What is an IT project manager?
An information technology (IT) project manager coordinates, plans, and leads organizational technology projects. In an increasingly digital world where organizations regularly implement new technologies and software to improve operations, they play a crucial role in completing projects on time, within budget, and to the agreed specifications.
These professionals serve as a vital bridge between the technical team and the rest of the organization. They understand the business’s needs and translate these into technical requirements while conveying complex technical information in an accessible way for non-technical stakeholders. Their role is essential in ensuring the organization can effectively leverage technology to achieve its strategic objectives.
Duties and responsibilities
IT project managers are responsible for planning and defining the scope of technology projects, including identifying project milestones, tasks, and required resources. They develop detailed project plans and manage them throughout the project lifecycle, tracking progress and making adjustments as necessary to keep the project on track.
They are also responsible for managing the project budget to keep it within the allocated funding. They coordinate the work of project team members and other stakeholders, facilitating communication and collaboration to achieve project objectives.
These PMs also play a key role in risk management, identifying potential project risks, and implementing mitigation strategies. They also verify that project documentation is complete, accurate, and stored appropriately.
Most IT project managers work in an office setting, typically within the IT department of an organization. They spend a significant portion of their time meeting with team members, participating in project updates, managing resources, and liaising with stakeholders. It isn’t uncommon for them to travel occasionally for business meetings or to visit sites where IT projects are being implemented. Businesses in every industry require these PMs, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and retail. With advancements in remote work technology, some might even operate from home or other locations.
Typical work hours
IT PMs usually work during standard business hours, from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. However, project deadlines often need to be met, so they may have to work extra hours during the week or on weekends. Work hours will depend on the project’s state – in more intense periods leading up to project milestones or during the deployment phases, a more substantial time commitment may be required. Some flexibility is usually required to accommodate team members in different time zones or work schedules.
How to become an IT project manager
This career guide section outlines the process of becoming an IT project manager. The path to this profession typically involves education in information technology or a related field, earning certifications, and gaining relevant work experience.
Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree
The most common first step is getting a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. Coursework generally includes topics such as project management, database management, network security, IT ethics, and application development.
Step 2: Gain relevant work experience
Experience is key in this field, so finding a relevant job after graduation is important. Entry-level IT or project management jobs can provide the necessary experience and skills. Implementing and managing technology projects and acquiring a broad understanding of various tools and technology platforms will be beneficial features of a starter role in your career path.
Step 3: Pursue technology certifications
Information technology always evolves, so staying current on new advancements is important. You can pursue postgraduate technology certifications such as CompTIA’s Project+ or ITIL certification.
Step 4: Get project management experience
Gaining experience directly in project management is a key step. You can look for opportunities within your current job to lead projects, or you may need to switch jobs to gain this experience. Demonstrating your ability to handle project budgets, timelines, and teams is essential to preparing for this role.
Step 5: Earn a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification
This certification, offered by the Project Management Institute, is widely recognized in the industry and is often a requirement. You must have thousands of hours of project management experience and complete a challenging exam to qualify.
Step 6: Apply for jobs
With your bachelor’s degree, relevant work experience, and PMP certification, you are well prepared to apply for IT project manager roles. A resume highlighting your education, experience, certifications, and key related skills will play a pivotal role in this step.
How much do IT project managers make?
IT PM salaries vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. The complexity of the projects managed and the specific technical skills required can significantly influence their compensation.
Highest paying industries
- Securities and Other Financial Investments – $144,080
- Scientific Research and Development Services – $139,960
- Software Publishers – $139,520
- Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds – $136,260
- Cable and Other Subscription Programming – $130,840
Highest paying states
- California – $150,720
- New Jersey – $147,320
- New York – $145,760
- Washington – $143,280
- Connecticut – $134,540
Types of IT project managers
Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for IT project managers. This section covers a wide range of roles and specializations that showcase the diversity and possibilities within this field.
