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  • #2292695

    Should PMs have an IT background?


    by maryweilage ·

    This week’s Project Management newsletter explores the debate about whether project managers should have an IT background.

    Do you think IT skills are necessary to successfully lead IT projects? What has been the experience in your organization?

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    • #3326426

      Not necessary

      by dafe2 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      They’re project managers. As long as they get the answers from the IT group….then an IT backround isn’t needed.

      • #3327166

        It’s not absolutely necessary – but good luck if you don’t

        by mortarman ·

        In reply to Not necessary

        I’ve been on both sides of the fence – a network admin, and now a SW development PM for both an enterprise data warehouse (is there any other kind?) and a bunch of analysis applications that are tied to the warehouse.

        While it’s not an *absolute* requirement to have an I/T background, good luck to you if you don’t. When change occurs, if you don’t understand what it means, and what the real impact may be, you can be taken for a ride and will end up looking like a chump.

        Additionally, as a collective, I/T people already have a superiority complex and if you are clueless about the project from a 30K foot view (which is all you’ll have without the I/T background), you’ll get no respect from the team.

      • #3327135

        Project success increases with relevant IT experience

        by joper ·

        In reply to Not necessary

        An anology might help: Would you want your house built by some one with no construction experience? Of course you wouldn’t. Project stakeholders are taking big risks putting someone in charge of an IT project with out having some prior experience in the IT undertaking. Projects fail in alot of instances when there isn’t sufficient domain knowledge of the project manager.

        • #3327117

          Same analogy – different business

          by jdmercha ·

          In reply to Project success increases with relevant IT experience

          So when you drop off your car for repairs, you leave it with the mechanic, not the service manager?

        • #3323263

          Reply To: Should PMs have an IT background?

          by tin man ·

          In reply to Same analogy – different business

          How many service managers weren’t mechanics before?

          I worked with PMs that didn’t have any IT or technical aptitude and all they were were data entry clerks for MS Project. You could tell them anything and in it went into MS Project.

          I used to believe that the best project managers should rely on the team for hands-on and focus on managing the project and not be tempted to jump into the weeds just because they can do it too. But I have since tempered that belief. They need to know enough to gauge whether something makes sense or not. Otherwise, they will be taken for a ride.

        • #3324457


          by jdmercha ·

          In reply to Reply To: Should PMs have an IT background?

          I used to work at a car dealership. Most service managers that I am aware of were never mechanics.

        • #3343471

          Not the same anology

          by joper ·

          In reply to Same analogy – different business

          If I ask the service manager a question that he or she should know about the repair and the answer isn’t satisfactory, you can be assured that my car doesn’t go back to that shop. Repeat business is the name of the game and to get repeated business you need to be competent in the area you represent. Boy, do I know a good mechanic for you.

        • #3341800

          Not so

          by dafe2 ·

          In reply to Not the same anology

          I would expect the service manager to refer me to his/her mechanic if they didn’t know the answer…………..he/she does not (necessarily) need to know anything more than how to run the shop.

        • #3326944


          by dafe2 ·

          In reply to Project success increases with relevant IT experience

          Building a server room requires many disciplines so a PM should only require a 30K view. Would you expect him/her to have anymore knowledge?

          To clarify……..IMO a good PM only needs to demonstrate good leadership and know where to get the answers he/she needs to successfully execute a project.

        • #3324456

          The key to almost any leadership role

          by jdmercha ·

          In reply to PM=Leader

          “know where to get the answers”

      • #3328503

        A lot of people

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Not necessary

        seem to be assuming that an IT project is one where IT is the end product. As opposed to one of the tools used to achieve something else.

        • #3328494


          by dafe2 ·

          In reply to A lot of people

          The word prima donna was used here somewhere……….or was it ‘superiority complex’??

          IT has to get over itself..LOL

        • #3328488

          Oh no

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Yup…….

          I agree with them, when I put an order processing system in the most important part is the software, that’s why I don’t let any of them nasty sales types use it.

        • #3328461

          mmmm So do I (to a degree)

          by dafe2 ·

          In reply to Oh no

          A PM does not need an IT background…..he/she needs backround or knowledge of the end product…that’s all I (meant to) articulate.

          An SAP module roll-out in materials management would require a PM with MM skills (not) necessarily SAP programming knowledge. Does that not make sense?

        • #3328453

          Definitely, the

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to mmmm So do I (to a degree)

          object of the project is manage the materials for the business, not design / rollout management materials software. If things have gone according to plan, both objectives are met, if one of them is n’t the business suffers.

          I’m still trying to think of a wholly IT project, and I can’t because any IT in business is a business project with IT in it. Even if you went for something like a re-tool personel or kit, there was a business reason for doing it, hopefully.

        • #3338225

          Excellent point

          by hubert1497 ·

          In reply to A lot of people

          Not every problem requires an automated solution. I am currently dealing with a situation where the data is there, but the problem is in how the data is being used (or rather NOT used).

          Sometimes the solution isn’t a new program or system, but a change in infrastructure.

    • #3326419

      Ideal world versus Reality

      by jamesrl ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      In an ideal world, a Project Manager without IT skills should be able to lead projects.

      But I would suggest I’ve never seen it happen.

      I don’t think you need to have been a programmer or a sys admin. But you have to have had some exposure to such things as the software development lifecycle(if its a software project) or had some experience with datacentres if its a a datacentre project. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert, but some background is helpful.

      As a project manager you have to be able to assess the inputs you are getting from users, subject matter experts and stakeholders. Pretty difficult to do if you don’t have a passing acquaintence with the subject at hand.


      • #3327113

        Different approach

        by jdmercha ·

        In reply to Ideal world versus Reality

        I agree with your details but not your premise.

        In an ideal world a IT PM has all the IT skills as well as the PM skills.

    • #3326406


      by dc_guy ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I have NEVER bought into the shopworn argument that a good manager can manage anything. If life were that simple we probably wouldn’t need managers at all.

      An IT project manager does not need to have been the world’s best software engineer. In fact, those people have generally spent their lives developing other skills and often don’t have the social skills and the intuition to be good managers. But it’s extremely helpful to have developed some software, to have gathered some requirements and to have inspected some, to have done some testing and troubleshooting, to have dealt with unhappy, untrained, or ornery end users, and in general to know what life is like for the software engineers that the project manager will be managing.

      My experience has shown that like any absolute statement, this one is not 100% correct. Sure, I’ve encountered a couple of people with no IT background who became really good PMs. But I’ve met a lot more who were utterly incompetent, loathed by their team members, and a complete liability to the organization.

      • #3326399

        Zero to sixty

        by jamesrl ·

        In reply to Yes.

        I tend to agree. I have seen some nuclear engineers who became good IT PMs. But they didn’t try to run before they could walk. They all spent some time as an analyst, or contributor to software projects, before they tried to run a project on their own. They learned by doing.

        Some of the gotchas of software projects. In an engineering project, the requirements are often well documented. When a construction company bids on a project, they get a detailled list. In software projects, you tend to get fuzzy high level requirements and have to extract out the detail.

        We could talk about the reverse, does anyone wanna drive over a bridge built by a first time project manager whose only previous experience was on IT projects?


