Chapter Becoming an IT Project Manager

OVERVIEW

We'd all like to be like Tiger Woods or Ernie Els, but we're not, so my answer to you is to get over it. The best we can do is to hit our drive in the fairway, knock an iron shot in the middle of the green, make some putts, and keep grinding away. Who knows where the practice will take you? The same applies to project management.

I'm a huge fan of project management as a business management discipline—all its technologies, processes, techniques, skillsets, tools, and annual conferences make it one of the most exciting jobs in existence today. Call it common management sense, or whatever you like, it really is a rich and rewarding profession. Chances are you'll enjoy it and turn out to be a great project manager. However, lose the idea that being a project manager is a walk in the park. It's not. You don't simply put a manager behind some project management software that you bought from some very famous company. Lose the idea that it's an easy undertaking. It's a slog up a mountain. It is dirty, hard work, and it is absolutely necessary. By working hard at specific projects, you will eventually become more and more proficient and knowledgeable at running projects. The following section shows an analogy for the project management experience.

For centuries, mountain people of the Himalayas (called Sherpas) have navigated the extreme conditions of the Khumbu region in Tibet, near Mt. Everest. In 1953, after a dozen failed attempts, a Sherpa named Tenzing Norgay became one of two men ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, known in Tibet as "Goddess Mother of the World." To this day, Sherpas are enlisted for their unique knowledge of the terrain and command of the high altitude. Their experience helps climbers the world over reach the summit. Similarly, project managers are often faced with incredible barriers that seem impossible to overcome—either due to technology or project complexity—that can be bridged by using skilled mentors and experienced project managers who have navigated these knowledge areas before.

PROJECT MANAGER —TRENDS

I expected a certain, sudden expansion and flow of IT project managers to rise, tsunami-like, by the time this book was finished. No such thing. Good project managers are hard to find. However, one trend is certain: Just before one project has been successfully implemented, changes are already being made on that project and another project release is in the planning. Isn't that frustrating? There are already more projects than there are project managers and it is mind-boggling how many projects are becoming more technologically advanced and integrated than ever before. What a challenge we are all faced with today! Project managers (including both those new to the profession and existing ones) have to be able to deliver projects successfully. Sufficient to say, project management is one of the most sought after professions in the world today.

Organizations select people to manage projects based on their high levels of personal productivity and their ability to get things done. These project managers are typically task-oriented people with a strong sense of urgency and a keen focus on getting started and finishing.

All types of industries are adapting to the changes in technology and, accordingly, do not hire people with the necessary skills in project management which can deliver these new projects. The functional line managers are often not considered, as they are familiar with operational business issues and are not always suitably skilled to work across organizational boundaries. Projects today need to be managed by people not only with the knowledge of project management, but also with the right stuff!

In this chapter I illustrate and address what the "right stuff" is and the path to becoming a project manager. Clients expect project managers to be competent and be able to deliver solutions, irrespective of the complexity. At its simplest approach, project management is very basic. It is very much like any other kind of management, which covers general management practices such as planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. Project management, however, concentrates on additional disciplines, such as integration, risk, communications, time, and many other relevant aspects that are required to effectively deliver a project on schedule, cost, and quality.

A colleague once asked me if project managers were really needed, as current management was already in place. I think an answer to that would have been that even the world's best soccer team still needs a team captain to lead them.

Project management uses a common set of processes and standards, which are utilized throughout any project. The trend is that project managers have to be able to cope with constantly changing technologies and methodologies, which if ignored can result in a project becoming obsolete or full of changes before it is even completed. Project managers in the IT industry today, however, are faced with having to keep pace with an ever-increasing technology that changes at a very rapid rate. These factors contribute to the importance of choosing the appropriate person leading the project. My experiences, as both consultant and practicing project manager, have led me to realize that today's project manager needs a simple, yet practical approach to managing projects (see Figure 2.1).

Time manajgemern ru

COS! ma nag-erne nl

Human resource management

Human resource management

Risk management management

Project maragof tb f Quality mar>agenierl

Integration maragumcnl

Communicfltton Procurernenl fjifliiagemerii management

Figure 2.1: The elements of project management

Productivity

Productivity

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