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Part 6: Required skillsets to successfully lead IT projects.

At a basic level, as an IT project manager, you will be required to manage successfully scope, schedule, financials, stakeholder/ team communications, and resources for your projects. 

I have categorized into 5 distinct skill areas that an IT project can focus on to be successful as an IT project manager. They are:

  1. Domain technology knowledge: An IT project manager for the most part is expected to take on a wide range of responsibilities during a project or at least be knowledgeable about them. I can say from my experience that to be successful at managing IT projects, a project manager should stay abreast of the latest technology in their area of expertise by researching the technology and how it complements the organization’s IT structure and architecture. Also important, is for the IT PM to ensure that the chosen technology is the right fit for the organization’s objectives. Your required skill set on a particular project as an ITPM varies greatly depending on the skills available in the assigned team and the organization you are working for. If you have a technical lead who is abreast of the technology, you can rely on them for support in that area and focus on more project management duties for your team. The domain knowledge mentioned here could be Cloud, AI, a particular software like Salesforce.

Skilling UP and Certification

Technology domain certificates- As I mentioned earlier, IT projects cover a wide range of areas ranging from cloud computing, AI/ML, Database design and management, web development, and so on. While there might be some general approaches for development and implementation of IT projects that cuts across different service providers, different IT service providers such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft have some unique services, offerings, processes that an IT project might want to be aware of if they were to lead any cloud migration projects to one of the platforms. In the same way, there will be some unique details about different SaaS implementations such as Salesforce, Cognos, etc. Knowledge about each of these technology domains will help anticipate and plan for any risk. One way I have been able to skill up on technology is to take on certifications as the need arises. Recently I took the AWS cloud practitioner certification to understand the cloud AWS cloud offering. I also took the IBM winning the cloud certification. You don’t have to always take certifications for any technology domain you want to learn about. By simply researching on Google for different technologies, you can find as much information as needed to be successful as an IT PM. LinkedIn learning also has thousands of courses of different technologies you could take advantage of.

2. Business Acumen: Sometimes as the ITPM, you might be required to carry out some elements of business strategy where you come up with a business case for the project for the company executives. There could be blurry lines for what an ITPM is responsible for hence the reason it is critical to clarify before taking up an IT PM role. Also, there is a tendency for some ITPM to become heavily bogged down by taking on too many tasks and the actual PM tasks begin to suffer. It is very important to clarify roles to avoid blurry lines. Whatever it is your role is on the project, it is important to know that as the ITPM you are responsible for the success of the project. With that in mind, you want to have a general knowledge of what every aspect of the project entails- keywords and know how to listen for red flags or at least know how to ask the right questions. An IT-savvy PM will fare better than a non-IT savvy PM on an IT project.

Skilling UP and Certification

Many free business acumen courses can be found online and on LinkedIn learning for a small fee. I noticed that different business acumen classes vary in their content but at a basic level, they usually cover how business works and how to ensure your projects align with the business goals of an organization, and how to manage the various business drivers such as finances, human resources and so on. Interestingly, LinkedIn learning has a specific course called Business acumen for project managers and I have taken the course.

3. Communication and presentation skills: As an IT PM, you will find your self having to interact with stakeholders at every level- C suite executives to end-users of the system you are building. You will be required to present project status updates to stakeholders regularly; facilitating the meeting with your team, crafting emails for one reason or another. Your aim should be are concise and clear as possible.

Skilling UP and Certification

Communication and presentation skills take a lot of practice. However, there are courses online that can get you faster to your presentation goals by providing tips, best practices to improve your confidence. Practice, practice, practice!!!

4. Knowledge of project management best practices, methods, and processes. Project management can be considered a mature industry, so it makes no sense to always reinvent the wheel where methods and processes are concerned. It is important to learn from tested and trusted Project management best practices to methods and processes to streamline your efforts on your project. These best practices could be in the form of commonly used templates, meeting formats, documentation formats, risk analysis and management, procurement, team management, budgeting, forecasting, and so on. It is also to learn popular Project management methodologies such the agile and waterfall or the hybrid and know how to apply them to get the best results from the project resources.

Skilling UP and Certification

The Project management institute training covers best practices, proven methodologies, and processes for managing projects across the 10 knowledge areas below:

  1. Project integration management
  2. Scope management
  3. Schedule management
  4. Cost management
  5. Quality management
  6. Resource management
  7. Communications management
  8. Risk management
  9. Procurement management
  10. Stakeholder management

The PMI offers PMP exam which has international acclaim and I will advise any project manager to study and take this exam. The PMBOK contains 100s of pages of detailed materials on managing projects across all industries.

There is also a lot to learn in the public domain about real-life IT projects, challenges, and solutions to these challenges.

PMnewbies.com is my coaching platform that addresses IT project management real-life tips and tricks. There are more on the web that a new IT PM can take advantage of.

For Agile project management, an aspiring IT project manager can choose to take the certified scrum master certification (CSM) or its equivalent.

In addition to the above certifications, there is the SAFe, PMI-ACP, Professional scrum master (PSM)

Project Manager Tools ;Project management tools were created so that Project managers could limit the hours they spend carrying out PM tasks and still achieve more consistent and accurate outcomes. Notable tools that are used by IT project managers amongst others are:

  • Microsoft project is used for project planning. It allows project managers to create a detailed task plan with broken-down work packages and allows the PM to assign the task, manage resources, make reports while also accounting for major schedule, cost, and material dependencies.
  • Jira- Jira is a task/issues tracking tool. Amongst other functions, it is used for test case management and allows for scrum and kanban boards to be used for agile software development.

Others are Smartsheet, Microsoft Planner, monday.com which have similar capabilities are MS project, and Trello, Github, Scrummage which have similar capabilities as Jira. 

There is a lot of training on the internet especially on e-learning platforms like LinkedIn learning on how to use these tools.

5. Interpersonal Skill- Finally, almost everyone especially the IT project Manager needs interpersonal skills to excel at their jobs. Interpersonal skills are simply the skill sets required to interact with people effectively in the workplace. They help you become a great leader, build and maintain good relationships with your team and stakeholders: They include:

Communication, Empathy, Negotiation, teamwork, conflict resolution, and a host of others.
There are several resources and sources on the internet to help you hone and apply these skills.

IT projects are constantly evolving because of the fast pace of innovation in today’s world. The best project managers are committed to constantly learning and professional development. 

Check out PMNewbie.com for blogs, tips, and trips for being an efficient IT project manager

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