Secrets to Finding Great IT Project Managers

4 minute read
What is DevOps?

What is DevOps?

DevOps is the continuous delivery of prioritised value to an organisation. For more click here.

A great IT Project Manager can make the difference between a successful project and a dismal failure. But finding great IT Project Manager is very difficult to find. Why is this?

In this article you will learn

  • What factors make it difficult to find IT Project Managers
  • How and when to choose internal vs external PM resources
  • Why outsourcing doesn’t need to be expensive

So why is it so difficult to find a good IT Project Manager?

The fact is that IT project management is not a simple job. It demands a wide variety of skills and talents. There are few jobs I can think of that require so many different leadership, managerial and technical skills – all in one package. It is difficult to find and difficult to train people in all these skills.

But the demand for great IT Project Managers is growing. As more organizations realise the value of good project management, and as more are effected by the relentless pace of technology change, there will be more and more projects. Good news for project managers, but bad news for those in need of their services.

It is interesting to look at other industries and professions where similar things have happened. Look at other professional services e.g. lawyers, medical practitioners, accountancy. These professions have evolved such that you can have general practitioners and specialists. You typically go to a firm who has a full range of services and you are assigned to the most appropriate specialist for your needs at that time. Your accounting firm may provide bookkeeping services, but at the end of the year you may be referred to the partner who is a specialist in taxation to help minimise your taxes (legally of course). By having a mix of general practitioners and specialists these professions have managed to spread the load for their services. Rather than buying the services of an individual you are buying the services of a firm that has all the specialist knowledge you will require over your lifetime as a client.

This is not the case in IT Project Management. IT Project Management is still heavily based on individuals and relationships. This is both good and bad. At the end of the day project management is all about dealing with people, so strong relationship building skills and leadership is important. On the other hand, IT project management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Not every great project manager will suit every project or every client.

So if you are about to embark on an IT project how do you find a great project manager and how do you know he/she is a match to your requirements.

So what do you do? Assuming you want to go ahead with the project you really have only two choices. Either you find resources within your organization or you hire resources from outside. Simple. Not so fast.


How and when do you choose internal vs external resources?

Before choosing you really need to understand your requirements. This can end up being a bit of a chicken and egg situation – you really need the project manager to help you understand the requirements but you need the requirements before you hire the project manager.

In our experience the principal factor driving such a decision is the project scope. Scope in turn is a combination of

  • How big is your project?
  • How critical is it to the success of your organization?
  • What is your budget?
  • Is it strategic or tactical?

Here’s a simple table to help you make sense of your choices

Project Size Very Small Small Medium Large
Duration and Budget Short piece of work, less than €50k 6 months – 1 year, €100k 1-2years, €100k – €500k 2+ years, >€500k
Domain Expertise Domain knowledge not necessary in most cases. Domain knowledge important but can be picked up and doesn’t materially impact the result. Domain knowledge becomes more important. Experience working in the domain and case studies are important. Domain knowledge very important – typically organization has implemented similar projects within your industry.
Most Appropriate Solution Use Contractors or small boutique consulting firms Use internal resources or specialist boutique consulting firms Use internal Resources, larger consulting firms with breadth and depth of expertise Use larger consulting firms with extensive experience in your domain, and who have access to plenty of man power


Isn’t outsourcing project to consultants expensive?

It can be. Let’s face it we’ve all heard of consultants charging thousands per day, and customers feeling less than satisfied. Is this the fault of the consultants or the customers? Neither.

The business model for consulting in IT Projects in particular has evolved in such a way that the allocation of expertise is not optimized. What do we mean by this?

Typically, projects are assigned very experienced senior personnel full-time for the duration of the project. So you might have an senior project manager billing full-time, along with an IT architect and other resources.

But do we need to have expensive full-time resources all the way through the project lifecycle. Sometimes it is actually necessary. But more often than not we don’t really need it. We need a much more flexible model. If you’d like to learn how a flexible model like this could work, read about our PMaaS service or download our free white paper.

Others have referred to the dawning of the PM 2.0 age. I am not sure we there yet, but I think there is no denying that there is dissatisfaction with the success rate of projects in our industry. This means the way we manage our IT PMs has got to change, sooner rather than later.