What’s the Difference Between an IT Project Manager & Project Manager?

An IT project manager oversees and manages IT-centric projects with a similar set of managerial and leadership skills required of a traditional project manager. An IT project manager must plan, forecast, organize, and execute a specific IT deliverable to a client or business. From a macro view, the IT project manager has nearly the same duties and responsibilities as a project manager:

  • Stay within scope
  • Stay within budget
  • Deliver the final product within the defined deadline

Still, IT project managers have additional skills gained from directly managing IT staff and working up to a management position in the IT discipline.

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Project Manager vs IT Project Manager: How Are These Roles Different?

An IT project manager will generally manage IT projects involving developing software, implementing a network, or upgrading a business’s entire IT system. In some cases, a project manager will report directly to an IT project manager for IT projects.

IT managers must know hardware, software, networking, infrastructure, data, and network security. Therefore, the most significant difference between the two types of project managers is the IT project manager’s depth and breadth of IT knowledge.

The overall responsibilities of each type of project manager are the same, such as finishing on time and within budget. Each project manager may address cost overruns or missed deliverable due dates differently depending on the type of project, but the end goal is always the same.

These Roles During the IT Project

Another significant difference between these two types of project managers is that a project manager can manage many different types of projects without necessarily needing specific technical expertise. Indeed, traditional project managers can rely on IT subject matter experts to address any IT-related portions of a project. In contrast, IT project managers are assigned explicitly to IT-related projects that will make use of their specialization.

A project manager can fulfill the role of an IT project manager if the project manager has an IT-knowledgeable staff to help make informed decisions. However, this is often more expensive than having one IT project manager with the requisite skills and knowledge.

However, what these two types of project managers have in common are managerial and leadership skills. Additionally, both project managers still need to recruit or assign the right skill sets to their respective teams to ensure the project will succeed.

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Average Workday for an IT Project Manager

Each day is different for an IT project manager, depending on the project’s deliverables and timeline. An IT project manager may have a to-do list at the beginning of the day, but the list can easily change if an unforeseen problem arises, such as a critical team member taking emergency leave, or a resource not meeting the salient requirements. If not addressed in a planned daily meeting, each situation will need some type of impromptu project management meeting upon notification.

As is the case with all PMs, project status meetings and meetings with stakeholders are must-attend for IT project managers. Additional daily responsibilities include:

  • Staying up-to-date on emails
  • Coordinating with and facilitating communication between different project team members
  • Attending stand-up meetings for project updates
  • Updating team tasks as needed

On the whole, the IT project manager’s daily activities revolve around ensuring the project is currently within budget, the projected milestone is on schedule, and the project remains within scope. They are consistently taking actions to direct and coordinate the activities of project team members to meet the overall project delivery date.

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Why Choose an IT Project Manager?

Cost savings are realized when an IT project manager oversees an IT-centric project, as opposed to having IT team members with various skill sets within a project management team.

For example, suppose a company has a project that includes implementing IT resources, and they want their in-house project manager to oversee the entire project. In that case, the company can contract out for an IT project manager, re-assign in-house IT staff to the project, or hire separate IT skill sets as part of the team.

Each scenario has pros and cons. For example, in-house IT staff takes away from any daily IT monitoring and maintenance actions required. And a team of contracted IT personnel with different skill sets will likely be more expensive than hiring one IT project manager. While these are but a few drawbacks, knowing the cost-savings potential is an important deciding factor when organizing an IT-centric project. Therefore, be sure to consider your personnel options carefully before beginning any project.

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Don Hall

Don Hall has been employed as an IT Manager/Supervisor in the U.S. Government for over twenty years. He has managed programmers, cyber security, and infrastructure/networking personnel during his management career. He currently works as an IT Operations Officer, which requires him to have general knowledge on various IT topics to better assist Command in making informed decisions or recommendations on behalf of customers.