There is an increasing demand for IT project managers in our digital world. As more companies implement new technologies, they need IT project managers. They help with planning and coordinating meeting deadlines and completing technology projects on time and budget.

No IT project can be completed without someone in charge of project implementation. Every IT project is different. At each step of the project, the project manager must be able to make adjustments as needed.

What is an IT project manager?

IT project management is a unique combination of technical and business management skills. The role of an IT project manager is critical. He is responsible for establishing communication between business stakeholders and technical experts. If the project manager does his job successfully, he will eliminate all obstacles to the project implementation.

IT project managers (PMs) generally oversee a team of techies and coordinate their work according to the project’s needs. An ideal IT project manager understands the world of IT. The role also demands business awareness and leadership skills.

The IT project manager’s role is to successfully manage and complete information technology projects while staying on time, budget, and scope. A great IT project manager has the right mix of technical expertise and leadership abilities.

What does an IT project manager do?

An IT project manager defines the requirements of the project. The project manager builds the project team. Defining the project scope and developing a blueprint for the entire project is also within the job requirements of IT project managers. Communicating project goals and deadlines to team members is a critical part of IT project managers’ day-to-day activities.

IT project managers could be in charge of completing any of the following projects:

  • Manage software development or app development through the entire lifecycle
  • Cloud computing and virtualization rollouts
  • Replace legacy hardware with new hardware
  • Data management and business analytics
  • Network upgrades

What are the most important IT project management skills?

IT project management is a complex job. In reality, it’s multiple difficult jobs combined into one even more challenging job. Planning, initiation, controlling, executing, and closing a project are all part of IT project management. Tight schedules, budgetary constraints, and large teams further complicate an IT project manager’s day-to-day activities.

And you have to execute all these tasks successfully to achieve your goals. Project managers rely on project management tools. They help them plan, manage, and control all aspects of each project.

Even with the right tools, IT projects ask a lot of any one individual. More than any project management tool, project managers depend on various critical skills to get the job done. Some of these skills are technical; others are business and management skills. Soft skills are also critical because project management is mostly about people, not just systems and processes. A great IT project manager knows how to build and manage teams, working toward the same goals.

But that’s only one aspect of the IT project manager’s job. There are several key characteristics and skills every IT project manager should have:

  • Tech-savvy – If you don’t understand technology, you can’t effectively manage an IT project. You don’t have to be an expert in every IT category, but you have to have a solid understanding of the basics.
  • Critical thinking – Critical thinking allows you to make decisions based on analyzing issues. The alternative is to let your emotions control your actions, which is a recipe for disaster. If you are an expert negotiator, you could optimize your project for success.
  • Planning – Planning is everything in IT project management. With proper planning, you can stay ahead and know what’s next.
  • Negotiating – As you work your way through a project, you are constantly negotiating. As an IT project manager, you might have to negotiate for more people, larger budgets, or an extended deadline.
  • Scheduling – Scheduling is one of the most important skills in project management. If you fail to set a realistic schedule, you will feel like a failure. Tools such as a Gantt chart can help you create and adhere to project schedules.
  • Leadership – It is wrong to think that leaders are born. Anyone can improve or learn leadership skills. Just like anything else, leadership includes skills and techniques anyone can master.
  • Patience – IT projects require teams working together. At any given time, there are many moving parts required to move the project forward. You cannot control everything. It can be frustrating when the project doesn’t go as planned, but it’s critical to avoid rushing the project. An IT project manager that lacks patience will be a hindrance to the project.
  • Stress management – Let’s face it, if you want a relaxing job, IT project management isn’t for you. Project management is stressful.
  • Communication – Although communication is considered a soft skill, it is one of the most important skills of an IT project manager.
  • Quality management – An IT project without quality management can only fail. Every task is a waste of time and money without controlling quality.
  • Cost management – You can’t complete any IT project if you run out of money. If there is a budget, you need to do everything in your power to stick to it.
  • Risk management – Every IT project is risky. Your role as a project manager isn’t to eliminate risk, but to manage it.
  • Task management – Individual tasks are the building blocks of an IT project. If you fail to manage each task, you will fail the manage the project.

What does it take to be an effective IT project manager?

How do you know if you have what it takes to become an IT project manager? It really comes down to your skills and personality. IT project manager is a job role that demands a variety of skills.

