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What Makes A Successful IT Project Manager

There is an old saying when delivering IT projects: "You are only as good as your team", and when it comes to managing larger IT portfolios CIOs are even more dependent upon successful project managers who exhibit the qualities of a good leader. Scott McGill comments on the importance of project manager on searchCIO: "At least 50% of the project's success rate can be attributed to how it was managed," and from personal experience of 10 years of project management, having the right person running day-to-day activities is often the difference between a project succeeding or failing. The successful project manager must exhibit strong people skills, an analytical mindset for the planning stages, clear communication skills, and have the ability to play the political game. In this short analysis we will review each of these in more detail.

Over the past decade the traditional hierarchical approach to project management has given way to a more collaborative effort. Successful project managers are collegial team players, as commented by Michael Hanford (Gartner) on SearchCIO. Project managers work in a collaborative approach to solve technical problems and help individual team members become more successful. Project management was previously about getting everyone in the same room and wait for results, now people can be anywhere in the world contributing remotely and in touch via chat tools 24 by 7. But the basic essential qualities of a successful project manager have remained the same.

A project manager should know how to manage the financials, estimate & plan timelines, roll up the sleeves and sink their teeth into the business analysis. There are certifications like Prince 2 and Six Sigma that shows the project manager has some past experience & professional accreditation, but the traits the CIO should be looking out for are:
- Planning skills: A successful project manager is like the head of a sports team with limited funds, limited resources and limited time to completion. The project manager must be able to determine the risks, scope, time and resources needed to deliver successfully. It requires good planning to manage all the different variables that impact the project. It is essential to monitor the project closely to get and continuously adjust the plan.
- Interpersonal skills: It's important for a project manager to have a good sense of the people he or she will be working with. As commented by Michael Hanford (Gartner) on SearchCIO, "Project managers need to understand the person sitting across from them. They need to be able to motivate folks and understand what gets them excited. If you can't do these things, you can't be a project manager, in my opinion". It about quickly assessing the individual strength's on the team and assigning tasks they will excel at to get the job completed quickly.
- Influencing skills: It is simple to influence someone in your team where you are in charge of the performance appraisal, but the successful project has the ability to build bridges and influence people without any direct control to participate on the project. Hanford further states "They need to be able to summarize what they're looking for and get results through other people"
- Communication skills: As a project manager, you should spend close 2/3 of your time talking to stakeholders, team members and other resources with indirect influence on outcome of project. Build strong relationship though regular communication via telephone & go out for drinks/dinner. Make sure the written communication is short, concise and relevant to the recipients.
- Listening Skills: Project Manager must have the ability to gather pain points from team members, customers and other resources. When listening carefully to small pieces of information from various stakeholders the project manager will be able to mitigate risks and prepare for future events.

When selecting project managers at GE, certifications were often looked at as an extra bonus because it shows that someone had the drive and the direction to go out and study in addition to taking exams. But leadership qualities and a positive spirit with relevant experience are more important in terms of being a successful project manager. Whether an individual is young or old does not matter as long as they are bright and willing to work hard. By being dedicated and fast learning anyone can become a solid project manager that a CIO will cherish.  

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