As more businesses go digital or transfer to cloud-based ways of working, the need for project managers has risen. But not just any project manager — specifically, those with technical knowledge.
Enter: the IT project manager.
But what exactly does this role involve? And how does it differ from a traditional project manager job description? Read on!
What is an IT project manager?
An IT project manager is someone who is in charge of planning, overseeing, and answering for an array of IT projects. They’re also responsible for delegating work and ensuring IT initiatives are in line with wider company goals.
You’ll find them in any industry that relies on or uses IT (so that’s pretty much all of them), but they tend to work in larger businesses or those that have a very IT-heavy output.
What does an IT project manager do?
An IT project manager also works across the whole organization, supporting initiatives that often involve people working in different teams, departments, and locations. Essentially, their job boils down to that of any project manager: making sure projects are delivered on time and on budget, with as few interruptions as possible.
Here are some of the day-to-day tasks of an IT project manager:
- Planning projects from scratch, including assigning tasks, defining project milestones, creating schedules and contingency plans, and setting out budgets
- Maintaining schedules and workflows
- Managing team members, including distributing tasks, tracking progress, and resolving conflicts
- Leading meetings and being responsible for following up on actions
- Ensuring good communication between team members, stakeholders, and managers
- Running risk assessments
And here are some of the types of projects an IT project manager might be involved in:
- software development
- web development
- hardware installation
- backup and recovery
- cloud migration
- database management
- software implementation
- infrastructure management
- network configuration
How do you become an IT project manager?
Unsurprisingly, a strong tech background is a must. But, in addition to knowing about IT, you’ll also need to have a good mix of soft skills — including good people skills, strong written and verbal communication, and the ability to manage schedules and tasks.
Here are some of the hard skills you’ll be expected to have:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science or an IT-related field (though an associate’s degree may be acceptable in some cases)
- A strong knowledge of computers, software, networks, and computer systems
- Qualifications in business management and/or project management, such as PMP, and/or ScrumMaster ScrumAlliance certifications.
- Traditional project management knowledge, drawn from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide.
When it comes to soft skills, the following are preferred (though you can learn a lot on the job when it comes to these):
- Good communication abilities
- Good team management skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Good time management
- Project management skills
- An understanding of some various project management methodologies
- Knowledge of project management software and tools
A day in the life of an IT project manager
Project management is a bit like juggling. Lots of things all going on at once, and if one drops, the rest is liable to come tumbling down.
The same is true for IT project managers. Unsurprisingly, they face many of the same challenges regular PMs deal with changing staff, shifting client needs, tight budgets, and logistical challenges are all in a day’s work for an IT PM. They also need to be good at communicating with different types of people from different backgrounds, and with different priorities — including making non-technical people and vice versa understand certain technical requirements.
Alongside these generic PM obstacles, IT project managers will usually face the following IT-specific challenges day-to-day:
- Tech updates that happen mid-project and need to be factored into plans
- Hardware, software, network, and data failure
- Changing relationships between networks/software/hardware/data
- New security requirements
- Infrastructure changes
- Communicating technical information to non-technical people and making sure it’s understood
Running IT project management
When it comes to running a project, each one will be different — but here’s a rough guide to how one might look in this role and the stages the IT PM will be most heavily involved in:
- Project kick-off: The IT project manager identifies goals and starts the wheels moving — or is heavily involved in conversations with those who are doing this themselves.
- Planning: The IT manager is involved in initial planning (including defining the project scope). As the project progresses, they will need to keep planning for new cycles.
- Execution: The project begins and the team, alongside the project manager, start working through tasks. It’s the IT project manager’s job to track progress and keep things moving. This includes monitoring time, cost, budgets, scope, quality, risks, and other things that could influence the project’s completion.
- Closing: Once complete, the project needs to be officially closed. This includes getting sign-offs, archiving work, canceling recurring meetings, and transferring ownership.
- Project post-mortem: This is when everyone gets together to discuss the things that went well (and the things that didn’t). Learnings can be carried forward onto the next project.
Useful IT project management methodologies
There is a dizzying array of IT project management methodologies to choose from. If you’re new to this, don’t panic and think you need to learn all of them: Choose one to three to begin with. If you move into an organization that uses a framework you’ve not encountered before, simply showing that you know alternatives shows prospective employers you have the necessary skills to learn a new one.
That being said, it’s a good idea to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of a few more. Here are some of the most popular IT project management methodologies.
- Agile: This framework is all about teams working together in short, fast delivery cycles. It’s a must for when the project(s) you’re working on need to be fast, flexible, and delivered under short deadlines.
- Scrum: Scrum focuses on iterative improvement, as well as adaption and transparency. Work is completed and reviews in short bursts called sprints. At the end of every sprint, the team joins together, reviews, and works out how to improve on the next one.
- Waterfall methodology: With waterfall, work moves sequentially between phases. A task can only move onto the next phase once the team signs off on the previous phase.
- Lean: Lean focuses on reduced waste and process optimization.
- Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of Lean
How much do IT project managers earn?
This is a skilled job, and the demand for skilled IT managers is high. The pay reflects this: the average IT project manager salary currently sits at around $88,861 per year. This, of course, will vary depending on skills, certifications, individual roles, industry, and location.
What does the future look like for IT project managers?
Like we said at the start, more and more businesses move online and embrace digital technology, such as cloud and big data. With these stats rising, so has the demand for IT project managers has risen — and will continue to do so. Right now, there’s a call for IT PMs to help businesses with cloud migration, or app and website development. With the growth in IT spending, positions in this role are only going to grow in coming years.
As with any project management role, the job of an IT manager is a challenging one. To thrive, you’ll need a solid mix of technical know-how, good people management skills, and an understanding of the more popular project management methodologies — including Agile and Scrum in particular. You’ll also need to know — or be willing to make use of — the software available to you as a project manager.
Tools like Backlog can be invaluable when it comes to juggling multiple priorities across several teams: real-time notifications, progress reports, and task assignment make it easier to stay on top of tasks and workflows, while automatic tracking does much of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to making sure everyone is up to date and on the same page. And when it comes to tracking progress in the fast-paced world of IT, the easier it is for everyone to collaborate seamlessly, the better.