      • #3326367

        I second (or third) DC_Guy

        by tomsal ·

        In reply to Yes.

        I believe, while not completely REQUIRED, yes on average from folks I know personally, at my place and other shops…it does help when IT project managers have past IT experience.

      • #3326863

        Bad experience

        by c.grey3 ·

        In reply to Yes.

        You have met a couple of PMs who were really good. Great. You have met a lot more who were utterly imcompetent….

        Surely these totally incompetents would be totally incompetent whether they had IT skills or not? Therefore what you are saying is that you agree that a GOOD PM doesn’t need to have an IT background and you just wish that all the PMs you have met were GOOD?


        • #3327107

          Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly

          by dc_guy ·

          In reply to Bad experience

          The vast majority of the IT project managers I’ve worked with have been competent. Some have been outstanding, some have needed a little TLC, but in general they were able to dispatch their job duties satisfactoritly.

          I was talking specifically about IT PMs with no IT background. One attorney managed to catch on quickly and did a really good job. Of course he had also had a variety of other careers so his diverse background was a help. A couple of other people managed to go through the rites of passage all right; the key seemed to be an abiding sense of humility and not being afraid to look stupid and ask questions. But for the most part the not-IT people who took IT PM roles didn’t approach it correctly and could not make up for their lack of expertise in time to bring the project in successfully.

      • #3326839

        A very big ‘of course !!!’

        by alex.v ·

        In reply to Yes.

        A project manager without an IT background will not be able to evaluate the feasability of solutions in the required timeframe. As a project manager is the interface between the business community and the design/development teams he/she will have to reconcile the business functional requirements and deadlines with the real world technical constraints that his team will be facing. He/she has to understand whether a solution is difficult to implement and suggest changes. Conversely he/she has to be able to distinguish between legitimate requests for more time/development resources and lame excuses. Also, how can a project manager resource the team if he can’t tell between good and goof ?

        A non-technical project manager is heavily dependent on the qualifications and honesty of the people who report to him. I am an Oracle consultant and I have seen many underqualified PMs who led projects off rails because they could not tell whether the solutions were feasible (falling for the ‘this tool will write the whole thing for us’ syndrome for instance).

        • #3326769

          Not sure that’s valid

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to A very big ‘of course !!!’

          On any multi-discplinary project, one of his ‘experts’ could lead him down the garden path. Seeing as there’s no way he could have the technical expertise to catch us all out, he has to rely on experience, intuition, documentation and espionage to do so.

        • #3324480

          Project Leader or Project Manager?

          by arrowivdriver ·

          In reply to A very big ‘of course !!!’

          I agree with your concerns regarding the role that project team
          leaders fulfill. In small projects, the PM and PL roles may
          necessarily be combined in which case the leader must have
          technical expertise – at least enough to avoid being “snowed” by
          the technical team.

          However, in larger projects, it is often impossible for the project
          manager to have expert knowledge of all the technical
          components involved. If you’ve got a mainframe systems
          integration project that utilizes DB2 interfaced to an Oracle-
          based distributed data collection component, with real time
          communications to specialized radio-linked embedded data
          collection processors in a manufacturing environment that use
          PLC processors, and a high degree of electrical engineering
          knowledge is needed to understand the signal processing
          algorithms being used to filter the data coming from the process
          sensors – the PM is unlikely to be able to serve as the technical
          leader in all those areas.

          Formal, structured project management practices must be
          employed. Subject matter experts, solid technical team leaders,
          and key stakeholders must be identified, recruited, inspired, and
          orchestrated in order to produce a good project result. Thinking
          that the PM will lead it all personally is unrealistic.

          Moreover, asking the PM to lead the project as a technical team
          leader on multiple simultaneously working technical teams is
          organizationally flawed. It is a setup for failure. The PM must
          be an accomplished project manager first – focusing on project
          issues – not technical issues. The PM must use technical leaders
          to manage the technical issues.

      • #3327165

        Nice and simple, good statement

        by bcgreaves ·

        In reply to Yes.

        I don’t need to add anything else, I believe you’re absolutely correct.

      • #3324491

        Don’t confuse project team leader with project manager

        by arrowivdriver ·

        In reply to Yes.

        In these debates, the most common observation I’ve made
        repeatedly is that people confuse the role of the team leader
        with the role of a project manager. The project team leader
        absolutely MUST have an excellent grasp of the technology and
        the technical processes and trade-offs. The project manager
        must have an excellent grasp of project management skills –
        including the ability to identify and recruit appropriate subject
        matter experts to serve as project leaders.

        In smaller projects, the project leader and the project manager
        may have to be the same person. I understand the economic
        pressures that cause that. However, more often than not, I’ve
        seen people in that combined role become conflicted in terms of
        priorities and goals regarding their personal tasks. More often
        than not, the technical demands supercede the project
        management demands and the project falters as a result.

        Finally, I too have seen more project manager lacking technical
        backgrounds run into trouble on technical projects than those
        who are successful. This has almost always, however, been due
        to weak project management proficiency rather than lack of
        technical knowledge.

      • #3322750

        Not sure it could be any other way

        by davidpmartin ·

        In reply to Yes.

        In today’s post-manufacturing, information-driven capitalistic world, information is THE key to gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Given this very credible assumption, I do not understand how any corporation that really is serious about establishing the information competitive advantage would even consider a Project Manager for IT with a non-IT background. I know there is almost a built-in bias against PMs with a extensive IT background, because the prejudice against ‘techies’ not having good people skills, but the non-IT PM simply cannot call BS against suggested solutions that are too ‘leading-edge’, expensive, non-reliable, etc. They simply do not have the background. This puts the corporation behind the ‘power-curve’ on putting together a sucessful IT project even before they get started.

        I think if you look at the PMs of all of the world class companies (Daimler-Chrysler, Walmart, FedEx, etc) and you would find IT PMs that had extensive IT backgrounds as well as good people skills. Granted it’s a mix that is hard to find, but I think it is an absolute neccessity that an IT PM has extensive grounding in a wide variety of IT disciplines.

      • #3324939

        Shopworn arguments

        by ken9 ·

        In reply to Yes.

        A lot of the shopworn argument about a “good manager can manage anything” is based on the management doctrine of managing up and down. In short it relies on their team to educate them on the specifics of every decision they need to make.

        Unfortunately as observed in another thread IT people have a superiority complex and will not take kindly to having to educate a manager sufficiently to make the correct decision every time (especially as most managers get paid more than their team members). And there are so many ways in IT you can make someone look like a fool if they don’t know enough to check what they are told.

      • #3341615

        My experiences

        by thaifoo ·

        In reply to Yes.

        In my experiences as a project team member, having a PM without IT experience was a vast waste of time. We ended up taking over the management portion when it become apparent that a few only gather meeting notes. There was no leadership to apply when they couldn’t see certain technical being held up for whatever reason.

        To be fair, some PM’s without an IT background can manage projects effectively. But that only comes from the most effective of leaders, not from a book or course you take.

        I have 11 years in IT. I’m currently working as a PM and even I have a hard time.

      • #3338211

        The key to management…

        by hubert1497 ·

        In reply to Yes.

        Is the ability to get things done through others (sounds like something right out of a textbook).

