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Written by: Dan Biggs

The following is only my opinion, which you are free to disagree with.

Project Managers in the IT world must work harder than in any other field.

Modern project management was born out of the Civil Engineering and Heavy Defence activity in the 1950’s when core engineering fields came together to work as one. This has obviously moved in to the IT world (as we all know). However, while the project methodologies applied in the IT world of projects are very similar to the construction and civil engineering worlds, there are major differences in my opinion.

First, we need to differentiate from the Project Manager you may have pictured in your head to the one I have in my head (and I would have to agree that not all Project Managers are Superheroes). For instance, from what I have experienced, the project managers in the construction world are not directly involved in managing the team delivering the project. Instead they are more involved with project tracking, reporting and contract management. The management of the delivery team is usually managed by a construction manager or by the architect for smaller works. The two roles of project manager and construction manager are differentiated by their focus. The construction manager’s main responsibility is to make sure that the project is technically sound. The project manager, on the other hand, is more responsible for the project budget and the timeline.

In the IT world, the project manager is far more involved with the delivery and is expected to not only manage the project from a project methodology process but also is seen as the manager of the delivery team, corralling the engineers, developers, architects, testers, BAs and others involved in producing a successful solution. In effect covering both roles mentioned in the paragraph above. Being an IT project manager takes more soft skills. You are generally getting pushed by management to go faster and provide clear updates on progress and completion, while being resisted by technical staff who often feel you are wasting their time. Being able to manage all these aspects simultaneously and effectively is what makes managing IT projects harder in my opinion.

A complete IT project manager is a person who embraces multiple disciplines, such as: leadership, influence, negotiations, politics, change and conflict management, humour, and is often the client representative, determining and implement the exact needs of the client, based on knowledge of the firm they are representing. Being able to combine the people, technical and soft skills into one role in effect means you are managing a small to medium business[1] if you are managing a project in the $1M to $5M range.

In my experience over many years of managing and mentoring project managers in the world of IT, I have often used the phrase “you are a project manager, not a project reporter”. This is in reference to the fact that when the proverbial hits the fan, it is the IT project managers job to bring things back on track and manage the project, and not to just report the issues or that the project is falling behind schedule.

The buck stops here. The IT project manager must be the one overseeing everything. They are like the guy with the white stick in front of the orchestra, they might not play the instruments as well as the team in front of him but he does need to know how each instrument sounds, how they work together and ensure everyone follows the plan (score).

In short, a project manager in the world of IT must do it all – Superhero.

Perhaps you have a new Project Manager to the company or are looking to upskill an existing PM who is able to manage larger projects or even programmes of work. We can meet with your PM regularly as a mentor or trusted advisor to discuss problems or challenges, and to pass on our experience through impartial advice. Having Effectus assist by mentoring your PM will incur some cost but it will be justified by the results.

Do you like the idea of a PM mentor? Ask us about how this could work for you.

[1] As defined by NZ Stats

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