Project management skills – the things that make an individual good at their job – have stayed virtually the same for years. You know that communication, time management and teamwork are going to help get the job done.
This year, though, it feels as if something is slowly changing. Perhaps it’s the release of the new PMBOK® Guide; perhaps it’s the fact that today many businesses have had to come to terms with remote work and the skills that demands.
We need to look beyond the ‘classic’ skills listed in every job description and focus on the things that really make a difference to a project manager’s ability to succeed in the role, deliver reliably and consistently and strategically advise the organization on the approach that will achieve the greatest value.
Here is our pick of the top project management skills in demand this year.
Research from PMI states that 68% of business leaders are looking for technical skills in their project managers.
You won’t have to engineer new solutions, but you do need to have enough technical ability to be able to assess a project’s progress, liaise between the business and technical suppliers, advocate for the client and review deliverables.
As a project leader, you’ll be working with a cross-functional team, and you’ll have to have enough technical know-how to engage with all of them.
You’ll also need to know how to get the best out of the project management systems you use. If you feel you could do better here, invest in some software training to give your skills a boost.
Project management has been shifting for a long time – away from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’ and being a true strategic partner with the business. Projects are all about delivering the organization’s strategy and vision. Whether that’s building a nuclear sub or launching a new smartphone app, every organization should have a plan for where they are going and how to get there. The work of project teams creates the link between the strategic plan and reality: projects are the way that plans become real.
Project managers have to truly lead the team, setting the vision, creating a culture of success and enabling everyone to do their best work. It’s an empowering role, but leadership is something that exam-focused courses tend to brush past in favor of techniques that will help you answer exam questions and earn the certificate of your choice.
It’s often been said that people don’t quit a company – they quit a manager. And yet we’d follow a good leader to the ends of the earth, working on challenging projects under their direction and enjoying it.
That’s why project managers need to be leaders. Leadership skills are recognized as being important. With 65% of business leaders placing a priority on developing leadership in their project communities, it’s most likely going to be on the radar for your organization this year too.
Projects don’t exist in a vacuum, and the project managers who can see where their project fits in the bigger picture are the ones who will make the most difference to their organization this year.
PMI reports that 58% of organizations prioritize business skills as part of their talent development efforts, with a goal of supporting successful project delivery.
Business acumen is all about understanding how your project contributes to the bigger picture. Project teams can look for links and dependencies with other ongoing or project work. They can combine efforts, streamline processes and change the order of deliverables to get the best return on investment.
Earned value management is a good technique to support this effort, along with modelling skills. Look for where you could revise the project schedule to get greater returns by prioritizing work package delivery. Model several options for the schedule, taking into account resource allocation and see if you can shift the profile of value delivered to achieve it earlier in the project where that makes sense.
The world of business fundamentally shifted in 2020 with the global pandemic. Many teams went to a fully remote model, and that was simply the tip of the iceberg for project managers building digital skills personally and across their teams.
Half of all organizations place high priority on digital skills supporting successful project delivery, according to PMI. With 49% of business leaders reporting they intend to make considerable investments in the coming years in tech advancements, that’s probably not surprising.
Digital knowledge goes beyond being able to Zoom once a week with your team. It is a complete rethink of how the organization works, and project teams are in a perfect place to be able to influence effectively to make the most of new technologies.
Consider how artificial intelligence and robotic process automation could speed up how the PMO works. Think about how advanced data dashboards could streamline the communication of project information to stakeholders, empowering leaders to make better decisions.
However, digital tools are only as good as the people behind them. You can invest in the best project management tools in the world, with enterprise-grade infrastructure and all the extras, but unless your team know how to make the most of them, that investment will not deliver the expected results.
Finding people with the right mix of skills can be a challenge, so consider using a trusted partner for project team staff augmentation when the time is right for you to add new people to your organization.
With the right project management skills, project teams can improve the consistency of delivery and add more value to the organization. What are you going to do to ensure your teams have the right mix of skills this year?