PM Is The New IT


by Samuel Greengard

Ask an IT manager what skills are most important for running an organization, and you probably will hear some variation of the following: network administration, virtualization, cloud architecture, security, Web development or business analysis.

All crucial skills. These days, it's nearly impossible to run an enterprise without them.

But what gets lost in the shuffle is that the number one IT skill in today's business environment has nothing directly to do with computers and IT. It's that pesky thing called project management.

Fact is, a growing emphasis on accountability, cost-efficiency and return on investment has positioned project management and project portfolio management (PPM) front stage center.

U.S. News and World Report ranks project management as the number three skill required by business professionals, behind only leadership/negotiation skills and business analysis. Consider it no surprise, then, that PM has gained widespread adoption across a broad swath of industries, including design, engineering, manufacturing, medicine, government, and education.

McKinsey and Company estimates that about $12 trillion of the world's global domestic product is related to projects. This is approximately 20 percent of the total volume.

Are you starting to get the idea? It's big. Really BIG.

Yet, what makes project management so tricky and challenging is that it represents a broad array of strategic and tactical skills. These include life skills such as negotiating, networking, and interacting in a culturally diverse environment; problem solving; critical thinking; an ability to collaborate; multi-lingual skills; and strong oral and writing skills.

In other words, forget geek, think everything else. All the stuff that a lot of people hoped to avoid when they decided to get into IT as a career.

In fact, some universities are introducing specific PM coursework and learning tracks for IT professionals. A few now offer postgraduate degrees.

Don't think for a second that you can skate by without weaving PM principles into the fabric of your IT department.

Anderson Economic Group found that for about 95 percent of organizations, PM improves decision making; enhances communication and collaboration; drives improvements in effective work cultures; aligns practices, terminology and value; boosts management effectiveness; and provides increased transparency, clarity of structure, roles and accountability.

For a good overview of PM best practices read this article.


3 Comments for "PM Is The New IT"

  • Anonymous May 27, 2010 12:31 pm

    And yet the pay and employment prospects for project managers keeps retreating. Basically, one of the few ways to truly make a career out of this field is to market yourself to the "C" suite. Which is very tough indeed. Coming in through Staff Augmentation or other "Body Shop" methods is a sure-fire way toward depressed wages and uncertain employment. As a full-time employee at a company, expect to be laid off promptly due to the fact that most executives do not understand what a Project Manager actually does. Most will view project managers as a "cost center" to be reduced.

  • Cynthia West May 25, 2010 12:26 pm

    Great article! I'm glad to see you covering the value of project management. Good project management requires 3 things: good business processes, leadership and a decent centralized, enterprise system in which to track projects and resources. We've been offering web based project management software since 2001 and have witnessed the growth of PMOs in organizations. However, about 90% of our customer base is migrating from Excel or MS Project desktop. It is quite painful to manage IT projects, which are inherently a collaborative process, with single user applications. Today, there are many solutions available, for every budget and need.

  • Cynthia Siemens May 25, 2010 11:29 am

    It's a good thing some people actually enjoy doing the things that IT people hoped to avoid! Managing a project or an entire portfolio of projects well is an exacting discipline and not for the faint of heart. Learning solid project-management skills, getting certified as a PM professional, and using processes and management systems that work best for the manager and the whole team are what work best for the companies I've worked with. Having a great, easily learned, easily accessible project management system makes a huge difference, especially when upper management wants 100 different kinds of status reports and numbers that translate into ROI. Project Insight has helped out a number of small- and medium-sized companies I've worked with.

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