Top Five Characteristics of a Great Project Manager
The project manager is an important IT team member. This individual often makes the difference between project success and failure. Whether you're hiring a project manager internally or looking to a consulting firm to provide one as part of an outsourcing arrangement, make sure that you've got the right person for the job. What characteristics should you look for? What makes one project manager great and another just okay? Is it their endless energy? Their willingness to work long hours? The knack for knowing the right thing to say to an overworked team or demanding client? The answer: Yes, Yes, Yes!!
The project manager can be the single most important factor in project goal achievement. On a project for a Fortune 500 company, Syntel demonstrated the importance of strong project management. The client was in the process of undergoing a massive systems integration project as part of a corporate Business Process Integration effort. Part of this effort included merging operations for five key business areas in the United States and Canada. Five project teams for each of the business areas were formed consisting of an on-site customer manager, a Syntel on-site and offshore Project Manager, and several on-site and offshore analysts. As you can imagine, Syntel needed to make sure that it had the best and brightest project managers to coordinate this massive effort. The results: Thanks to a great project management team, nearly 80 percent of the projects were delivered ahead of an aggressive schedule and all remaining projects were delivered on time.
The above scenario may be an extreme case. But regardless of the size and scope of the project, a strong project manager is essential. What should you look for in a project manager? Based on our research, here are the top five characteristics that make a great project manager.
1. Interpersonal skills. The ability to manage people is vital. Project managers will ultimately be responsible for coordinating the efforts of the technical staff assigned to the project. It's crucial that they have the interpersonal and leadership skills to direct team members and keep them motivated and on track. They also need to be able to smoothly navigate through the tricky politics within and between the participating organizations.
2. Organizational skills. This key characteristic of great project managers is absolutely critical to keep projects on schedule and budget. The ability to assign resources, prioritize tasks, and keep tabs on the budget will ensure quality and impact the project's success.
3. Communication skills. The project manager is the main communication link between the business managers and technical team. His or her ability to clearly communicate with members of both groups is essential. He or she must be able to clearly communicate project objectives, challenges or problems, scope changes, and regular project status reports.
In offshore outsourcing, communication skills become even more critical. Project managers must not only communicate with team members that may be on the other side of the world, they must do so in a way that makes the global nature of the project invisible to the client. It's an added challenge to try to effectively communicate between on-site and offshore staff. But an experienced offshore outsourcing project manager can do this with ease. In addition to global distance between personnel, he or she also needs to be aware of and address cultural differences.
4. Problem-solving skills. In every project, it's unexpected problems or challenges that drive everyone crazy. The project manager must be able to effectively handle these situations and mitigate risk so they don't get out of control.
5. Professional training. Look for project managers that have PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP®) training, the project management profession's most respected and globally recognized certification credential. To obtain PMP certification, an individual must satisfy education and experience requirements, agree and adhere to a Code of Professional Conduct, and pass the PMP Certification Examination.
It takes a special person to be able to bring all these characteristics together. But taking the time to thoroughly interview and check references to ensure you find someone with the above skills is important. Making sure your project manager has these skills will increase the chances of success on your next project.