Top 12 skills that project managers need to succeed

2015-02-16 00:07:10 +00001According to PMI’s ‘Project Management Talent Gap Report’, between 2010 and 2020, nearly 16 million new project management roles will be created across the world in seven project-intensive industries such as: manufacturing, construction, oil and gas, business services, finance and insurance, information services and utilities. However, only individuals with the right skills and experience will be able to be a cut above the rest and bag high-paying project management job roles across the world.

Here are some essential skills that will be required in 2015 for both new and seasoned project managers to boost their career prospects. The skill sets can be divided into two categories: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills

  1. Keeping up with latest technologies: Gartner predicts that by 2017, the SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) stack will drive more than 26% of the total enterprise software market revenue, which represents over $104 billion in new revenue. In another Gartner survey, 73% of organizations said that they plan to invest or have already invested in big data. When organizations all over the world are adopting these new technologies, project managers need to keep up with these latest technology trends to ensure they do not fall behind in the pecking order.
  2. Knowledge of Agile methodology: According to PwC’s ‘4th Global Portfolio and Programme Management Survey September 2014’, 45% of nearly 1700 survey participants said that they use Agile project management methodologies in their organization. Agile project management brings team contribution, scope, flexibility, continuous improvement and maximization of customer value into the picture. Hence, project managers are now being asked to gain knowledge and experience in Agile methodology to meet industry expectations.
  3. Knowledge of program management: The PwC survey mentioned above emphasizes that by improving the delivery of program management basics like scoping, planning and resourcing, organizations can implement the change that will attain their strategic outcomes. When projects become programs, which have several projects under them, and then super programs, the scenario will change for the project manager. For handling a project in a program, project managers need to up their game and be more effective in their communication to ensure both the project and the program are a success.
  4. Knowledge of portfolio management: According to PwC’s ‘Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Program and Project Management Practices’, there is less adoption of portfolio management among organizations at present, but the use of Portfolio management leads to an increase in the KPIs of quality, scope, budget, time and business benefits. Managing different portfolios and their inter-connected offices requires a lot of effort and hard work from project managers. Hence, organizations are now looking for project managers with knowledge of Portfolio Management as well.
  5. Thorough understanding of new PPM tools: Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools are necessary to facilitate financial and operational overseeing of projects, process automation, measurement and standardization. PPM tools that are based on the traditional Waterfall method are considered to be out of sync with today’s Agile methodology. Consequently, project managers should be updated on latest PPM tools which deliver the best results for the organization.

Soft Skills

  1. Leading from the front: As per PMI’s 2013 ‘Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Navigating Complexity’, 81% of participants said that leadership skills in a project manager are the most important skill to manage highly complex projects. Strong leadership will enhance performance and project managers will be able to motivate and inspire team members to achieve common goals.
  2. Problem solver: If there are any roadblocks in a project, then the project manager should come up with a solution or find a workaround. The ability to remain calm in a stressful environment and find the best possible way out is what employers look for in a project manager.
  3. Manage expectations: A good project manager will manage the expectations of all the stakeholders while working with the project team, to deliver the project which is aligned to the business case.
  4. Effective communication: It is said that 90% of a project manager’s time is consumed in communicating with stakeholders and the team members. As proper communication is the foundation for project success, being a good communicator is a hallmark of a good project manager. They should be able to convey the relevant information to the team and enable the project to move forward towards a successful outcome.
  5. Quick learner: Project managers need to have a deep understanding of their domain or industry. They should be able to pick up information on various aspects of the project which influences the outcome. A project manager needs to understand how information technology, resource management, quality management and budgeting impact a project.
  6. Cultural awareness: Every organization has two parts to it: formal and informal organization. Formal organization deals with the strategy, structure, business model and various other policies and procedures which are well documented. However, informal organization deals with less formal aspects of how to get things done. As projects are becoming more globally diversified in nature, project managers need to develop an awareness of cultural diversity. Not understanding this aspect can cause miscommunication and even conflict. Project managers should be able to mitigate both challenges.
  7. Astute decision maker: As a project manager, one needs to be very astute and quick in their decision making. Project managers should be able to take decisions which provide continuous justification towards the business case and ensure the project does not veer off track. Some decisions may also need to be taken on an urgent basis without compromising the intended outcome of the project. The decisions taken by the project manager will help the project to align with the organizational needs.

Qualified project managers across the world are helping organizations overcome complex business challenges. With increased competition, project managers are required to up their game in terms of deriving maximum output from the project. One method to achieve this is by enhancing their knowledge of project management best practices through certification training. The combination of hard skills and soft skills and project management certification training will help a project manager to stay relevant to the evolving project management structure not only in 2015, but even in the future as well.

Arvind Rongala

Arvind Rongala is Training Operations Manager at Invensis Learning. With a keen interest in the learning and development (L&D) domain, he spearheaded the launch of Invensis Learning in 2014.

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