        I agree with DC Guy (and Alex.V). I can lead a team of IT professionals, but couldn’t begin to manage a team of Vascular Surgeons or even Bricklayers for that matter. I don’t have a clue as to what problems they face or how to anticipate their needs. It’s ludicrous to believe someone can manage (or lead) a project using a technology they don’t understand, and I think the people who regurgitate the “A good manager can manage anything” mantra are doing it in books or in front of a classroom because they can’t hack it in the real world, and saying it makes them feel better about themselves.

        As for ArrowIVDriver, I don’t think anyone is talking about “Technical” Leads here. Once you make the decision to head towards Project Management/Leadership, then your career path is Management, not Technical. It’s no longer imperative that you fully comprehend every aspect of the technical details of the system. I have worked on projects where productivity was stunted while we “dumbed down” to the level of the PM’s ability to understand the system. You rely on the guru’s to perform whatever magic it takes to accomplish the task, but it’s critical to have at least SOME actual experience in the field. As DC Guy said, you’ll get more respect from the team, and you won’t fall for “Oh, I spent an hour changing spark plugs on that diesel engine”.

    • #3326316

      Depends on the project

      by tony hopkinson ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Profound that.

      Guess it depends on your definition of an IT project.

      You should only get to be the PM of a project if you have experience in the goal of the project.

      If it’s to put new sales order processing system in, an IT professional with experience designing/implementing those systems would be a reasonable choice, but a sales professional with experience of using them would be far better one in my experience anyway.

      If you are the PM in charge of producing such a piece of software then yes you should have as a minimum experience of managing similar projects.

      I don’t see how at least in business you can be an experienced PM without some knowledge of IT issues, but unless it’s an IT business, I don’t think you need a technical background to manage the project.

      Even if you did have a technical background it might end up being irrelevant. My background would be of no use at all if the project was implementing a corporate network. I’d be posting questions on here trying to understand what the technical guys were saying.

      If it was choosing the technology to do so, I’d now have enough experience to resign and quick.

      • #3326305

        Yeah that was very deep………….

        by dafe2 ·

        In reply to Depends on the project

        LOL Your right though. One of the other posts mentioned coders, so an IT background would help the PM understand issues but he/she is still a PM.

        But from operations, I could care less if the PMO or PM knows squat about IT. That’s my job. I DO expect him/her to know they’re stuff and help us (or whomever) deliver the end product on time & on budget.

        For example, re- designing (or) building a Server Room involves many Trades – HVAC, Fire Supression, Building Services & on it goes. You could reasonably argue that the PM needs a background in every one of those…

        I know, on time & on budget was a bit much. Hey one can dream right? LOL

        • #3326257

          Sometimes it can be a hindrance

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Yeah that was very deep………….

          I had one PM who had a lot of experience in my field but who differed in how to implement the business logic in a client server DB design. He spent so long concentrating on me and second guessing my approach, when I finished we found he’d forgot to get the live environment sorted out.
          Used up nearly all the slack I’d sensibly put in arguing with him too. I’d had plans for that due to a previous miscalculation on my part.

          If someone came to you reeking of desperation and mentioning things like quicker the better, you wouldn’t take advantage of his circumstances would you ?

      • #3326834

        I would not do a corporate network

        by alex.v ·

        In reply to Depends on the project

        I would not lead a corporate network project, unless I made my managers aware of my lack of expertise the said field. It would be dishonest to do otherwise.

        • #3326780

          I commend you on your honesty

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to I would not do a corporate network

          and would commend myself in similar situations, but I’ve seen more than a few people who seem to lie to themselves and/or to others as though they were making a career out of it.

      • #3326754

        Team commitment must exist

        by chrismarshall ·

        In reply to Depends on the project

        In these days of corporate takeovers and outsourcing I have come across several projects where there are project team members who have their own agenda. They may have either an active or passive resistance to the success of the project, and are quite willing to support directions that they know will result in varying degrees of the projects failure, or at least major time and cost overruns.
        If the project manager does not at least have a good understanding of the business and technical scope he/she should make sure that the team members are fully committed to its success.

        • #3328414

          In the bad old days

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Team commitment must exist

          before business speak arrived in IT. There used to be some unbelievable things going on. I was too far down the food chain to reap the rewards but I watched senior people manipulating projects all over the place for personal rewards. You definitely had to keep the IT manager sweet in them days.

          How do you get a team member commmitted to being outsourced. No one’s had any success with me on that front and it’s happened to me three times and but for a good bit of dodging on my part could have been four.

    • #3326298

      Reply To: Should PMs have an IT background?

      by choppit ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      An IT background is not as important in project management as the ability to recognise and use the strengths within the team. Obviously an IT background helps with credibility at the outset but this will soon be forgotten if leadership skills are lacking.

    • #3326227

      Yes, But not all techs…

      by house ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      …would make good PMs.

      It is very important that the individual has a technical background, as it will induce positive decisions and informed ideas. I think that it is vital for a PM to be involved in the project at the same level as his/her associates.

      The main issue with an IT based PM, is that the individual needs to take a step back in order to view the project as a whole, and where it fits in with the corporate strategy and direction, financially, functionally, and otherwise. I know very few techs who I would nominate to the position, as they are more connected with computing related issues, than they are with management and business sense, but the right people would be a more valuable asset for sure. I’ve seen senior IT executives make or break the flow based almost exclusively on their backgrounds in the field.

      Yes, for IT based PMs – that is not to say a non-tech couldn’t do a good job.


    • #3326899

      It is “pro” to have IT background

      by siggih ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      1) The PM needs to understand what should be done.
      2) Usually PM with tech background gets more respect from techs in the project.

      A good PM knows this, and either learns or relies on technical expertise.

      A medium/bad PM might not realize this.

      So IT experience is a “pro”, but if the PM is a good one, then it is probably not neccessary.

      Choosing between a good PM without IT exp. and a medium one with IT exp. I would choose the good one 5 times out of 6. In “heavy technical” projects this would have to be reconsidered.

      just my 2c

      • #3326875

        I’m with you

        by tzekov ·

        In reply to It is “pro” to have IT background

        I see the things exactly the same way. It’s better to have a good PM without IT background then a mediocre one with a big IT experience.

        A good PM will find the most appropriate way to obtain the missing tech knowledge – either learning him or finding a good subject matter expert or some other way.

        For me the question “Does PM needs IT background or not?” is not so important. For me the question is “Is he a good one or not?”.

        For me, using IT experts as PM should not be an option at all when we are talking about projects that will require effort more than 50 man-days. If some IT expert has abilities to be PM, then he needs to decide – to make the transition to PM or not. For me it’s not possible to be a PM and a project leader of a project in the same time. There is a conflict of interests in these two roles and nobody so perfect to seat in two chairs without falling down.

    • #3326862

      Horses for Courses

      by c.grey3 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      There is a simple way of looking at this. If you want someone to manage a project (properly) you hire a project manager. In your job description you should extol all the virtues of project management that you require. If you want someone to be a C# programmer you hire someone to write code in C#. In your job description you should extol all the virtues of software development using C#. If you want a C# programmer you don’t go out and hire a chartered surveyor. So if you want a project manager you shouldn’t go out and hire a C# developer. The only reason this confusion arises is because often organisations actually want their project manager to also act as the development manager (and other disciplines too).


