Guest view: The paradox of the IT project manager

Raed S. Haddad, Asia Pacific Managing Director, ESI International

Over the past few years, the pace of technological change has accelerated considerably with organisations turning to new innovations. At such a juncture, it is paramount that IT leaders think strategically on how to manage their workforce to ensure they are well-equipped to adapt, respond and deliver as per the emerging IT trends. While keeping up with these latest trends, equipping project managers with a wider range of skills and engaging an effective succession strategy will be even more crucial.

These fast-changing dynamics have created a paradigm shift in IT talent management. IT professionals now need the required competencies to deliver the goods, address business impact of evolving technologies, and align technology strategy with business objectives.

Increasingly, leadership and communication skills are viewed as critical competencies for influencing management, managing relationships, and championing technology as a business enabler across the organisation. Gone are the days where CIOs and their teams were only needed to deliver technology and manage information.

Change agents
Project management, a vital discipline involving almost every IT professional, is in a constant state of flux due to the very nature of rapidly changing technology trends. IT projects are getting more and more complex as data gets increasingly colossal and when different technology platforms converge.

Currently, project managers no longer work in their own silos within the IT department. They have to collaborate closely with other business functions such as HR, financial and legal to implement organisational changes and meet common business goals.

Besides technical skills, IT project managers today are expected to manage change and be adept at communication and negotiation in order to acquire internal buy-in and ensure that any implemented system or solution works seamlessly and delivers value across the organisation.

According to ESI's Asia Pacific Project Management Salary Survey 2014, project leadership and communication and general management skills, were the top two competencies ranked by respondents as critical to career advancement in the IT industry. Similarly, hiring managers across the region also looked for the same skillsets when recruiting project management professionals.

Staffing challenges faced by organisations today are best addressed by developing talent internally rather than hiring from the outside, according to an ESI study, from both a sustainability and economic point of view.

Thus, an effective talent retention and succession programme can enable an IT organisation to leverage employees' institutional knowledge and experience to best achieve business objectives within the confines of the existing environment.

In the highly competitive and volatile IT sector, CIOs and IT directors are having a hard time retaining talent. Under such circumstances, investing in ongoing training and development for employees can contribute significantly to talent retention in the long run.

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