The role of the IT project manager (PM)

The role of the IT project manager (PM) is being redefined. In addition to making sure the project is progressing as planned, in today’s environment the PM needs to be good in 2 more areas

1. Effectively manage resources and clients that are mobile and globally located.

2. Understand the business and marketing strategy of the customer because in this competitive landscape the project scope can change or become irrelevant quickly and at any time.

In a traditional sense, a PM takes on the task, breaks it into sub tasks and delegates it to the right resources, assigns timelines and monitors the progress. Projects generally in the past had a long lead time and all the resources and clients were located locally making it easy for the PM to focus only on a well developed project management process to achieve his objective. ‘Waterfall’ project planning methodology with initial requirement gathering session and then dedicating session to design and develop software/web application usually worked well in the past.

But, over the past few years the complexity of the project management has dramatically increased. The life time of business cycle is dropping fast. The large organizations do not have the luxury of slowly adapting to the changing customer needs. The business processes have to re-engineer, so as to support fast decision making and execution of strategy. Business processes now need to be ‘agile’ to adapt to changing competitive landscape. Technological changes have accelerated globalization and have intensified competition and the organizations need to be nimble and agile. The organization’s product, priorities are constantly shifting to take advantage of emerging trends and customer preferences.

Because of the above mentioned changes, the IT Project Manager needs to possess two additional skills:

1. Demonstrate Cultural Intelligence: 

This is Emotional Intelligence in the global cultural context. In a globally connected world projects are no longer constrained to a single location. Neither are customers located in a single location. Since, the resources and clients are now globally located, the IT PM needs to build ‘relationship’ with the development resource as well as customers across several time zones. To be globally competitive, a PM also needs to put on a learning hat to acquire knowledge and skills to understand unique culture of diverse individuals in the context of region, religion, ethnicity and country.

2. Understand Business Strategy: 

Because of need for agility of organization, IT PM now does not have the luxury of being in seclusion and work on a project for few months at a given time. The IT PM needs to understand the client’s business strategy and challenge any project scope that is not in alignment with that strategy. IT PM should be in tune with changing marketing/business strategy to make sure that the project is still relevant to the client’s need. The project management processes need to be agile to enable fast changing client priorities and the fastracing process may have scope in it. The IT PM needs the influencing and negotiation skills for forced prioritization to solve the major business problems in a short development cycle.

In my view, IT Project Managers who masters these additional skill set are going to be in great valuation in near future.

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