Attention IT Project Managers. Formalized IT projects are not going away any time soon. However, the onset of technologically advanced applications will potentially change the focus of project managers’ required skill sets in the near future.
There was once a time where a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, the ability to manage a project using the Waterfall methodology, and decent Microsoft Project skills were the standard for good project managers.
Today project managers should have a working knowledge of Agile principles (Scrum, Lean, etc.), and should be adept at successfully executing blended Waterfall and Agile (let’s call it w’Agile) projects that shape shift depending on organizations’ project management preferences.
A well-rounded project manager should also possess an understanding of how Project Management aligns with Organizational Change Management to increase a project’s probability of success, when project outcomes result in changes to the organization’s management of existing technologies, business roles, or business processes.
Future state Project Management will include sophisticated business intelligence software designed to improve project estimating, budgeting, resource allocation, and schedule management. These new solutions may potentially automate current project manager responsibilities as data accuracy and project results steadily improve.
However, as of yet technology cannot replace the required human elements needed to manage project stakeholders successfully. As such, project managers should focus on strengthening the following crucial soft skills to maintain their intrinsic value over rapidly advancing technology:
- Conflict resolution
Leadership. Project managers are project leaders responsible for managing a team of talented individuals working together to achieve a desired outcome. Project managers must display leadership when providing updates and facilitating decision-making sessions with project sponsors, project steering committees, external vendors, and impacted stakeholders across the organization.
Project managers’ leadership qualities will only become more critical as their future responsibilities shift in response to the impact of technological advances on the project management discipline. As technology improves, project managers will be able to leverage enhanced data assessments of project feasibility, probability of success, required resources, progress, risk, and resolution alternatives to take decisive actions that will benefit the organization.
Project managers should also seek to assert increased influence over organizational leaders and employees to drive change adoption and achieve project objectives. Organizational leaders must have confidence in project managers’ abilities to lead the adoption and utilization of new technology within the project management framework, and will not tolerate project managers who will wilt in the face of highly effective technological advances.
Communication. Effective communication goes hand in hand with leadership. Successful project managers have mastered communicating with their project teams, senior leaders, vendors, and key stakeholders to send and receive information on project related matters using a variety of effective communication channels.
In the future, project managers will need to improve upon their communication skills to convey project and business outcomes originating from business intelligence solutions. These tools will have the ability to analyze and present critical data to project managers, however project managers must be able to distill the data into key insights and coherent messages for consumption by different target audiences.
Conflict Resolution. Project teams often create synergy, but can also occasionally generate friction among team members as personalities clash and differences escalate into full-fledged issues. Good project managers are knowledgeable about managing crucial conversations, and have the ability to mediate uncomfortable conflicts to bring about an agreeable resolution between two or more project teammates.
Crucial conversation management will become an even more important project manager skill in the future, as technology replaces several key project resource functions and team member roles evolve and adapt to accommodate workplace changes. Project managers should add crucial conversations to their list of continuous learning opportunities to ensure they are well prepared for the future.
Negotiation. Project managers negotiate very frequently on projects whether or not they realize it. It takes negotiation skills to satisfy senior leaders with conflicting demands, project team members unhappy with work assignments, vendors who want to push back on specific client requirements and impacted stakeholders who do not want to adopt the project’s changes to existing processes and technologies.
These negotiation skills will be tested even more in the future as project objectives are achieved more frequently through advancing technology, resulting in even greater demands and expectations across the organization. Project managers should be ready for these challenges, and have the necessary tools and experiences to negotiate effectively and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
Project managers should reflect on the current state of their soft skill capabilities, and assess whether or not additional coaching is warranted. There are numerous online and in person personal development courses available to professionals, which will provide the necessary tools to enhance soft skills. Professional development is all about continuous personal improvement, and should not be overlooked in favor of technical learning.
Do you have any additional soft skill recommendations for project managers? How do you feel about the impact of technology on the project management role? Please share your thoughts below!