Project management in general terms is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” (Project Management Institute). Project managers are accountable for the outcome of a project and are typically responsible for:
- Planning and executing projects by ensuring that goals are properly understood, problems are overcome and the project is completed satisfactorily. Risk management is an important part of this aspect of the role.
- Managing the various teams involved in the implementation of the project so that the project’s objectives are achieved. This includes setting individual goals, scheduling and the allocation of resources.
In the IT sector this means translating a client’s needs into a workable system. IT project managers must have a clear understanding of the client’s needs and formulate a clear vision for the solution, while being alert to the scope and limitations of the project.
IT project managers can expect to be employed in a number of industries and to perform various roles. They may be required to oversee large technical infrastructure projects in the finance sector, to work on IT/business interface projects in banking, or to handle digital messaging systems in the communications sector.
What does it take to work in IT project management?
Qualifications and remuneration
IT project management is not an entry position and this is reflected in the qualifications required. The job specifications for different positions vary widely and dictate preferred qualifications.
In most instances, a degree and several years of experience in the IT management field are required along with a successful track record. Familiarity with particular programming methodologies (for example AJAX or PHP) is required in some instances or knowledge of digital messaging platforms.
Frequently employers will also require IT project managers to have some previous experience in their industry and, given the increasing internationalisation of various industries, ability to speak a second language is also sometimes a requirement.
In addition to IT project management experience in a related sector, employers often require a PMP qualification. For projects in the public sector in Britain, job applicants are usually required to have PRINCE2 accreditation.
The level of qualifications required and the responsibility that accompanies IT project management positions are reflected in the compensation packages offered. Roles typically fall into two categories – permanent or short-term contract for specific projects.
Project managers in permanent roles can expect salaries from around £40,000 a year upwards to £80,000 or more depending on the job, their experience and the location – the average for 2012 being £48,767. Permanent jobs typically offer a company car and annual bonuses as well as other benefits.
Contract positions are often paid according to a daily rate. This generally starts at around £300 per day and can be up to around £500. Length of contracts is variable.
Training for IT project management
Many IT professionals will start their career with an IT-related degree. With a good honours degree (minimum 2:2) and five years experience it is possible to obtain a post-graduate qualification in technology project management. Career progression is determined by experience and additional certification. The most widely accepted accreditation for project managers is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification awarded by the Project Management Institute. This is obtainable after several years in project leadership roles and examination. PRINCE2 is another useful accreditation.
ITIL courses are another useful string to the IT project manager’s bow. Offered by a number of providers, they are intended to give a practical framework to the identification, planning, delivery and support of IT service to businesses.
In the IT industry there are many other certifications available, many of which relate to specific software or applications. The need for these qualifications is determined by the particular job role.
Project managers, IT and otherwise, can work towards additional professional qualifications while they are employed. The Information Systems Examination Board, Project Management Institute, Project management Institute and Association for Project Management all run a variety of relevant courses.
According to IT research and advisory company Stamford-based Gartner, Inc. in the USA some 75% of IT projects are deemed by their initiators to be failures meaning that they either did not meet requirements or exceeded budget and/or missed deadlines. Much of the blame is laid at lack of preparation, unclear requirements, poor decision-making, poor risk management and poor communication among stakeholders.
As with all project management, it is vital that the client’s needs are clearly understood. In IT particularly, it is sometimes the case that the client is not familiar with the technological aspects of the project, so these must be carefully explained to ensure that the client is fully aware of its feasibility and its limitations. Once the parameters have been set, it is crucial that the project is properly planned and that progress is racked and analysed continuously in order to avoid failure, budget overruns and time delays.
Finding your next IT project management role
Wherever you find industry you will find IT project management jobs. Chances are that you will not have to travel far from home to find one that suits your talents and interests. Some roles are home-based while others may involve international travel.