      • #3326805

        Vanilla PM

        by meesha ·

        In reply to Horses for Courses

        Quote, The only reason this confusion arises is because often organizations actually want their project manager to also act as the development manager (and other disciplines too)… unquote. I believe this is the germ of the actual issue at hand. Whether a PM must have a IT tech background or not cannot be satisfied with a simple yes or no. Projects, whether small, medium or long in duration, demand accountability and firm direction. The complexities of projects are mirrored in the corporate culture – if there’s bad leadership at the top, there’s very little doubt that however well “tooled” the PM is, the project’s low success rates can be predicted. Business processes, business knowledge, IT knowledge all contribute to a higher success factor.

        As one post previously mentioned, would you take your car out on a bridge that was project led by an IT person? Would you continue doing your Internet banking if all the Bank’s team members – including the PMs – had no Internet, security or bank fund experience? A home builder can job cost a new home project fairly accurately leaving room for uncontrollable events – he is often the PM who works with various contractors that act as project leaders. This is the same of IT projects. A PM must know how to cost the project, communicate the project deliverables/timelines, defend the funding, allocate all the resources, monitor to completion, etc. If the PM had no clue as to how long it would take or how many people would be needed for the integration of the corporate legacy systems for Web Services for example, how could the PM possibly be successful? An IT project leader in the mean time acts as a second to the PM but their primary focus will be on the “technical” issues – whether that be requirements gathering or redeploying some of the resources to quality control, etc.

        So, does the PM need to have an technical background to structure and deliver an IT project? I firmly believe the proposed project itself will dictate the degree of technical background required by the PM and other team members. I’m in IT with 20 years of IT experience, I do project management and I’ve been quite successful all this time because of my background. Would I PM on a bridge building project – not a chance and you wouldn’t want me for that!

    • #3326861

      Reply To: Should PMs have an IT background?

      by wnyakudya ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I do not think project manager’s should have an IT background. Currently, I am a victim of a PM with IT background who has sacrificed all other areas, surprisingly including communications with the users/client.

      I feel PMs should understand the environment and be better placed to sell ice to the Eskimoos.

    • #3326820

      General agreement

      by miles.felton ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I have seen projects managed by non-technical and by technical project managers. More by technical. I think some technical experience is needed to predict user experiences, but not necessarily programming. Ability as communicator and administrator is prime.
      I agree with your classifications of Proj Man and Proj Ldr. I am often amazed by people in the S/W business who think that a team leader is a Project Manager, especially if their job title is Team or Project Leader. In some places simple Account Managers are called Project Managers too. It’s probably lack of training and experience in managed project environments and is typical of SMEs. The big companies (especially utilities) in England always seem to do it more or less properly.

    • #3326818

      You better believe it

      by james schroer ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      How is a PM going to know how long things are going to take to implement if they don’t have any background? They would have no idea what could and what will go wrong in a project if they don’t have a background in that area. You could be talking about replacing a hard drive and the PM sees it as just taking a piece out and putting a piece back in if they don’t understand. When in fact that would be the first step while the next steps would include istalling an OS, then all the drivers, and then move all the users data back to the drive.

      So to make a long story short yes the PM needs some background and understanding of the IT field he/she will be managing.

    • #3326812

      Mix of both is helpful

      by nsadowski ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I’m a PM who manages infrastructure projects. I have found that being able to combine project managment skills with an understanding of the technical environments makes for a much better project. Plans are more comprehensive and issue resolution is much quicker. Based on experience, PMs who are thrown into the technical arena offen cause negative impacts on their projects just because of their own lack of understanding.

      • #3323089

        Mix of both is helpful

        by tin man ·

        In reply to Mix of both is helpful

        I agree.

        I think many people are assuming we are talking about IT projects here since this is a technology site. But I would expect some level of domain (IT or other) knowledge would improve the chances of success over not having any. I would be wary of hiring a project manager for a large construction project without some knowledge of construction.

        One approach I have successfully used in the past is to have a technical PM reporting to the business PM for technical projects. The business PM feeds MS Project, manages budgets/major milestones, prepares reports and shmoozes management. The technical PM manages the technical process & resources. More expensive but you can’t always find both skillsets in one person. People gravitate and focus on what they are good at and al activities. Cheaper than a failed project.

    • #3327222

      Not necessarily

      by benjaminraja ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I think little bit of IT background would help, but sure don’t have to be great techies.

    • #3327213

      but what is an “IT Project” ??

      by cb0503 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      As an IT Manager, and Project Manager, my own experience is that a lot of “my” projects were not “pure” IT, but where in fact business process projects enabled and/or supported by technology.

      So does that mean the PM needs to be a process expert ?

      The company I worked for assessed competencies at different levels. e.g. you may be required to only have a ‘Basic Awareness’, or a “Working Knowledge”, or be “Fully Operational”, or be an Expert (e.g. at Industry/Region/World level and be the person setting the standards).

      I think a PM needs (at least) a Basic Awareness of the area of IT/business s/he is dealing with. This not only helps with credibility, respect, language and communication and so on, but also saves time in understanding.

      But thats just my humble opinion 😉

      • #3327158

        And in my

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to but what is an “IT Project” ??

        not so humble opinion agree with you.
        A PM’s backgound experience should be in the goal of the project, not in one of the discipline’s used to achieve it.

    • #3327191


      by goldenboat ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      PM training is a skill needed for all project managers, individual projects first, then small group, before bigger projects. Heavy duty supervisor, and management training is needed for the next levels of getting work done through people –

      Just saw a several-million-dollar high-end sales training project driven into the ground by someone coming out of IT support, who had completed the PMI course, but who knew nothing about Training and development, sales training or sales people, people management, event coordination. All big talk and fancy spreadsheets, but chaos.

    • #3327189


      by thinkaloud ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      The key point in this discussion is ‘lead’ and ‘IT

      A person can come in without any experience in the IT
      industry and still be a good leader. However, underlying
      this is the person must start from the basic first and
      understand how development take place.

      In essence, that is gaining experience. Without the
      experience of starting from the basic, there will be a gap
      between understanding the team’s needs.

      Imagine if you are the PM, and you have to ask the team’s
      opinion for every question that the user or client posed. But
      someone, who have gone through the stages would be able
      to gage the potential impact of fulfilling certain decisions
      with the support and confirmation from the team.

      This helps builds trust and respect within the team.
      Leadership is about understanding situation and impact of
      decisions. It is also about communicating effectively.

      • #3328437

        SuperPM ?

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Yes

        So this guy is a PM, a business analyst and a software engineer. ?

        Leadership is not just about communication and decision making, it’s being about being someone your team want to follow. Personally I wouldn’t follow a leader who thought it was his job to tell me what to do and mine to agree.

        That would be a big row, and me exiting forthwith to go work for someone who had some trust and respect for ME.

        Would you want to work for a person like you describe ?

