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A Clear Explanation Of What IT Project Managers Do

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Project Managers are the driving force of any project they become a part of, and in the world of IT, it’s no different. Assessing team skills before the project starts, pulling on the right strengths to get the job done, and communicating effectively are all critical components to what a project manager does. We believe that with the right experience and training, anyone who has the goal of becoming a project manager can become one.

By knowing the responsibilities of an IT project manager from the start, you get an even more focused sense of how to prepare. 

IT Project Manager: Overview

About 80% of all IT Project Managers utilize the methodology known as Agile. This is a management style that focuses on flexibility, constant adjustment, and early delivery of value to solve problems and build solutions.

The Agile method promotes collaboration between the customer and the development team and places an emphasis on small, frequent deliveries of ready-for-use products or deliverables. Given this approach, it’s no wonder why agile has become more popular than a traditional Waterfall approach for IT projects.

Project Leader vs. Project Manager

The Agile approach and the Waterfall method have different mentalities when it comes to how the project manager spearheads a project. 

An Agile project manager is more of a leader than a manager. By that, we mean that the project manager isn’t a separate entity that simply oversees the team, but rather, that PM is a member of the team working side by side with other members of the team. 

Working lean and maintaining a sustainable pace are important to agile teams. An agile project manager makes sure the team is working towards regular goals at a consistent speed, checking in daily to see if there are any positive adjustments that can be made. 

What Are The IT Project Manager’s Responsibilities?

An IT project manager’s responsibilities typically include assembling and leading the team, assessing the client needs, and creating a roadmap that is achievable. As you might’ve guessed, there is a lot of nuance and analysis needed to carry out these responsibilities. 

Assembling and Leading a Project Team 

As it’s written in the 12 principles of agile management, the project manager needs to “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”

This means that project managers need to be aware of their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, and set them up for success. 

Nail the Scope

The scope of the project defines the goals of the initiative – the need that will be addressed, or the product or service that will be produced. 

There are a few ways to accurately nail the scope of a project as the project leader:

  • Make sure the sponsor dedicates a representative who can speak for the customer/sponsor, and help define and prioritize the features and functionality the team will produce. In agile projects, we call this representative a product owner.
  • The product owner works with the team to build a list of features the IT project will produce. 
  • The product owner should have a lot of knowledge about the product or service in order to bring value to the team. 
  • The project leader reviews the contract, SOW, or other documents describing what the sponsor wants. The leader and team go over that description in detail with the sponsor or product owner to fully define each requirement. Once that scope is nailed, the team can plan the work.
  • The project leader works with the team and product owner to define the scope. In Agile projects, the scope is captured in a product roadmap and release plan at a high level. At lower levels, the team writes user stories to capture the scope, and the product owner ranks those in a product backlog. That backlog gets updated frequently to reflect new or modified features, as their needs or values emerge.
  • In traditional or Waterfall projects, the IT project manager captures the scope in documents, such as scope statements, the project charter, requirements documentation, and the work breakdown structure.

Regardless of the approach used – agile or waterfall – the IT project manager must hammer out the scope first to ensure that all other planning is built on a strong foundation.

Scheduling and Estimating 

The project leader guides the team in estimating how long the work will take, and scheduling when those activities should take place. 

In Agile, once the team has the upcoming work defined in the user stories, the team then estimates the effort to complete each. The project leader guides this conversation with the team and product owner to plan the work.

After deliberations, the team then agrees to a work goal for the next sprint or iteration (called a work cycle), and the project leader shares those plans and updates with interested stakeholders.

These work cycles, on a micro-level, are called sprints or iterations. On the macro level, they’re called release plans and milestones.

Resource Management 

In Agile or Waterfall projects, the project leader works to ensure the team has the proper training, materials, software, hardware, and support they need to accomplish the project work. 

This is a critical component when it comes to any project management methodology, as having the correct resources can make or break the project. 

Stakeholder Management 

The stakeholders of a project include anyone who has an interest or influence in the project. Managing stakeholder engagement is particularly vital for successful IT projects, and it’s essential that project leaders work with:

  • Other departments so that the team receives committed resources (people, testing equipment, etc.) when needed.
  • Other vendors outside the company.
  • Sponsor and upper management to keep them in the loop and ready to intervene when things need to be escalated.

Many IT projects impact a broad range of user groups, so the IT project leader is tasked with keeping those people in mind, up to date, and notified if service interruptions or new IT behaviors will impact them.

Risk Management 

A big part of managing an IT project involves preparing for any risks that might emerge during the project. Working with the different departments, a project leader should guide the team to actively identify, analyze, and plan for risk events.  

You cannot say “our team is agile” as a means of skipping risk management! While Agile is all about being flexible, a level of planning is required for uncertain events so that your team can be ready for whatever comes their way. 

Monitoring Progress 

As we mentioned, the project leader is responsible for communicating with multiple different groups of people who have an interest in the project. While the team is working, the project leader gathers project progress from team members, assesses status, and communicates that back to the appropriate stakeholders. It’s natural – they want to know how things are progressing!

Reporting and Documentation

Depending on the nature of the project, stakeholders may require different forms of documentation. For example, sponsors will have certain KPI important to them. Operations staff may have specific documentation for their ongoing support. And, other groups may need particular data for compliance needs. 

A Day In The Life Of An IT Project Manager

While every project manager will have their own routine, there are a few steps that are commonly found in IT projects. 

The first is daily meetings or Stand-Ups. The main idea is to have every team member stand in a circle and briefly answer three simple questions:

  • What have you done since our last meeting?
  • What will you do today?
  • What might get in your way?

These meetings help the team stay in sync. The daily stand-up is fast and efficient – each member walks away with an update of what everyone is working on, and what obstacles are standing in the way. Just after these meetings, it’s common for team members to huddle informally to offer help or quick advice to the cohort who is facing a roadblock and needs some help. 

In addition to supporting the team and removing obstacles, the project leader spends a portion of most days updating plans, appraising progress, and communicating. Problem solving is a big part of the job, and many PMs describe the thrill of solving complex problems as one of the most rewarding parts of their role. 

We cannot talk about “a day in the life” without mentioning change requests! IT project managers have to weigh the pros and cons of requested changes on a regular basis. The project leader works with other team members to determine if the change request is good or bad for the project, discuss it with the product owner or sponsor, and then approve or deny that 

change request. Typically, the PM collaborates with the product owner or sponsor to prioritize those approved change requests and schedule the related work.  

Who Hires An IT Project Manager?

IT Project Managers are currently in high demand due to the advancements in technology and the growing expansion rates of tech companies both large and small. 

Cloud-based companies, software development projects, and Original Equipment Manufacturing operations are great places to start looking for businesses that are hiring. 

Exactly who is in charge of hiring the project managers will depend on the size and structure of the company. In most cases, a company will have a recruiter or a hiring manager in the human resources department that would be great to contact if you’re looking for a position. 

How to Become a Project Manager: Education and Certification

Becoming a project manager in the IT field, or any other area for that matter, starts with training and experience. But, the training never really comes to an end. 

Project managers should be constantly learning and advancing their skills, and a great way to do that is to earn the Project Management Professional certification. 

The PMP exam is a rigorous test. By passing it and earning the PMP credential, project managers demonstrate to their employers that they are the top tier in their profession. The PMP Exam isn’t easy to pass, but with our online courses and study materials, we know that anyone who puts their mind to it can walk away with their certification on their first try. 

Velociteach offers a wide range of education options, from a four-day intensive with the best project management instructors in the world, to DIY courses that you can use to teach yourself everything you need to know about project management at your own pace.

Conclusion

In the world of IT, a successful project leader has to be a thoughtful communicator and a point of inspiration for their team. 

It isn’t about barking orders and demanding deadlines. The effective PM is a part of the team and leads by positive examples. Project leaders that follow the methodology of Agile can find a lot of success in the IT world. Being adaptable and checking in with the team regularly will go a long way with meeting your project objectives. 

Sources:

Agile Adoption | Goremotely.net

Is Agile The New Norm? | Techbeacon.com

12 Principles Behind The Agile Manifesto | Agilealliance.org

Daily Standup Meetings | Geekbot.com

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