Just because someone has the title of "project manager" does not mean he knows how to effectively manage projects, as many CIOs and other IT executives have learned the hard way.
So how can you tell a good project manager from a bad one? CIO.com surveyed project management experts and executives to learn what skills are required to successfully manage projects--that is, to ensure that projects are kept on track and stay on budget.
Here are seven skills project managers need in order to be effective and successful:
Skill No. 1: Be highly organized and a good multi-tasker. A good project manager knows how to "manage multiple projects or tasks and track issues on a daily basis," says Hilary Atkinson, director of the Project Management Office at Force 3, a business solutions provider.
The difference between the success or failure of a project is often "the difference between a project manager who is highly organized and one who is not," she says. "If a project manager is spending more time trying to figure out where information is rather than productively managing their project, failure is eminent."
Skill No. 2: Take charge and know how to lead. "Project managers need to be good leaders," says Lew Sauder, senior project manager Geneca, which develops custom enterprise software. Specifically, "project management is about leading stakeholders and vendors to a successful outcome," states Brian Lee, partner at Navigate, a management consulting firm.
"Projects need to be led in a fashion that builds consensus while also fleshing out the real risks and roadblocks," he says. "Effective project managers paint a picture of a better tomorrow and inspire confidence in their team's abilities to realize that vision. They build credible relationships with key stakeholders to ensure alignment to the project's objectives and exude the confidence necessary to hold everyone participating in the project accountable."
Skill No. 3: Be an effective communicator. "Being an outstanding communicator requires the project manager to consistently ensure they are clearly understood by all stakeholders; that all stakeholders understand what is expected of them throughout the project lifecycle; and that all stakeholders communicate effectively with one another as well as with the project manager," says Dr. Greg Thomas, CMC, PMP and CEO of Roos Technologies International, a management consulting firm.
"Project managers need to be able to communicate status changes, good news and bad news to all levels of staff across different departments," says Nandi Hayes, an agent at Vitamin T, a talent agency for digital creatives.
"They also need to be able to distinguish who needs to know what, when they need to know it and how that information will be delivered," she says. "For example, a slight scheduling delay may need to be communicated to internal teams but not to the client if the key client review dates are not affected."
Skill No. 4: Know how and when to negotiate. "Project managers must be excellent negotiators," says Brock Boddie, an associate program director at Huge, a global digital agency. "You're very often dealing with people who have divergent interests from your own or who appear to have no interest in understanding what you're trying to accomplish and why they should help you or fully participate," he says.
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