    • #3327163

      Managing vs. leading

      by gna1 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Project Managers should manage a project.
      Project leaders should lead a project
      (development) team.
      Project managers require negotiation,
      management, coordination, risk
      management,planning skills (this is a
      non-exhaustive list of the skills).
      They also need to have a broad view of the
      technical financial, ergonomic and business
      aspects of the project.
      Leaders must have a deep technical know how of
      their part of the project and the ability to get
      their part of the project done on schedule.
      A project leader could manage a small project if
      he can kep his nose out of each sentence of
      I saw a beautiful example of the this in a NASA
      web site a few years ago.
      Two pictures:
      A doctor putting a Band Aid on his finger –
      small project.
      A doctor performing an Appendectomy on

    • #3327156

      Not either/or any longer

      by pgerard ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      As a professor who teaches PM on the baccalaureate level, I can tell you that this is not an either/or situation any longer. Many universities have developed programs that give candidates enough technical courses to understand the basics of IT plus courses in management and communication. More and more young people are coming into the work force with a combination of training.

    • #3327139

      New Corp PM – Says No.

      by grocery_guy ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I have recently started with a new company as a Corporate Project Manger. It is a new position within the company and I report the VP in charge if I/T and Strategic Planning.
      I have over 20 years of experience within the Industry, with different companies and in different roles. I have no formal I/T background but having spent enough time in the business and having to embrace and grow along with all of the technological advances, I have learned enough about “I/T” to be dangerous.

      Talk about OJT, day one we began three corporate initiatives involving disaster recovery, a new billing system and a customer contact repository. This was in an attempt to move away from mainframe technology into the oracle world. Our industry is a simple one, made more difficult by the other complexity of the systems we have developed. In the very short time it has become apparent that left up to the I/T department these projects would have become very complex and complicated. Luckily we have been able to avoid that. During the early stages of these initiatives the C.I.O. gave me a very good complement by saying ?he was thankful that I was leading these projects in that we remained focused, grounded and as he put it because we used the K.I.S.S. theory we were able to accomplish all the business requirements upper management had placed upon us.?

      The experience is one that I?ve enjoyed greatly and look forward to more of the same in the future. Remember just because someone doesn?t have a formal technical background doesn?t mean that they don?t or can?t contribute and or manage highly technical projects. It?s all about the people doing the work and enjoying what they?re doing and achieving some sense of satisfaction upon completion of the project

      • #3326960

        You say no but I think you mean yes

        by j alley ·

        In reply to New Corp PM – Says No.

        Like you, I came to IT project management from outside of IT. For me it was from architecture and a varied business background. I served as business subject matter expert on an IT project and then moved into IT project management.

        In my opinion (and according to PMBOK) successful project management requires PM skills, management skills and subject area knowledge. While you were not an IT expert, you did have IT knowledge and more importantly you have business area knowledge – a criteria that has been overlooked in all but a few of these posts. Anyone working on a purely technical project would need at least a working knowledge of IT if it was a purely technical project. Anyone on a business project enabled by IT (as many projects are) would need knowledge of both IT AND the business function.

        So … you cannot lead an IT project with no knowledge of IT. You need a WORKING knowledge of IT (or be able to learn it), a working knowledge of the business area (or be able to learn it), and be able to apply PM skills and general management skills.

        Following my formula would eliminate all those bad PMs who were IT folk – they miss out on my criteria #3.

      • #3328490

        Which of these initiatives

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to New Corp PM – Says No.

        would you call an IT projects. They certainly all could have a large IT component, and a general background in IT would be a big help in managing them. In fact given the technical aspects usually involved in the three, I’d say it would have to be general anyway.

    • #3327037

      6 of one … half dozen of the other

      by dmarlin ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      If you have PM’s with little technical background you will need to assign part of one or two of your technical leads to the project to insure that the “technical” task blocks are accurately described, assigned and are on track to completion.
      If your technical leads don’t have any PM experiance or training you will find that many times the project “organization”, progress, and reporting will be less than optimal. Plan on having project leads study PM courses to get best effort.

    • #3327019

      PM’s should have Knowledge of the IT field

      by harvkim ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      When I read this article I agree for the most part, but I have seen first hand how PM’s make or break a project. I belive Pm’s should have a good working knowledge of IT especially when you have to have routers, switches, and cabling. Working for the Government I have seen how a non tech PM’s cost the Government money especially in the bidding war. Its cheaper to pay this non tech person who has to rely on so many project managers wasting time looking for answeres when the PM can make many decisions and move a project along saving time and money where some of the money can be redistibuted for better equipment. In so many words knowing more than basics as a PM might cost the company more in pay but the project will move more quickly and be completed with far better results and less down time for the customer.

    • #3327008

      IT should have PM background, too.

      by jlo63 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Most of the postings in this thread are correct because I think it is a question that depends upon alot of factors — and each reply speaks to its own set of circumstances.
      To answer with a different ‘spin’ I would say that most IT professionals should have at least a basic PM core capability. This will make them more proficient technical project leads on large scale projects where they will have better grasp of the big picture and their role in the overall project or program.
      In my position we are trying to educate our IT staff and help them understand the importance of proper project management techniques, but we are not trying to make them all PMPs. Now when we speak of WBS and Risk Planning we don’t get a lot of blank stares — they know what to expect.

      • #3328431

        You’d get one

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to IT should have PM background, too.

        from me on WBS, probably got a different TLA, for it over here.

        Planning a development or leading a team both require at least a subset of PM skills, but your point about the big picture is well taken, it can stop the guy at the bottom doing something disastrous through his own or anyone elses ignorance, and on top of that when they know their piece of it they’ll realise it’s important.

    • #3327006

      Skill Sets of Project Managers

      by ptorr ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I believe that a highly proficient and effective Project Manager should possess a wide variety of technical skills, knowledge and experiences.., basically a well rounded individual whom can put together a plan that no matter whether it is a Database Project or a Storage Upgrade Project.., they will have in place the personnel, equipment and the schedule of what will occurr, when and by whom so that the Customer Base will be completely unaffected by the activity taking place or atleast with minimum interruption of normal daily services. Also, insuring that appropriate departments and organizations are kept informed as to the progress/ status of the project(s)…

      This Project Manager would also definitely have superior People Skills which would enhance the Technical Skills…

      “A leader is a person whom has the ability to gain obedience, respect and loyalty in order to accomplish the mission/ tasks/ projects”….

      • #3328340

        Leadership is key ingredient

        by ttm135 ·

        In reply to Skill Sets of Project Managers

        As Scott hinted, getting the project to be cared about in the orgainization and by the particpants is the key. Leadership abilities of the Project Manager are key to this and many other success predictors. A project manager does not require IT expertise, but it requires that he be able to ‘order a cup of coffee’ or ‘ask for directions to the restroom’ in the LANGUAGE of the key technical resources and the intersted business-owner resources.
        Beyond enough knowledge to keep from being snowed, the Project Manager must be able to assemble a team, freely, and communicate with any interested or impacted business contact. Then the good project leader can take it from there. Inspiring others to gel into a team and care about the project and all others on the team, until they inspire a commitment to the project goals and the customer, is what makes a project happen. Only THEN, are the skills of scheduling people around project plan, defining requirements, status-reporting, etc. worth applying. A strong team creates a strong goal and achieves it, and makes everyone associated with the project LOOK GOOD. Any other perspective fails, regardless of the great business case for the objective in the first place.
        Hope I am making sense. Knowing how to exactly measure water purity and exact quantity needed to supply victims of a disaster HAS to come AFTER you have a team comitted to delivering relief, or you will never get the nice evaluation system on the ground where it is needed. -ttm135

    • #3328563

      IT PMs or PMs in IT…

      by happy dog ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Having a broad-based management experience, I took to managing IT professionals on IT projects fairly easily. But, it is an individual achievement process with a steep learning curve on various types of IT projects (from infrastructure to Portal to ERP selection/implementation). Appointing a technical IT professional as a “PM” without providing intense PM training or mentoring is a failed project in the making and very risky if it is on a external client project. A strong PM with excellent business savvy and superior people skills is a much better choice since the real emphasis is on the PM managing the process while the functional IT professionals “own” the technical activities set out by the Project Plan and Statement of Work.

