IT project managers are in high demand at the moment. If you are thinking of becoming one, you may wish to view our IT project manager interview tips. Like other project managers, they oversee the development and deployment of computer systems and can be found in all levels of companies and organisations, from government departments through to small-time businesses. However, should aspiring project managers work on their technical or soft skills? We will take a look at what a typical project involves in order to reveal the answer.
IT project management: hard and soft skill requirements.
IT project managers will typically be the go-to contact for new clients. They will need to assess their clients' needs, then go through the planning stages in order to create a framework for how their ideal system can be implemented. Project managers will also monitor the overall deployment of the system: monitoring its progress throughout various phases in order to make sure running costs are meeting estimates and the timescale is hitting the agreed targets.
It is quite clear that soft skills (specifically those skills that allow personnel to interact socially and promote workplace harmony through communication) take precedence here. While technical skills should not be ignored in any way, an aspiring project manager should go out of their way and try to develop their communication skills where possible. This is best done in a professional capacity while still in a mid-level IT role and can include taking on a more customer-facing role where possible. This will allow those in executive positions to see what sort of communication skills a candidate is bringing to the table.
However, while the role is clearly more customer facing and communication oriented, that is not to say technical skills can be neglected. After all, as the go-to person for a client's needs, candidates will need to have superior technical skills in order to meet the questions and concerns of their clients. This is where entry qualifications will come into play, since IT project managers are often required to hold qualifications such as the PRINCE2. Professional certifications from the Chartered Institute for IT are sometimes also expected.
IT project managers do not necessarily need to be qualified in IT, provided that they are experienced project managers within another field. However, this sort of approach is quickly becoming outdated. There are very few opportunities to transfer between fields, just because project managers are bringing the necessary skills from another. This ultimately means that those interested in IT project management jobs will need to acquire IT-level skills to suit the role, with employers often requiring a minimum of an undergraduate degree in computing and some beginning to request postgraduate qualifications as a bare minimum.
This can seem cumbersome for those wishing to enter an IT role, but having the fundamental technical skills necessary for success in this sector will be absolutely essential for project managers. Because there is so much dependence from both team members and the general public, IT project managers must be both knowledgeable in their field and have the communication skills to compliment their overall value to the team.
IT project managers will need to bring well-rounded technical and soft skills to the field, so it is difficult to place importance on one asset over the other. There is a slight leaning towards becoming a more rounded communicator who is able to put technical jargon into layman's terms, so that clients are better able to understand the projects they are undertaking and be given a system that will suit the needs. However, this does not in any way mean that technical skills should be ignored. After all, it is these very skills that will enable project managers to work effectively in IT. Candidates should therefore take a balanced approach to developing both their technical and soft skills evenly, so as to become more valuable personnel.