How to Become an IT Project Manager

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By Robert Half October 22, 2019 at 9:00am

The best or most innovative technology is not likely to make it into anyone’s hands without a great IT project manager. They bring order to project chaos, and are able to get all stakeholders — both tech and non-tech — to play nicely together in the sandbox. It’s no small feat.

A good IT project manager understands each part of the project and how to work with vendors, engineers, business analysts or other stakeholders. And they typically have one of these backgrounds.

Hard to find: IT project managers who are subject matter experts

There’s a lot of skillset diversity within the IT project manager field. Some companies hire a project manager generalist to manage software projects or build a project management office, while other firms require specialists. A healthcare firm may want an IT project manager who is HIPAA-trained, for example, or a company may need someone to manage Python development for new software.

While there isn’t a shortage of IT project managers, it’s hard to find one with subject matter expertise: The more specific the project and niche the industry, the harder it is to find a qualified candidate.

IT project manager salary

According to the Robert Half Technology 2020 Salary Guide, the starting salary midpoint for an IT project manager is $113,000.

Use our Salary Calculator to adjust starting compensation for your city.

IT project managers must have demonstrated knowledge and experience with project management methodologies in order to work with intricate, multifaceted projects. They also need superb communication and interpersonal skills to collaborate with the business and development teams and make project presentations. Typical requirements include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in an IT- or business-related field.
  • A background in applications development, and five or more years of experience managing complex projects.
  • Project management certifications, such as those from PMI (Project Management Institute), also are highly recommended.

Typical duties include:

  • Managing overall coordination of IT projects, from planning through implementation.
  • Setting project scope, priorities, deadlines and deliverable schedules.
  • Facilitating discussions and consensus among various project stakeholders, such as analysts, programmers and clients.
  • Managing and monitoring project budgets and expenditures.

In today’s market, experience with Agile software development is very important, as is infrastructure experience with continuous integration and knowledge of open source scripting or automation language.

Diplomacy skills are just one key to an IT project manager’s success

Certain personality traits are essential for an IT project manager to excel. They need to be diplomatic because there are many different stakeholders in a project, and possess strong soft skills to make sure everyone gets along and agrees on a project’s direction.

Finally, you need the right IT project manager for the project. A business-oriented project manager may not be successful leading a software development project because they can’t effectively articulate the needs of the engineers or technical specs, and vice versa.

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