    • #3328383

      Not necessary to have IT background requirement

      by golstar ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      My personal experience for a Sheriff’s Office Jail mangement software/hardware project was to have a consultant who had a management background. His philosophy which I agreed with was to make the software/hardware fit the management philosophy of the user. It worked very well. He did utilize a techy person with him but he was the dominant advocate of the projects direction. I worked as the project manager with his tutelage.

    • #3327829

      It depends

      by rwb1959 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      It really depends on the culture and the people involved. PM purists may say “If I have the right SME’s and technical resources I don’t need to know the details” and in many cases, this is true. However, the PM in this environment MUST be a facilitator and not a dictator. All too often, PM’s end up “telling” the technial experts how to and how long it should take them to do their work. If the PM becomes the coordinator/facilitator it has been my experience (over 20yrs) that these projects have the highest degree of success and quality. Now if the PM is a technical expert then they must avoid the “It only took me a week to do that when I was coding” mentality because ultimately, we are all “people” and not “resources” that are seamlessly interchangable.

    • #3327730

      Another Reality check

      by mail23 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I think PM’s in IT related areas must have a good IT background, even if somewhat broad, gathered through IT experience or just extensive PM experience. Just like a general contractor building a house must coordinate and be held responsible for all trades, for a PM to be effective, they must coordinate many different aspects and specialties within a project.

      Ideally all of the “trades” would be experts, self-sufficient, and could manage their time and budgets without error. But in real life those specialists are there to be just that – specialists in their own areas. And sometimes they are not that interested in being lead by a PM as well, regardless of that their management might say.

      So given what the PM must be able to deal with, and the many unknowns in a project, they can’t afford to not understand a good deal about what goes on in the different areas. While a PM could possibly succeed without specific knowledge, the likely hood is that a) they will take more time and wasted effort than the IT experienced PM, b) they are less likely to catch mistakes or “misjudgements” in the departments, and c) won’t know soon enough when things are not proceeding the way they should.

      Looking at this another way, if you were a manager supervising staffmembers in different departments, could you really know what was going on if you weren’t very familiar with the processes and issues unique to each area? (ps, I’m not saying there are not manageres like that out there, just that this is not an effective approach!)

      Just my 2 cents

      • #3327695

        Are you saying

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Another Reality check

        that a multi disciplinary project isn’t effective then ?
        Lets say building a new call centre.

        CRM software, big database, and of course the infrastructure.

        Lots of IT, so IT Project, find a Good PM who’s got in depth knowledge of all three disciplines involved. ?
        Not many I should think.

        Course there’s an entire building, to erect, interiors, services, the telephony set up would need someone just a bit good to get right. Staff …..

        Usefulness of IT skills to this project 25% max ?

        Course I’m not being entirely fair, something this big would probably have a PM for each discipline, and a PMPM managing them, you can have a lot of IT in a project, but it may not be the most important facet of it.

        On any multi-disciplinary project the PM is most unlikely to have skills in all the required areas, so why is IT singled out for special attention ?

    • #3327701

      It’s a huge help to be a PM who’ “one of the tribe”

      by windy city 2k ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I have a mixed background of server support and project management. In my career I have (and still do) take tickets as mundain as swapping a mouse out, to setting up server clusters, to small one off projects to programs where I once had 12 project managers on my team.

      I find that PMs who are techies at heart tend to have the advantage in several ways (as long as they don’t forget their roots):
      1. having been in the trenches gives them better ability to problem solve the inevedable “that can’t be done.” That is to know how to get around it and to know when to accept that “defeat.”
      2. They have much more realistic timelines, they know the effort it will require to complete a task.
      3. They listen better to SMEs.
      4. They are more likely to stick up for and look out for techies in sponsor meetings
      5. They know how to work well with techies since at heart, they are still “from the tribe”

    • #3328204

      Weighted PM skills criteria

      by tatarelli ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      My opinion on the criteria a PM requires in IT (systems developmnent/implementation projects) is as follows (very high level):

      Project Management skills 50%
      IT knowledge & skills 30%
      General Management skills 20%

      What do people think??

      • #3328120

        There is a massive overlap

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Weighted PM skills criteria

        between PM skills and general management skills. As a PM all of your management skills are applicable, how many of your IT ones are depends on the technology(ies) to be use in the project.

        Personally I believe if you choose a PM based on adressing a lack of IT skills in the team, then you have hampered your PM, because they have two jobs to do. On a large project that could easily be disastrous, smaller ones you will probably get away with it, simply becuase they require less management.

    • #3328155

      Project Manager Ned NOT have an IT Background

      by wp_doc_holiday ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I have managed projects and worked for other project managers. I believe that by being too deep in the technology limits the project managers thinking and blinds him/her to options outside of thier expertise. My perception is the more technical a project manager is the more he/she will revert to their roots especially when the going gets tough. They also have a tough time standing up to management when issues arise. A technology project manager should understand the people who understand technology more than the technology itself.

      • #3323145

        Let’s start a list

        by jdmercha ·

        In reply to Project Manager Ned NOT have an IT Background

        So then, technogeeks could not possibly be successful project managers. Geeks like:

        Henry Ford
        Thomas Edison
        George Westinghouse
        Bill Gates
        Steve Jobs
        Marc Andreesen
        Linus Torvolds

      • #3324573

        Reply To: Should PMs have an IT background?

        by awfernald ·

        In reply to Project Manager Ned NOT have an IT Background

        tough time standing up to management when issues arise? (assuming a technical issue, rather than a business issue)

        This is the time that being a techie is most helpful as then you can understand and explain to management what the issues are, what the the options are, the pros/cons of the options, and an intelligent recommendation.

        A project manager does not NEED to have a background in IT, however, the best PMs are the ones who are familiar with ALL aspects of the project being performed. That familiarity may be gained while doing the project or from past experience.

        However, a person who has previous experience will better be able to evaluate the various options, and make intelligent recommendations rather than simply parroting (even though they may understand, the student echos the teacher) the standard line of the people assisting on the project.

    • #3328095

      User IT Sophistication Is Key to Decision

      by judger48193 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      As an IT expert and project manager with significant large project exposure, I spent several years on an aggressive, enterprise, build project “debating” this with one very aggressive and limited-IT experience user. Other significant users watched or waded in at their convenience. If this user had succeeded I believe that other major users would have abandoned the project because they couldn’t be sure this area would represent them well. I won the debate in theory (debate did not help career much) and the project was very successful with a life of over 15 years.

