Not a project manager? No problem. With the tips below, any IT expert can manage a project.
There are many reasons why technical IT experts dislike management.
They earned their stripes by mastering a technical discipline. Technical experts also tend to exist in their own technology universes. In these realms, problems are solved with logic and perseverance. Not so in the unpredictable realm of project management, where managing humans is anything but logical.
SEE: Vendor relationship management checklist (Tech Pro Research)
However, sometimes a technical expert is called upon to manage a project such as when a project is highly technical or when the IT team is short-handed.
What do you do if you find yourself in this position? Check out the five recommendations below.
1. Be open minded
Your gut impulse may be to turn the assignment down—but hold on. Chances are, your boss already knows that you prefer not to manage—nor is the expectation to be the quintessential project manager. Most likely, the project you're asked to lead is highly technical and of relatively short duration. Unless you absolutely feel like you can't take on a short-term project management role, give it a shot.
2. Focus on technical execution
Whether you're working for yourself or managing the work of others, your project will be technical in nature, which provides ample opportunity to do what you've always done well—focus on technical tasks and complete them. By focusing on tasks and guiding others on your team to do the same, you stay focused on the technical aspects in your project management role. This technical orientation should help you as you oversee the tasks of others.
3. Don't micromanage
One pitfall of being a task-oriented technical expert is the temptation to step in and complete project tasks yourself. As long as your subordinate team member is successfully completing a task, resist the temptation to take over. If you don't give others an opportunity to learn and use their minds, you'll stifle their creativity and defeat their morale.
SEE: How to build a successful project manager career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
4. Explore the mentor role
Less experienced IT staffers may admire the technical gurus on their staff. In some cases, they may be intimidated to approach these experts. This situation provides an opportunity to mentor others in their areas of expertise. If this fits your career and personal aims managing a small technical project is the perfect venue for it.
When I was an applications programmer, it was a common practice that someone in the systems or database area changed a subroutine, placed it back into production and never told anyone. Sometimes the results for an app were unexpected. However, in a project management setting, lack of communication is not an option. The project manager must communicate to others within and outside the project about its progress and issues. Communication is a challenge for many technicians, but they must master it if they step into a project management role.
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