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How to find the perfect project manager

Mary K. Pratt | June 11, 2015
The prototypical project manager needs financial, scheduling and management skills to keep projects on time and on budget. They also must communicate effectively to diverse business and technical teams -- and that's just the beginning. Here's how to target the elusive perfect project manager.

find the perfect project manager

CIO David L. Stevens say project managers are critical to his organization's success, so much so that he shook up the org chart soon after he started in his post.

Stevens, who heads IT for Maricopa County, Ariz., consolidated project managers in a new project management office headed by a new PMO director who answers to the new director of strategic planning and business alignment position.

He says the set-up demonstrates that project managers must focus on business outcomes. That, in turn, influences the kind of professionals he wants on staff.

They need financial, scheduling and management skills to keep projects on time and on budget. They must communicate effectively to diverse business and technical teams and bring together various players "to really deliver something that impacts the business." And they must be problem-solvers who can keep their eyes on intended goals.

 "You have to have a systemic view of the project at any given moment to help navigate toward that outcome," Stevens says.

Stevens, who hired five of the six full-time staff project managers working in the PMO since its creation two years ago, sought out experienced project managers with the Project Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, which is issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI). (The PMI is a not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management profession, awards the PMP credential along with seven other project management-focused certifications.)

"We looked for the right talent, the right people, because we want to demonstrate to our customers our professionalism, our capabilities and experience to walk them through these often very complicated and expensive initiatives to produce the outcomes they expect," he says.

Nearly topping the IT skills chart

Project management is one of the most in-demand skills among IT leaders today -- coming in at No. 2 among top skills in Computerworld's 2015 Forecast survey. It was second only to programming/application development. Some 35 percent of the IT leaders who responded to the survey said they plan to hire for the skill in the upcoming year.

CIOs and industry observers say a pent-up demand for new technology is a big part of the high demand. After putting a lot of projects on hold during the recent recession, companies have charged ahead with initiatives. That backlog, combined with heavy investments in newer technologies -- such as mobile, big data and the Internet of Things -- have many companies scrambling to find talented project managers to steer work through the inevitable challenges and roadblocks that exist during planning and implementation.

"Companies have all realized there is power in technology, that it gives you a competitive advantage, it helps you be faster and more effective. And companies realize that the investment is significant around these projects, and it's really important that you see the return on your investment," says John Reed, senior executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. "The best way to do that is to have a project manager experienced in being able to manage from scoping to implementation. That's why you see this increase in demand for skilled project managers."


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