      On a smaller, add-on project mainly in their area, this user won the PM debate. However, the user now had significant experience in the new project management methodology, the capabilities of the technology being used and the business and IT development team. In addition one of our most experienced and capable IT analysts was joined to the user PM’s hip and they too succeeded in implementing this smaller but sophisticated project.

      My conclusion is it depends on the user, their commitment of good people to the project, their fairness to other stakeholders, their willingness to listen to the IT expertise and advice, etc. You get the drift.

    • #3328062

      PMs need an IT background

      by bailkenn ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Although PMs need to be familiar with enterprise functions, without a solid background in program development methodologies like the Software Development Life Cycle steps, the translation of business needs into system specifications becomes more difficult. We all know the cost of system re-writes.

    • #3327389

      Project manager and IT background

      by bejoyjacob ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Hi Editor,

      One of the major issue with outsourcing, particularly deliverables with stringent time lines is the project manager’s capability of the execution, montioring & control and closing phase.

      I have seen many skilled tech leads being upgraded to Project Manager,due to the lack of competent resources to run the project.
      This is disaster, the integration prespective and more over the wholesome approach of how the project fits into the planned environment is necessary.
      A project manager cannot be replaced by an IT specialist or even what we call a technical PM.

      But it is always important that the PM understands technology and he has experience in implementing related technology in the industry.

      • #3327286

        You can’t be serious

        by jdmercha ·

        In reply to Project manager and IT background

        “A project manager cannot be replaced by an IT specialist or even what we call a technical PM.”

        I find this very insulting. Just because I’m an IT specialist means that I can’t possibly have any PM skills? I can’t understand “how the project fits into the planned environment”?

      • #3323186

        I’m confused now

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Project manager and IT background

        IT chap is promoted to PM due to lack of competent resource, but he’s incompetent to be a PM ?

        If the tech didn’t have the skills then the person who promoted him to the position was incompetent. If it was unknown, then they should have been thrown in the shallow end first so they could find their feet, again a sign of management incompetence.

        I shudder to think of what experiences gave you such an opinion, but I assure you it’s not a general problem in my experience.

        I don’t consider myself a good PM, but I can recognise one and many have come from a technical background including IT.

        One thing I have learnt if you choose a PM based on their technical skill, you will have far more problems than choosing one based on their experience.

    • #3323153

      Depends On What You Consider “IT Skills”.

      by prolifiq ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      If you’re referring only to hard skills, such as network administration, database coding, etc., then the answer is no. You don’t necessarily need those skills to successfully manage an IT project. That’s like asking if you “need” an MBA before you start a business.

      But if you’re talking about often overlooked “soft skills” – excellent communication abilities, getting along with others, problem-solving experience, positivity, and other factors that comprise one’s social intelligence – then yes, you will need those skills. Especially if you lack the hard skills.

    • #3324588

      Strictly speaking …

      by aardvarky ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      At its essence, project management is about managing resources and activities towards production of defined deliverables within a specified period of time. What the deliverables are, and what the environment is, should make no difference. Managing a project requires skills and abilities that are generic and applicable to any project.

      However … this is only true if we are free to take a purist approach to project management! In real life, project managers are often (usually?) expected to take on responsibilities that strictly should not be theirs.

      If business people (the project director, for example) abdicate some of their responsibilities, it is often the project manager who has to take up the slack in order to ensure project success (generally, this will go unrecognised). In which case, a knowledge of the business would be more than a little helpful. The same is true on the IT side of things.

      Project managers will tend to specialise in a particular business field, or on IT projects, or both. It is highly likely therefore, in the light of their deep and broad experience, that they will chose (consciously or otherwise), or be given, responsibilities beyond the pure project management role.

      Almost nothing is black and white in this life. Project management (and IT) almost always requires compromises between many (often opposing) factors.

      I find myself often answering questions with “it depends”, and this topic’s question gets the same answer from me. Whilst this can sometimes be an irritating answer, it does I think show an appreciation of the realities.

      If you are a purist project manager, you need know nothing about IT or the business. If you have responsibilities in either realm, then you will need to know about it, and may well fail if you do not.

      The purist situation is rare, so perhaps I am edging towards “yes, you must have domain knowledge”, but … it really just depends!

    • #3324575

      Yes, and It help

      by jktagus ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      IT project (and projects in other areas) has some similarities and differences. Things like resource allocation and project-issues resolution may have the same treatment for any project. But, each project has other differences in any other areas. PM ,by default, must understand the complexity of a project. Thus, for an IT project, PM must understand the complexity of it. IT background will surely help PM understand the scope and complexity, and he/she can manage the project better.

    • #3324569

      Not necessarily required

      by ierfaan ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I am an IT PM, with some IT background. It is essential for me to understand the Product being deployed, and the environment it is going to be deployed within, however, I do not think it is necessary for me to have a full scale IT background. I would say that one needs to have a good understanding of IT concepts, capabilities and shortfalls. My projects are successful with this knowledge. Having said that I DO rely on my teams for certain specific IT knowledge. It is not as simple as saying YES or NO to this question. As wiht everything I think we need to strike a good balance between IT and business knowledge. It is equally important to have good Risk Management skill/knowledge

    • #3324549

      Asking for trouble

      by 5 o’clock somewhere ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Project management in and of itself may only require having the right resources at the right places at the right times, but the key here is knowing whether or not the resources are actually “right” for the job. Only someone with a qualified IT background is capable of ensuring that the resources are suitable for the project at hand. Not having an indepth knowledge of your project’s subject matter is asking for trouble. If your project manager isn’t an IT professional, you’ll get what you asked for.

    • #3324548

      Sometimes yes … and somtimes no!

      by ahlbrsd1 ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Any project needs three critical elements, 1. A knowledgable sponsor, 2. A good Project Manager and 3. A savy System’s Engineer. The Sponsor needs to have knowledge of the end-use system and user base. The System Engineer needs to have relavent technical knowledge and experience. The Project Manager needs experience managing projects … and sometimes skills of the other two depending on their strength and depth of experience. Often the PM is actually filling one or both of these other two roles… so … sometimes technical experience is necessary and sometimes not. It really depends on the abilities of the project’s System Engineer.

    • #3324536

      No strictly necessary

      by blandinavian ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I agree that project managers do need to know in general what technologies are being employed, and the basics of each. But at no time in my years of project experience has it been necessary for me to be able to code, or have an extensive IT background. Nor has it been of great import to my fellow project managers (we all take on IT projects as well as business projects). People forget that a project manager is usually a manager, not necessarily the person doing all the coding, the person doing the business analysis, etc. Would any of us jump up and down screaming that a project manager for a business process improvement must be an expert in the business process? It is better to be a good manager and have a good pool of human resources than to have an excellent IT background.

