Project Management skills are in high demand across many industries. As the velocity of enterprise business continues to increase, companies are under pressure to deliver projects within tighter deadlines, on schedule and with the high level of quality customers and partners expect. To do this, they need skilled professionals to define project requirements and implement them, plan and budget, orchestrate schedules and resources, manage project timelines and to simply be leaders.
The title of project manager (PM) is so broad these days, that it covers many different functions and specialty areas. However, there is a fundamental set of skills that will help any professional manage their project successfully.
The PM ‘to-do’ list
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what a project manager's role is these days. Many people who may not have the Project Manager title in their job descriptions are also accountable for managing or leading projects. Regardless of title, industry or specialty, there are certain duties they must do. At the core, anyone managing a project will have to:
- Understand the project’s objectives and requirements
- Create a project estimate
- Break down the project and plan it
- Set and re-set expectations accurately
- Manage project members and other project resources
- Proactively communicate with stakeholders
- Manage risk and changes
Landing the ‘to do’ list
It doesn't matter how you ended up being responsible for a project and whether you are a project manager by title or not. What matters is that you are the person accountable for getting everything moving in the same direction, at the right time, within budget while managing employees, clients, managers and risks.
To do this well requires a balance of hard skills, such as accurate estimating, and soft skills, such as managing relationships with stakeholders. Skilling up in both of these areas will help project managers not only be successful on current projects but also distinguish those who are on a project management career track.
Next, we will look at some of the critical hard skills and soft skills that make project managers successful.
Soft skills for hard projects
You may have heard the term “soft skills” used around the company. The term may have been used to describe the characteristics of a person which enable them to work well with others. For example, things like a person’s communication style, their ability to motivate others, how they build working relationships, how they manage conflict and their level of patience and perseverance.
Companies recognize that these traits enable their employees to work with colleagues, clients and partners, easily and collaboratively, to achieve a common goal. These characteristics are important success drivers for project related organizations and although they are difficult to measure in their PMOs or teach in the employee development curriculum, companies know these soft skills are critical for any employee who is accountable for a complex project.
Read our "5 essential soft skills for good project management".
Hard Skills are easier to measure and easier to teach than soft skills. They are the technical abilities and techniques required to fulfill the duties of project management. For example, the ability of a project manager to deliver tangible things such as accurate estimations, schedules, work breakdowns and budgets. Or, proficiency in using project software, creating metrics and creating reports.
Project management organizations understand that these hard skills are essential fundamentals for successfully landing projects. PMs know that effectively managing any project will require they have learned these skills.
Read our "5 essential hard skills for good project management".
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