Technical project manager
In this role, PMs lead technical projects, sometimes even highly complex ones. They are responsible for ensuring the timely delivery of project goals while balancing risk management. Skills in software development, coding, and other technical areas are typically required.
Agile project manager
These project managers follow Agile methodologies, a set of principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. They are accountable for smooth operations, effective communication, and flexibility in a fast-paced and constantly changing work environment.
Risk management project manager
This role requires expertise in identifying and reducing potential risks in a project. These professionals are well-versed in risk analysis, prediction, and mitigation strategies. Their main goal is for projects to proceed smoothly without unexpected setbacks or delays.
Infrastructure project manager
Infrastructure project managers lead the implementation and development of computer systems and IT infrastructure. They must have a great understanding of hardware, software, network, and server infrastructure. They are also responsible for coordinating with all related staff during the project cycle.
ERP project manager
These professionals lead Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software projects. ERP allows large companies to manage and integrate the essential parts of their businesses, including purchase orders, inventory management, and more. PMs in this role often have strong organizational and leadership skills, with a mastery of the organization’s specific ERP software.
Top skills for IT project managers
This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as an IT project manager. Roles and responsibilities differ based on the nature of the business and its requirements, but certain abilities and characteristics remain central to the job across industries.
Understanding the intricacies of the IT landscape is key. A solid grasp of the relevant technology and software is essential for those aiming to thrive in this role. Know how to utilize project management tools, keep up-to-date with the latest technologies, and understand complex IT concepts.
Invariably, the role involves supervision and guidance. You will be tasked with leading a team of IT professionals. Strong leadership aptitudes such as providing motivation, fostering teamwork, yielding authority wisely, and resolving conflicts are vital for success.
Superb organizational skills
The role demands that you possess the ability to manage numerous aspects of a project simultaneously, including budgeting, scheduling, progress tracking, problem-solving, risk management, and quality assurance. Being organized is an absolute must in this profession.
Effective communication is pivotal in this role. You will liaise with team members, stakeholders, vendors, or customers. Conveying technical information clearly and simply to individuals who may not be tech-savvy is a skill you will frequently use in this position.
Analytical thinking and decision-making abilities
Being able to gather, analyze, and interpret complex information and then make informed decisions differentiates an average PM from an excellent one. You have to predict potential issues, develop contingency plans, and resolve issues that impact project progression.
IT project manager career path options
Your experience and skills in managing complex projects, leading teams, and coordinating with various stakeholders uniquely equip you to seek higher positions within IT and beyond, even potentially into executive roles.
Career advancement in this profession often entails higher levels of responsibility and complexity. You could move up to managing bigger and more intricate projects within your company’s technology department. Over time, you may be given the reins of transformational technology initiatives that dictate major business decisions.
Alternatively, you could venture into different areas of IT or even different parts of the business. Digitization and technology integration have become fundamental in many industries, making your skills versatile and in demand across fields.
Senior roles within IT, like director or chief information officer (CIO), could be a logical progression step. Responsibilities in these positions go beyond project management and deal with setting strategy, vision, and direction for the entire department or the company’s technology plans.
For a broader scope and bigger challenge, one might consider moving into roles like operations management or general management. Your experience in coordinating projects, managing teams, and strategizing can serve you well in such positions.
Finally, consulting could be an ideal field for seasoned professionals. By advising firms on their IT plans and implementations, you can put your technical and managerial experience to use in helping others achieve their success.
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Position trends and outlook for IT project managers
The increase in digitization and reliance on data has heightened the demand for IT PMs, who must now understand not only basic project management principles but also emerging tech trends, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics. In addition, they’re required to possess soft skills, such as adaptability, communication, and leadership skills, more so than in the past due to the dynamic nature of IT projects.
As businesses increase their global operations, the role has become more virtual, often managing teams across various time zones. There’s also been a shift toward adopting agile methodologies within the profession, which emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. This new approach requires those in the role to embrace change and to be fast thinkers who can adjust project scopes quickly.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 16 percent through 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The continual expansion of technology and the growing importance of big data in businesses will be key factors in bolstering the demand for these roles in various industries.
