understanding of each member’s capabilities to make budget estimation and spotting potential problems easier.
  • Cool under pressure: This quality is hard to spot in an interview but easy to see in action. Project managers have to be able to calmly assess a chaotic situation and find the most efficient path through. Many a project has been saved from failure by the timely intervention of a project manager, so quick decision-making skills are also a must.

A final caution

97% of Fortune 500 companies say good project management is critical to project success - yet somehow, projects are still begun without an experienced PM at the head.

Nine times out of ten the reason for skipping the project manager is financial.

In the absence of experienced leadership, though, IT projects risk becoming one of the 17% of project that fail so badly they threaten a company’s future. They’re nearly guaranteed to run over schedule and cost more than twice their initial estimates.

That makes cutting out project management counterproductive as a cost-saving tactic.

The bottom line is simple: there is always room in the budget for project management.

At Concepta, our IT- trained project managers stay with teams from project to project, giving them a deeper rapport and more understanding of what their team can do. Set up a complimentary meeting to find out how you can harness their skills to turbocharge your next development project!

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