job description: A project manager (PM) serves as a critical link between IT team members and key individuals involved with a project to ensure its timely completion, says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director at Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing provider. PMs typically oversee the process and methodology that is in place, identify best practices to ensure a successful project, manage the pipeline of requirements and act as a liaison between IT and the business. The most successful project managers can help save their company time and money by ensuring that these projects stay on track.
why you need one: There is a "huge demand" in the market right now for people who have demonstrated an ability to execute, says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer at the IT consultancy Foote Partners. Poor project execution occurs when there is a breakdown in relationship management, communication, cooperation and poor problem resolution, he says. PMs get projects on track and ensure they are implemented properly and efficiently. This is important in today's economy; only 35 percent of IT projects are completed successfully, according to The Standish Group.
desired skills: "The number-one skill you need is organization," says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh, a talent and outsourcing firm. Look for a bachelor's degree in an IT- or business-related field, a background in applications development and five or more years of experience managing complex projects, says Lee. Potential hires should also have strong communication, problem-solving and interpersonal skills; multitask efficiently; and have a strong ability to manage client expectations, Lanzalotto says.
how to find one: Lanzalotto says networking is the best way to find a qualified project manager. "Ask people who have worked on similar projects if they can recommend someone," he says. Foote suggests seeking out applicants with Program Management Institute certifications.
what to look for: Hire project managers who have managed similar-scope projects in the past, says Lanzalotto. Lee recommends looking for candidates who are highly motivated self-starters with excellent attention to detail.
elimination round: Ask candidates how they fixed a project that fell off track. "Not all project managers have been successful," says Lanzalotto. "It's hard to find people who have a proven track record of multiple successful projects."