Category: Digital

The identity crisis of the IT project manager

The IT project manager role is one of the most in demand and sought after positions in technology. Ask any hiring manager and they will tell you that finding a good IT project manager is difficult. I’ve seen people with the most impressive credentials crash and burn trying to manage IT projects.

So what exactly is an IT project manager, and what makes a good one? The IT project manager used to be the person accountable for managing scope, schedule, and budget for IT projects. Today, that’s still true, for the most part, but the role has a bit of an identity crisis

The Project Management Institute, with their PMP certification, says the role is all about planning and control. If you’ve taken the PMP exam, you know PMI teaches you to create a large project plan. Within that plan are many sub plans for each area of the project.

The PMI has come under scrutiny in recent years by the technology community, and for good reason. With the rapid advancement of technology and globalization, organizations need to be agile. Planning is important, but responding to change may be even more important. Our systems and organizations have become too complex for the PMI plan and control model. This need to adapt to change is what has fueled the Agile software development movement.

With the increase of self-organizing agile teams, it brings us back to the question, what is the role of the IT project manager? Is it an Agile project manager? Is it a project leader? Is it a servant leader? Is it a Scrum Master? Is it a tech lead?

The answer depends, but the role may consist of a combination of all these things. One thing we know for sure is that the IT project manager is a change agent and a leader.

To succeed in this role, one needs to have both hard and soft skills. Good IT project managers use both the left and right hemispheres of their brain. The right side of the brain used for cognitive thinking, the left side for emotional intelligence and relationships. This enables them to be both technical, and emotionally intelligent. Project management is both a science and an art form.

If you are looking to get into IT Project management, you better be able to deal with chaos while keeping your cool. If you currently work as an IT business analyst, tester, or developer, you are well prepped for IT project management. I began my career in QA, and my experience in testing has been invaluable to my role as an IT project manager.

The reason people in these roles make good IT project managers is because they are battle tested. They know what it’s like to be in the trenches of IT projects, and to come out on the other side.

Let’s face it, delivering IT projects is tough. Business executives often don’t realize how tough it is. They are like patrons in a restaurant ordering a four-course meal. As they sit in the dining hall waiting for their meal, agitated by any delay, they don’t see the chaos in the kitchen.

It’s the job of the IT project manager to manage the chaos while portraying calmness and confidence to the team and business. Managing the chaos and leading the project to completion is what makes the IT project manager so valuable.

For me, I enjoy the chaos that comes with delivering IT projects. I particularly like the areas of development and testing. If you love technology, working with others, and solving complex problems, the IT project manager role may be a great fit.

So although the identity of the IT project manager is hard to define, it’s an exciting time for the field. With the rapid advancement in technology and globalization, the demand for good IT project managers will continue to go up.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of the digital world. AI, IoT, and big data technologies are in their infancy. As we chart a course into unknown territories of the digital world, we need good IT project managers to lead the way!

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Why robots won’t provide as much value as people in the future

As we go about our daily busy lives, it’s easy to lose sight that we are in midst of a digital revolution. We take for granted what we are now doing through technology.  Using smart phones for Uber, tracking our daily activity through wearable devices, or speaking to an Amazon Echo are examples. It is incredible how fast technology has evolved. Yet, we are only in the infant stages of the digital revolution.

digital revolution

The digital revolution brings about great opportunities for business. This is particularly true for services using IoT (internet of things), Big Data, and Cloud based technologies. Expect that you will see an increase in AI (article intelligence), automation, and robots. Self driving cars, unmanned aircrafts, and smart devices have become a reality.

This advance in digital technology has left many in fear of losing jobs to robots, and for good reason. In a recent study done by the Korn Ferry Institute, 67 percent of executives said they would value technology more than people when looking at the next five years. The idea is that workers will be unnecessary due to robotics, automation and AI.

While there is no doubt that technology will replace many manual jobs, here’s the good news. Human capital will still hold the greatest value. Why? The main reason is that humans continue to gain knowledge and experience over time. In a sense, they appreciate in ways that machines cannot.

It is my position that as the world becomes more digital, we will see a greater demand for human capital.  It’s ironic but the advance in technology will provide a need for human connections. This means people will need skills based on strong emotional and social intelligence. This also holds true for technical leadership and project management positions.

Executives then need to value both human capital and technology. They need to find the right balance between the two. It would be a mistake to go all in on technology and lose sight of human capital importance. It seems most CEOs currently don’t grasp this. As CEOs face intense pressure to increase organizational performance, they focus on what they can measure. Robotics and automation give CEOs the comfort of figures and metrics that help them make projections about the future.

These metrics and data driven forecasts leave CEOs with a blind spot. What they don’t see, or can’t measure, are the human factors effect on performance. “Actually, the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” (Lloyd S. Nelson)

You can’t measure the positive effect of a warm and empathic interaction between a customer and an employee. The convenience and performance of machines could never replace our core need for social interaction.

So as you plan your strategy during this time of digital revolution, tap into what you already understand. People are the most valuable assets within an organization.

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References

http://static.kornferry.com/media/sidebar_downloads/KF1046_FOW_WP_AW_171116-4.pdf

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/news-wire/2016/11/18/a-robot-could-take-your-job-and-your-manager-might.html

 

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