The six skills every IT project manager needs

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Project managers are essential to helping an organization reach its goals, planning a team’s work and keeping everyone on track. An able leader makes the difference in completing tasks on time and ensuring employees perform at their best. When it comes to information technology projects, it’s especially important for project managers to bring a diverse set of high-level skills to the table.

Online MBA programs provide a professional with the necessary background and experience to be successful as an IT project manager. The right combination of technical and soft skills prepares a leader to guide team members through complex processes and offer the support they need. With an advanced education, professionals can take on the challenges of setting the agenda for complex projects and help their organizations find new opportunities for growth.

1. Technical knowledge

To lead a team devoted to solving business problems with technology, a project manager must have a solid grounding in applicable methods, tools and platforms for coordinating the team’s work. Thoroughly understanding the technical aspects of the team’s efforts allows a leader to plan more effectively and anticipate issues that may arise along the way. Many teams rely on agile software development methodology, so knowing how to put this approach to work is often vital to the project manager.

Agile development teams commonly use a framework like scrum to coordinate their work. As Harvard Business Review explained, in this framework a small team of three to nine people works in short cycles referred to as sprints. They meet on a daily basis to discuss progress and address obstacles, developing prototypes along the way to gather customer feedback.

2. Strategic thinking

A good project manager is always thinking ahead. A carefully laid-out overall plan for completing a team’s goals is an important start. Leaders need to consider how each task contributes to the larger needs of the business, responding to internal requirements and external developments in the marketplace.

However, it’s just as crucial to be ready to shift focus and make adjustments when circumstances change. Every day, a project manager sets priorities, completes status documents and meets with team members to keep moving forward. Being able to adapt to any new issues or requirements that arise can prevent serious delays and bring about successful results.

3. Resource management

Any strong leader has to be skilled at resolving conflicts and keeping a team on the same page. For IT project managers, this often means finding the best way to allocate limited time and resources. They must strike a balance between competing priorities, always keeping the big picture in mind while working through disagreements and making sure the necessary personnel and technology are in place.

4. Clear communication

There’s plenty of room for misunderstanding when you’re working with a highly specialized team on complex initiatives. A leader should be adept at conveying specific instructions and expectations to workers, demonstrating expertise and confidence. Getting ideas across in both speech and writing will keep employees efficiently moving toward shared goals.

A project manager also benefits from the ability to clearly discuss business concepts, especially when providing updates to customers or executives. The ability to translate corporate objectives into technical concepts and vice versa is invaluable in today’s data-driven environment. A project manager who is as skilled at talking to external stakeholders as their own team is in a position to produce consistently excellent outcomes.

5. Risk management

A certain degree of risk goes along with every new project, but IT project managers are the ones responsible for preventing breakdowns in a development process. Leaders must stay alert for serious problems that can bring progress to a halt, waste resources or lead to a final product that doesn’t measure up to expectations. A knowledgeable, experienced manager has a strong sense for where things might go wrong and thinks ahead to keep those eventualities under control.

Staying in close contact with workers to identify any emerging difficulties and developing backup plans are key parts of a risk management strategy. Project managers should consider the value of particular assets and set priorities to minimize the chances of disaster.

6. International experience

In today’s globalized enterprises, project managers need to be skilled at working with people across different locations. In many cases, leaders may be called upon to coordinate offshore specialists. Knowing how to keep remote workers on task and engaged across cultural boundaries can be a huge help to building a career.

Professionals can acquire the up-to-date knowledge of project management strategies and tools that they need to lead an IT team by earning an online MBA from Villanova School of Business. Students gain hands-on experience in the strategic deployment of technology and have an opportunity to take part in an international immersion capstone. Visit the program page to find out more.

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