Project managers are exceptionally talented individuals who need to be skilled at managing their human resources. But it can be debatable just how technical a project manager needs to be; after all, don’t they just need to know about project management? In fact, it’s incredibly important for project managers to have a technical understanding and background, especially when it comes to engineering and development fields. Non-technical project managers often encounter an uphill battle, both in terms of productivity and loyalty.
Striking a Balance Between People Skills and Technical Skills
How technical your project manager needs to be depends largely on the project that you are completing. Highly technical, advanced, and innovative project offerings demand a highly technical project manager. This project manager has to be able to understand what is and isn’t possible within their field, and they often will be looked to for key insights regarding project improvement. When it comes to more mundane projects or high volume projects, on the other hand, a general project manager may be more apt. These project managers are able to more skillfully motivate and allocate their employees, even if they may not have an in-depth understanding of the industry.
The Fast-Paced Environment of Technology
There are many software developers who hold their project managers in contempt. And it’s very difficult for a project manager to get anything done if their team members are not loyal to them. But this isn’t just because a project manager may not be as technical as them. It’s an unfortunate truth that the software and hardware industry moves so quickly that a project manager is often operating on old, outdated knowledge. They may not be aware of the new terminology and technology even if they were highly skilled within their industry just ten years ago. This highlights the importance of refresher courses, seminars, and training. As projects begin to move into new technology, project managers also need to. Otherwise they will not be able to retain the respect of their peers.
Keeping Your Project Manager Focused
There is a risk when it comes to a technically apt project manager; the lines between project manager and developer can be blurred. Though a project manager may be able to add value to the project in this way, it’s not desirable. You want your project manager to be focused on the goal, and you don’t want them to be “married” to certain ideas or improvements simply because they developed them. A project manager has to be able to negotiate between employees effectively and cannot be individually attached to a project, and this can be complicated for someone developing a project directly. Thus, it’s very important that guidelines be drawn to separate these two roles.
Of course, regardless of how technical your project manager is, you still need both sides of the project management skill set. A project manager with technical acumen but without the ability to successfully inspire and manage is a developer, not a project manager. If you’re looking for a talented, well-rounded project manager, post a job listing with us at Software Specialists or contact us directly. We can find you the project manager you need to motivate and innovate with your team.