    • #3324516

      local gov’t ex-user now PM perspective

      by govemp ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I do not believe IT skills are a requirement to successfully lead an IT project. That said, some IT knowledge would be beneficial; knowledge about the IT people assigned to the project and knowledge about who to ask outside the project if you feel you don’t have enough information to make a decision or ask the right questions would be key. IMO, the PM needs to understand more about the business needs being met than what hardware to buy. There will be people on the project that have the skills to make that determination. Those individuals need to be able to convey to the PM the necessity for hardware configuration A vs B and the risks, etc involved in the options.
      Someone said that a PM wouldn’t know how much time to assign a programmer for a given task. Probably true, the programmer should be able to come up with that piece. Hopefully, PMs are not deciding which direction to take a project without sufficient knowledge about the issues. I tend to ask the programmers on my project how long certain tasks would take. That is after the options for direction have been discussed by the technical people on the project, the best options are chosen, and the functional decision makers chose the option they prefer. Then we go back and flush out the detail tasks involved, time requirements, etc and go from there.

      In my organization, a local gov’t, all “IT” projects are led by IT PMs. I was an IT PM, converted from accounting, payroll, and payables management, that’s right a user became an IT PM. I am now a PM in ERP support that resides outside IT. Our group not reporting to IT is a direct result of IT decisions driving a project rather than the business needs driving the project.

    • #3324378


      by desmedle ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I believe I.T. Project Managers should have some kind of background in I.T. This does not mean they need an extensive background, but they need to be able to understand not only the needs of the clients but how to interact with the developers. They need to translate what the developers are saying into language the client understands.

    • #3324343

      Yes. However…

      by jose b. carranza ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      An Information Technology (IT) Project Manager (PM) needs to have IT skills. However, these skills need not be specific to the industry, as long as the PM is able to quickly acquire the crucial, influential factors associated with the industry. For example, a Senior Project Manager, with extensive IT skills in the Finance industry, should be able to function quite well in the bio-technology industry. Provided, she, or he, is able to assimilate and integrate the stringent Federal Guidelines governing Technology development projects.

    • #3324330

      Project Management is a PROFESSION

      by onazol ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Too many times those with IT and non-IT backgrounds forget the Project Managers are professionals with skills specific to managing projects. Many of us are certified through a very rigorous process.

      I have managed technical projects for 20 years. I have a BA in government.

      I agree that you have to know enough about technology to understand how to size a project, know when somebody is giving you bull, ask the right questions, etc. You should be familiar with common technical issues, processes, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to have been a coder or technician.

      Mainly you need to know how to get the answers from the right technical and non-technical people, translate that into a project that is completed on time, on budget, and most importantly, to the customer’s satisfaction.

      PMI – the professional project management organization – states that 90% of what a project manager does is communication. That means being able to communication with a variety of different people with different skills and personalities in such a way that they will work with you on a project.

      Based on that, there are so many technical and non-technical people who are brilliant but wouldn’t be able to project manage themselves out of a paper bag.

      That’s OK. I can’t design a complex technical system. I don’t want to “sell.” I leave that up to professionals of other kinds and respect their skills.

      I just wish more technical and non-technical professionals in other areas would learn to respect that Project Management itself is profession just like any other.


    • #3324087

      at least…

      by herbert_mendoza ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      being PM in today’s business environment it is necessary to have a background in IT..but not really an expert as we may say..its still how he implement the methodology in managing a project.definitely PM nowadays interface with the technology-based tools to record, analyze and solve certain project requirements, issues and concerns but those are just tools..its the analytical thinking that counts..i would say a 80 -20 ratio..IT is 20% of the skill needed..

    • #3323970

      Our company…

      by dnvrtechgrrl ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      has a “fruit basket turnover” every few years to keep ideas fresh and current.

      This works fabulously in every department except IT.

      It’s taken my three piddly offices two years to recover from and IT Director and PM who had no IT background.

      It’s possible for an IT PM to not have an IT background. It’s also possible to sit in a bathtub full of ice…

      Why would you volunteer for either?

    • #3323969

      Our company…

      by dnvrtechgrrl ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      has a “fruit basket turnover” every few years to keep ideas fresh and current.

      This works fabulously in every department except IT.

      It’s taken my three piddly offices two years to recover from and IT Director and PM who had no IT background.

      It’s possible for an IT PM to not have an IT background. It’s also possible to sit in a bathtub full of ice…

      Why would you volunteer for either?

    • #3322723

      Project Managers should have IT back ground

      by kalyan_gvk ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      I feel it is necessary for project manager to have an IT background. As the project life cycle involves lots of IT related features and descriptions, one should aware of it before handling the things in rightway.

      Also right from Analysis to implementation the quality and productivity to be clearly followed by the manager that is most IT based. Even to handle the problems during the maintainance of th project the manager should know to appoint appropriate person for attending that problem.

      Also to asses the performanance of the development team project manager needs to know the level of each team member in terms Technology which is most dependent on the IT knowledge and experience of the manager

    • #3323347

      Is This Project an IT Project?

      by chenig ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Project managment is a discipline which crosses industries, and when you have a project you need a PM whose overall experience is in line w/ the proposed project. Seems axiomatic to me.

      I have worked w/ PMs (or rather, consultants w/ a shiny new MBAs representing themselves as qualified PMs) who have nothing to offer but methodology. In the worst case, the methodology is something devised by the consultanting group for their clients, and bears no relationship to any professional criteria for project management methodology. Because this is unacceptable to most organisations these days, one sees less and less of this. In the best case for any project, the best PM is one w/ experience w/ the sort of project under consideration. The best experience is from knowledge gained in that subject area. But I also believe the best PMs are those who have done the necessary work to become PMs, including course work and getting professioanl certification.

      I am a PMP who specialises in healthcare software development because that is where my experience was gained. I would not dream of doing a construction project. I am currently a PM on a data warehouse project, and I have no data warehouse project management experience. However, there are many well qualified data warehouse people on this project. What the project needed, and what I bring, is experience w/ structured project management methodology. I’m not about to direct the WBS process from a technical perspective, but I do want the technical staff to review it and sign off on it. Am I the best PM for this sort of project? No. A better PM would be one w/ extensive data warehouse experience. I’m just the best PM for the environment and the industry because it’s a clinical data warehouse, and I do have experience w/ the applications which capture the data which populates the warehouse. Plus, I did happen to be available on site when it was clear that PM methodology needed to be applied to this project. And, I have made it plain to all and sundry that I am not the resident DW expert.

      Would I put a PM on an IT project who had no IT background? No. I would also not “promote” an IT person to a PM role unless that person was will to do what is necessary to make the career change to become a PM. And I would want that to include PMP certification.

      IT skills get out of date. IT is a fast changing industry. If you want both current IT skills relevant to the project and PM experience and training (and certification), you will pay for it. If you want the best possible out come, this is the route to go. Not everyone had deep pockets and such PMs are not easily availabe in all markets.

      As in most cases, it’s a trade off.
      C. Henig



    • #3325171

      Depends on how close you are to the action

      by hockeyist ·

      In reply to Should PMs have an IT background?

      Really depends on the project and how large it is. If the project is large then the PM will have technical advisors.
      The smaller the project then IT expertise is a must to be able to react quickly to fix problems. Effective people management skills are a must in most projects.
      One of the most important functions that a PM can bring to a project is their knowledge (or management of knowledge (of advisors) in the case of large projects) which can be used to keep a project on track when things go wrong. The secret is QUICKLY knowing what to do strategically when the sh*t hits the fan.

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