IT project manager career tips
Understand the business
An IT project manager needs a solid understanding of the business landscape. Grasping the corporate mission, goals, and target market are fundamental. Serving as a central link, you guide how technology can enhance the company’s working strategies and practices.
Prioritize information security
With cyber threats on the rise, these professionals must prioritize information security. Practical knowledge about cybersecurity and system vulnerabilities can help you design and implement protective measures in your projects, ensuring data safety and system integrity.
Maintain effective communication
Clear and regular communication with all project stakeholders is key to success. Miscommunication leads to misunderstandings and undetected errors. With a diverse team under you, ranging from coders to business analysts, having effective communication skills will help keep every phase in sync and operating smoothly.
Proactively manage risks
Risk management is a core part of project management. Identify potential pitfalls and design plans to avoid or deal with them. Risks could be related to cost, timeline, quality, or any aspect of the project. Proactive risk management increases the likelihood of a project’s smooth execution despite unforeseen circumstances.
Build a professional network
- Project Management Institute (PMI)
- Association for Project Management (APM)
- International Institute for Learning (IIL)
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
Pursue continuous learning
Staying on top of technology trends and improving your expertise helps in the evolving IT industry. Training and certifications can bolster your skillset and make you more valuable to your current and, perhaps, future employer.
- IT Project Management Certificate – University of Washington
- Advanced Project Management – Stanford University
- Certified Project Manager – International Association of Project Managers
- Project Management Professional – PMI
- Certified ScrumMaster – Scrum Alliance
Where the IT project manager jobs are
- New York
Top job sites
What are the typical duties of an IT project manager?
IT PMs oversee and direct the activities of project teams, manage resources and budgets, and ensure that projects are completed on time and within scope. They also communicate with stakeholders, handle conflicts, and ensure the quality of project deliverables. They may also be tasked with training team members and end users.
What skills are most important for success as an IT project manager?
Key skills for IT PMs include strong leadership abilities, communication skills, and the ability to manage risks and multiple tasks simultaneously. They should also have knowledge of IT systems and technologies and the ability to manage budgets and resources.
Are certifications important for IT project managers?
Yes, certifications can add value to an IT PM’s skillset and make them more attractive to employers. PMP is a renowned certification. Other relevant certifications include Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
What software tools are typically used by IT project managers?
IT PMs work with various software tools depending on their project requirements. They frequently use project management software such as Microsoft Project, JIRA, Trello, or Asana to manage tasks and keep track of project progress. They may also use tools for collaboration (like Slack), documentation (like Confluence), and version control systems (like Git).
What common challenges do IT project managers often encounter?
Common challenges for IT PMs include managing scope changes, meeting deadlines with limited resources, and balancing multiple tasks simultaneously. They may also face difficulties coordinating with diverse team members, dealing with technical issues, and managing stakeholders’ expectations.
How does an IT project manager differ from a project manager in another industry?
The key difference lies in the nature of the projects managed. IT PMs work on technology-based projects, which require specialized knowledge and skills related to software development, network administration, and information security. PMs in other industries may not require such specific technical expertise.
Is an advanced degree necessary for success as an IT project manager?
An advanced degree is not a strict requirement, but it can be beneficial in some cases. Some IT PMs may have a master’s in business administration (MBA) or a related field, which can help develop strategic thinking, leadership, and management skills. However, practical experience and technical skills are often valued more than formal education levels.
What personality traits are helpful for IT project managers?
Successful IT PMs are typically organized, detail-oriented, and good at problem-solving. They need to be strong leaders who can motivate and manage diverse teams. Effective communication skills are also important, given the need to liaise with stakeholders, team members, and other departments.
How can I improve my chances of success as an IT project manager?
To increase your chances of success as an IT PM, continuously improve your technical skills and knowledge of the latest industry trends. Additionally, obtain relevant certifications, improve your leadership and communication skills, and gain experience with a variety of project management methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall.