For many IT professionals, the move into project management is a natural next step on the ladder. If you’ve come from a purely technical role, though, the move can be a daunting one, especially if you’ve not had any formal training. With that in mind, we’ve come up with five essential skills for those of you managing a project for the first time:
Brush up on the basics
There are many others out there who’ve found themselves as ‘accidental’ project managers, and the web has plenty of resources that offer sound advice and solid tips on how to improve your skills. From podcasts and online courses to information on networking events in your area, there’s lots of ways to achieve greater insight into and feel much more prepared for your new role.
It’s also a good idea to seek out a mentor within your organisation if at all possible. Find someone whose projects you know have been successful and see if they’re willing to chat about some company-specific tips over a coffee.
Planning is key
This sounds obvious, but a manager’s organisational skills can make or break a project. Luckily, working systematically is an attribute that tends to come naturally to technical types, so you’re hopefully one step ahead. The most successful project managers, though, are also highly skilled at knowing exactly what’s important at a given moment rather than attempting to continuously multi-task. In addition, they’ve learned to tick a task from the list before progressing to the next, while also ensuring team members are working the same way.
Translate your clients’ vision
If you’re coming from a technical role, one of the key skills you can bring to the table is translation. Take some time to think about your clients’ main goals and how you can explain them to a potentially cynical technical team in terms they can really grasp. A top notch IT project manager effectively bridges the gap between vision and implementation while keeping their team on side.
Your communication and people skills need to be second-to-none if you’re going to run a smooth project. Clients, colleagues, bosses and stakeholders all need to be kept in the loop at key points in the process, otherwise all your hard other work can be compromised. Cultivate a clear, definitive communication style, particularly with team members, while leaving the more analytical conversations to be had with a mentor.
Evaluate yourself and others
Once it’s all completed, ask yourself, your mentor and your team for some honest feedback. Try to encourage at least some positive criticism so you, and your organisation, can implement any best practices in the future. It’s also important to recognise contributions from all members of the team as a project draws to a close – learning from mistakes as a group so you can all move on if everything didn’t go as hoped, and acknowledging the individual work that went into a project’s successes.