The position of project manager seems generic and self-explanatory; someone who manages projects. However, upon even a few minutes of searching, it is evident that the abundance of functions and job titles can be quite daunting. Therefore, this week on Geekology, we will attempt to clarify a few of these points.
First and foremost, project managers exist in every industry, whether be it architecture, construction, government, healthcare, real estate, you name it. Besides the basic communication and related soft skills that are necessary, their job functions require backgrounds that are industry specific. However, given the diversity of applicants, it is not uncommon for potential candidates to be lacking in IT-related experience. Fortunately, there are often non-technical positions that do not require computer science degrees and on the job training is also an option if the requirements are not overly rigorous.
Project management can be summarized as resource management to produce deliverables, under time constraints. This is different from operations managers, who deal with the more routine tasks of running an organization. Scope, time, quality and budget are the four most important aspects that a good project manager has to juggle and balance. Optimization is sought only after these four requirements have been satisfied.
Tools of the Trade for Project Managers
To delve deeper, project managers in IT and software development are expected to understand the various phases of the software development process. Recently, this has evolved from the more structured and rigid models of the 70s, into the more fluid and dynamic methods we know today as Agile and Scrum. Scrum allows project managers to troubleshoot using the constant feedback received from the team, during planning, execution, and reviewing stages. There are also numerous applications and software that facilitate these functions, including but not limited to JIRA, Asana, Basecamp, Microsoft Office – Project. The ability to use these platforms allows a potential candidate to quickly adapt to their working environment.
Different Companies, Different Lingos
Ideally, we can boil down the qualifications to a core set that is needed for all project managers on a software or IT team. Unfortunately, every major IT corporation has its own culture, and the designated title and necessary qualifications of project managers are oftentimes semantics. For example, at Microsoft, a project manager is in charge of managing non-technical projects and special programs. Program managers are the ones required to be a graduate of Computer Science, as they are often the ones working with code. Because the job scopes of project managers and program managers are different, their job titles are not interchangeable. On the other hand, Amazon.com differentiates similar positions as program manager and technical program managers. In order to avoid confusion, it is important to do research regarding specific companies, before recruiting for specific positions.
What a Great Project Manager Looks Like
Project managers are the necessary facilitators who ensure that the final product or goal is achieved to specific standards. What sets great project managers apart from mediocre ones is that the former is capable of leading. Project managers coordinate work flow for people who usually don’t report to them. Therefore, a project manager’s ability to lead and manage by influence, rather than by authority, is crucial. Only when one has been missing from a team does it become evident how much organizational work is necessary to ensure a smooth product life cycle.
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