Soft Skills Required: Ten Requirements For Every Project Manager

The project manager with purely technical expertise is out, thinks Mary Gerush from Forrester Research. She describes the next generation project manager as communicative, competent, and strong in soft skills.

The way companies use software has changed. Nowadays, even “normal” employees are pretty familiar with computers. In addition, top management expects new IT solutions to contribute to its success and increase employee satisfaction significantly.

For the work of IT project managers, this means that you have to adapt. Technical expertise is still essential for the success of your work. Much more than before, however, the project managers have to adorn themselves with new virtues: When every euro is turned over three times, they have to gear their work more closely than before to the business success of their customers. This will make them less prevalent in the future (Information Technology) than BT (Business Technology).

And they have to throw their role as doers overboard and, as moderators, focus more on soft skills in teams that can broadly organize themselves. “Talk more, write less” is how Mary Gerush sums up the changed task for the “Next-Generation Project Manager” for Forrester Research. It is becoming increasingly important, according to Gerush, that the IT project manager can build teams and stick together and bring them to efficient cooperation.

For her report on the requirements for project management (PM) of the next generation, Gerush spoke for Forester with industrial managers and IT experts from large companies and the PM professionals in-house.

But don’t worry: the project managers of the future will also need knowledge about technology and its implications Business- if not only. The project manager who carries out projects of all kinds regardless of subject matter and the content will not exist for Forrester either.

On the contrary: the more technical he has, the better the interviewed employees feel that their worries and needs are in good hands with the project manager. And even if he doesn’t have to understand everything that developers do day in and day out, his technical expertise enables him to intervene when he notices that teamwork should not work.

The project managers of the next generation still need a solid foundation in the handling of PM tools. According to Gerrish, these will continue to be the “bread and butter” skills in the future: initialization of projects, project planning, project execution, and completion. You need to be as familiar with risk management as with change management and managing human resources.

The training and experience of project managers continue to be necessary as a criterion for success. Still, also not: There are, writes Mary Gerush in her report, employees who succeed without much prior knowledge because they have the communicative and integrative skills that the project manager needs in the future. In summary: Project managers need a technical background, but above all, they need soft skills to survive in times of changing requirements.

Contributing To The Company’s Success Is Crucial

“The top project managers of tomorrow don’t just do projects. They generate value,” says Gerrish, outlining the direction of their business. Your job is not so much to keep projects going – but given an average success rate of just 32 percent, that is a challenge. Instead, they can motivate their teams to achieve better results because they know the needs of customers and the value that their work has for the company. By the way, they also improve the relationship between IT and business.

Incidentally, the companies surveyed by Forrester still consider a project to be successful that was completed on time and budget. However, turn a blind eye here if the project’s success threatens to exceed the planned time and money account. The new type of project manager must be able to manage such repulsions flexibly, writes Mary Gerush.

And there is another trend for Forrester: Instead of presenting inflated solutions with little value, as has been the case in the past, it is increasingly essential for project managers to work leanly. But that will “significantly change” the type of work. Project managers are encouraged to streamline their processes and avoid unnecessary effort.

All effort is subordinate to the project, and business success demands Gerush and recommends the experts to orientate themselves on the principle of agile software development, where they work with lean, self-managing, and cross-functional teams.

Ten Basics For Next-Generation Project Managers

1. Emotional intelligence This means the ability to keep eyes and ears open to incorporate the input from project staff and customers into the work in connection with the goal.

2. Adaptable communication The ability to convey one’s ideas – verbally or in writing – to a wide range of interested parties, regardless of which department, which culture, or what educational background they come from.

3. Ability to deal with people  The ability to quickly build and maintain positive relationships with team members and stakeholders.

4. Ability to manage The ability to work in a team, motivate it, focus on the goal, and promote teamwork.

5. Flexibility The will and the ability to revise one’s approach are the project’s subject and that business desire.

Analysis Ability, Customer Understanding, And Character

6. Business knowledge: Knowledge of that business of the customer and his branch. The ability to understand your strategy and to align your project work with that strategy.

7. Analytical ability The ability to analyze problems and make decisions based on such analyzes.

8. Look for the customer. The ability to understand the customer and user needs and satisfy this customer’s needs in the project.

9. Orientation towards the result: The ability to complete the project efficiently and effectively.

10. Character. The future project manager should have an appealing personality as well as strong values ​​and a morally impeccable character.

Also Read: Project Management: The Four Project Types

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