In modern times, virtually everything a company does becomes a project. Making a simple one-page website won’t cut it anymore. A designer can make sure it looks good, a front-end developer will turn a mockup into pages. The backend developer will ensure everything works and is secured properly. Even for a seemingly simple task, a separate project emerges.
There is an old joke that goes “what takes one programmer a week, will take two programmers two weeks”. Jokingly, it refers to a real problem of communication cost. For multiple people working on the same project, it takes time and effort to allocate the work and agree on the details. It is especially difficult when these people are from different fields, as in the previous example.
Both problems can be solved by a project manager, who can split the project into tasks and allocate them. They also act as an intermediary between the teams and between the executors and executives. It is evident from the description that a good project manager should know a lot of things. Here we will list the most important (in our opinion) skills that make a great project manager.
The projects often require some proficiency, whether it be in code, logistics, or other fields. The project manager must know the field and the specifics of the job. Competence in many intertwined disciplines is even more beneficial as it makes coordination easier.
Sometimes a project manager has to coordinate multiple teams working on the same project. It is common in software development, and a project manager must be proficient in the languages used and has technical skills to solve problems. Moreover, the manager is often a better programmer than other team members, as reading and designing code is more difficult.
Another important part is the knowledge of slang. People that are good at doing things are not always great at explaining them. It is the job of a successful project manager to be an interpreter between worlds (departments, teams).
Estimating the time frame of the project is very difficult. Even for a competent engineer, it is often a surprise that tasks take more time than estimated and the project life cycle is getting longer. Psychologists have long learned about this tendency and called it a planning fallacy. When estimating the time that a task takes, humans, tend to confuse the perfect case scenario with the average case.
An effective project manager must be aware of this bias and eliminate it as much as possible. In a commercial setting, time is quite literally money, and delay costs are high.
It is also important to note that different teams work at different paces. Hence, planning requires insight into the company’s operation and the competence of individuals and teams. Time management is one of the most difficult challenges that many project managers face, and the learning curve is quite stiff. But the merits and the experience pay off, as there are few assets more valuable than a manager with a good sense of time.
For a complex project, resource management becomes another problem. Different teams (designers, developers, etc.) work at different paces. Their work may rely on each other’s results and on external factors, such as production time. The time each worker spends not solving an issue is a loss for a company, so it is important to remember about correct planning projects integrating sustainable methods and managing resources properly.
Sometimes it makes sense to hire more people for a project. Sometimes, outsourcing would be more efficient. Even though the project manager doesn’t have a word in financing the project, they have to do a cost-return analysis and budget management. This skill can be called “analytical thinking” in a broad sense, and it’s vital to successfully fulfill project manager responsibilities.
Planning is becoming increasingly complex. More sophisticated systems emerge for workflow optimization and organization. It becomes even messier with remote work and people working from different time zones. A paper planner won’t cut it anymore.
This amount of information requires software to be used. For the entry-level project manager position, knowing how to work with various programs and tools is a must. It will help immensely and reduce errors in planning. No papers can slip from a digital database, and the computer will never forget to send a notification. Many things can be automated, such as notifying the meeting participants and sending invites. The timezones are taken care of by the software, as well. Using any of these programs takes more learning than a notepad and a calendar, for sure, but it pays off in the long term. For project planning and task management project managers can use HeySpace. This tool makes team management easier and advances working on different projects.
Communication skills are vital for an effective project manager. Explaining to people of different specializations their jobs and communicating the objectives is a difficult task. Sometimes conflict resolution becomes a problem as well. Different views collide within a team or between teams, so it's a project manager's job to look for a middle ground. Another role is to motivate team members connected with critical thinking. Leadership skills are crucial but rare. Navigating this landscape is second nature for some people and takes years to learn for others. Regardless, it is a good objective to strive towards.
A rigid plan is a useless plan. A good strategy must be flexible, and a good strategist must adapt to the circumstances on the fly. It holds for project management as well. An employee taking a sick leave, a sudden change in company policy or a global pandemic all require flexible planning to make the entire project be continued.
The truth is, the longer the period, the less detailed planning is feasible. Life brings adversities and it is the manager’s job to deal with them. A common practice, for example, is to leave time buffers between milestones. It is not sensible from the commercial perspective (time is money), but this time is usually filled with urgent, unexpected tasks. In this way, you will reduce project risks and see real project's progress.
Some consider resilience to be a character trait, but we believe it can be trained. Furthermore, a project manager has to have not only general business knowledge but has to be resilient too. The work consists mostly of regulating processes, resolving conflicts and miscommunications. Negotiation skills, conflict management, risk management, and soft skills are very precious in project management careers. The results of the projects are rarely visible from the beginning, and it’s hard to see the big picture.
It is no surprise that many companies hire coaches to speak for their management staff. Like a professional athlete grinding through the season, a manager has to grind through the project.
The project manager is not an easy job. It requires proficiency in the industry and good soft skills. Even for the entry-level project management role, one needs to master a lot of skills simultaneously. Let’s not forget that the project manager sets the bar for other teams and units and shoes how they should cooperate. Staying positive and confident about the final result is another essential part of their work. In other words, it’s not just about being a mediator, but working as an engine of the project. A robust attitude to problems also plays an extremely important role. It’s just a dream when efficient planning prevents teams from experiencing any obstacles on the way. In reality, troubleshooting is vital at every step, and the project manager is the person who should be the readiest for that.
On top of that, understanding the landscape of the industry is often required to make the right decisions. So, if you’re considering a career in project management, basic knowledge of technical parts of company activity is much needed. Moreover, as a professional, you need to do a lot of budgeting tasks, assessment job, identify issues and provide viable solutions.
Project manager responsibilities are wide. But the rewards are worth it, both financial and emotional. There are few things more satisfying in the job world than seeing the project you poured your heart into performing well. If you are ready to start your project management career you can always find thousands of open vacancies on Jooble.