Project management is a growing field and IT project managers are one dimension of this developing profession. According to the Project Management Institute, “Demand over the next 10 years for project managers is growing faster than demand for workers in other occupations. Organizations, however, face risks from this talent gap.” This 2017 report predicts significant (33 percent through year 2027) job growth and anticipates a serious talent gap.
Where Is IT Project Management Heading?
IT project management is not a static discipline. External forces like artificial intelligence (AI), use of project management offices, growth of women professionals and remote teams are making their influence felt. AI is gradually becoming a part of project management tools and helping project managers do a better job of estimation, resource management and tracking KPIs. Companies have discovered that a good way to help projects succeed is to provide support via a project management office where tools and expertise are made available to project managers.
More women are becoming project managers and have positively influenced the field over the last two decades. But unfortunately, significant pay gaps exist between men and women doing the same job. The profession needs more woman to help fill the labor shortage. And what profession doesn’t benefit from the experiences, skills and perspectives that women bring to the job?
Remote or virtual project teams are emerging as a way to help build better national and international IT solutions. How can you build an offering for Italy or Germany without involving Italians or Germans? And do you really need Italians or Germans on your team to build this offering? The answer is yes, because they know what works and doesn’t work in their countries and if you develop a trust relationship they might even tell you when you’re building the wrong solution. Otherwise, you’ll learn the hard way through lack of procurement and use of your product or solution. There are plenty of other do’s and don’ts, like those discussed in "Leading Virtual Project Teams."
Skills and Tools
What skills are employers looking for that reflect the awareness that project management is a nuanced job? IT project managers plan, direct, solve problems and communicate. Each of these aspects can be approached and handled in different ways and that’s why many practitioners consider project management to be both an art and a science.
When you examine job postings for project managers, you’ll see all the actions words that you might expect. A project manager manages the design, development and implementation of projects, develops methods, procedures, and quality objectives, and conducts project kickoff meetings. You’ll also discover that employers recognize that a project manager is someone that communicates, ensures, develops, monitors, assesses, provides, interviews, selects, supervises and maintains.
Project management tools have changed a lot over the decades. In the past, project managers gathered inputs manually and developed a plan that they maintained and distributed in the form of reports. Today, the management tools are more collaborative and handle remote teams with a built-in team scheduler and vacation planner. For example, look at the many features discussed in this article on modern project management tools and you’ll see what’s happening right now in the tool marketplace.
You might be wondering about project management using different methodologies like agile. Agile is a project management methodology that uses shorter development cycles called “sprints” that may not have a team member called “project manager.” The most popular methods within agile are Scrum, Kanban and Lean.
Scrum is a popular framework for implementing agile processes in software development and other projects. This practical framework utilizes short iterations of work (sprints) and daily meetings called scrums, to tackle specific sections of a project in succession until the project as a whole is complete. There are three key roles within Scrum including the Scrum master, product owner and Scrum team members. In terms of managing the project, the product owner creates and prioritizes a product backlog or work to be done and the Scrum master meets with teams briefly each day to get progress updates.
Although Scrum doesn’t have a project manager, different team members share the project-management responsibilities. Project management is critical to the success of most projects, even projects following agile processes.
Growth and Experience
It’s not very difficult to get started in project management as most of the advertised jobs are at the lowest salary and experience level. Those hiring managers would be happy to find a Project Management Institute certified professional but they know that early career jobs at the bottom of the pay scale won’t be attractive to more experienced and certified individuals.
So, what do you need to get a project management job? Assuming that you already have an IT job, you could tell your employer that you want to move into the project management profession and ask to be mentored to learn how to do it. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds and it assumes that you know what to expect from the job (which you probably already know if you’ve worked with project managers on your projects or have played the role in a part-time manner).
A more typical approach would be to take courses to get a project management certificate, and then look to find a project management job. Not all certificates are the same in scope and content. For example, Cornell University has a set of five online courses that require 3-5 hours of work a week. When you complete the courses, you get a Cornell Engineering certificate that you can use to help get a entry-level job. You also get 40 professional development hours and 50 project management education hours towards your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
As an experienced IT professional, I earned a certificate in project management from George Washington University. To earn this, I took ten different employer-sponsored courses over a two-year duration. The classes were focused on managing projects that brought commercial software products into the marketplace.
An Exciting Profession
Project management isn’t a risk free profession as one in five projects cost more than expected, run late or fail to meet goals and objectives. That said, managing projects is an exciting profession because there’s so much room for growth. You can manage projects for 30 or more years and still learn something new every day. The profession itself is changing with new methods, tools and technology with salary growth that makes the career investment a good idea.