If you want to be an effective IT project manager, you need technical skills and soft skills. To manage an IT project you must have communication and leadership skills and emotional intelligence. Attention to detail is a must-have skill for an IT project manager.  All IT projects have many moving parts that need constant attention. You must have the ability to spot even small problems and anticipate potentially large issues before they happen.

An IT project manager must do all this while maintaining a positive working environment, building strong relationships with team members. They should be likable to get the highest performance out of their team.  An outstanding IT project manager is passionate about the success of the project. If the project manager doesn’t have passion for the project, it’s less likely to succeed.

What are the roles of an IT project manager?

The IT project manager as a leader: An IT project manager has one critical role. That is to lead his team toward successful project completion. As a leader, the project manager should provide team members with direction. The project leader should set clear expectations. Clear communication is another critical role of an IT project manager. He should focus on team building, recruiting team members with the necessary skills to complete a technology project.

The IT project manager as a liaison: The IT project manager is the bridge between his customer, his team, and his managers. As a liaison, the IT project manager is responsible for conveying all project-specific information from the customer to his team. The IT project manager communicates the project requirements with software developers and other technology professionals. He monitors the status of the project and makes adjustments as necessary to meet project deadlines. Reporting to management is another required job task.

The IT project manager as a mentor: The members of the team should think of an IT project manager as a mentor. He is a trusted partner, providing advice as needed.

What are the responsibilities of an IT project manager?

Effective planning is a key requirement for any IT project. Planning takes a project from overwhelming to manageable. The responsibilities of an IT project manager include the following:

  • Project scope – The work to be completed to successfully finish an IT project is the project scope. There are functionalities or specifications within the scope. Here are some important questions about the project scope:
    • What are the project’s deliverables?
    • What is the success criteria of the IT project?
    • What are the key priorities?
    • What is out of scope?
  • Project schedule – Scheduling is a critical part of the responsibilities of an IT project manager. The schedule should include the jobs to be completed and assign team members to each job. Each task should be clearly outlined.
  • Gantt chart – The Gantt chart provides a visual view of tasks. They are useful for showing what tasks need to be done on a particular day. Based on the chart, project managers can refine the project. An IT project manager can use the Gantt chart to view the start and end dates of a technology project. With a Gantt chart IT project managers can view:
    • The project start date
    • The project tasks
    • Who is assigned to each task
    • Start and end of each task
    • How long a task should take
    • How tasks overlap
    • The end date of the project
  • Risks – An IT project manager should be ready to handle any obstacles. Managing risk is critical for any project. Here are some potential technical project risks:
    • Establish the likelihood of risk and its impact
    • Outline the steps to handle risk
    • Changes based on client request
    • Inaccurate budget estimates
    • Issues due to team member conflicts
    • Review risks regularly and report them to management

What are the educational requirements for IT project managers?

The best IT project managers should have a background in IT. Although IT experience is not always a requirement, it is a major advantage. The best candidates for IT project management roles should have IT and project management experience.

Many IT project managers are techies with a talent for project management. Some companies require IT project managers to have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Information Technology. Other employers might require a major in either information technology or management of information systems.

Hiring managers generally look for a combination of a relevant bachelor’s degree and IT experience in the field. For larger projects and more senior project manager roles, employers prefer an applicant with a graduate degree. An MBA with a technology emphasis would be an ideal graduate degree for an IT project manager.

If you want to become an IT project manager, look for a curriculum that includes courses in leadership, corporate decision-making, database management, managerial finance, network management, verbal and non-verbal communication, research and analysis methodology, strategy, and professional development.

What are the challenges that IT project managers face?

IT projects are not without complex challenges. Even a simple IT project can turn out to be surprisingly complicated in the end. Unclear communication, changing client priorities, personnel conflicts, and unforeseen technical challenges are only a few examples of difficulties that could derail any IT project.

Most IT projects require unfamiliar teams to work together. To bring together people who have never worked together before can prove to be a challenging environment. Some team members might have the technical expertise but may lack the necessary communication skills to effectively work with others. This is one reason that excellent communication and leadership on the part of the IT project manager are essential.

How much does an IT project manager make?

The average salary of an experienced IT project manager is well above $100,000. How much you can make as an IT project manager depends on the following factors:

  • Your experience – Senior IT project managers earn more than junior or entry-level project managers.
  • Your location – Some parts of the country pay more for IT project managers than others. For example, New York, California, Washington, Boston, and Chicago pay more than Texas, Arizona, and Philadelphia.
  • The company – Large tech companies and international consulting firms offer the best pay for IT project managers.