We talk a lot about project managers, but that title is more general than most might think. There are many different project managers, but today we’re interested in focusing on just one, the technical project manager.
Are you interested in becoming a technical project manager or are you in the market to hire one? If either applies, read on. We define what a technical project manager does, provide an outline for a job description you can post and offer tips for becoming better at your job.
What Is a Technical Project Manager?
A technical project manager is a position that straddles two disciples. Like any project manager, they plan, schedule and manage projects, however, the technical part refers to the projects, which tend to be in IT or related to IT.
This means that technical project managers must have double the qualifications of a general project manager. They need to have leadership qualities, manage teams, allocate resources and make project plans and schedules. They have to be organized and great communicators.
But that’s not all. While the methodologies and responsibilities align with project management, the projects themselves are usually highly technical and require an understanding of those technologies and architectures to properly manage these projects.
Technical project managers need experience and knowledge of hardware and software installation, upgrades, site maintenance, development and more. They’re more of a niche project manager, applying project management principles to highly technical projects. This requires expertise in project management with a focus on technology.
You might think that means that a technical project manager needs a different set of tools, but that’s a mistake. Flexible project management software has the features technical project managers need. ProjectManager is online project management software that works across methodologies and delivers real-time data to make better decisions. Our multiple project views allow technical project managers to work how they want, with robust Gantt charts or more agile kanban boards. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.
What Does a Technical Project Manager Do?
While the projects they work on might be different than construction or manufacturing project managers, technical project managers work on similar day-to-day operations as anyone managing a project.
That means that technical project managers must first be leaders with a vision for the project, helping to persuade and motivate the team. They need to assemble the team and brainstorm with them throughout the various project phases.
The technical project manager meets regularly with stakeholders to manage their expectations, keep them updated and make sure the project aligns with their goals and objectives. This leads to the creation of a project plan that organizes tasks, schedules work, creates a budget and allocates resources.
Then, as the project team executes tasks, the technical project manager oversees their work to make sure their workload is balanced. That allows them to work more productively and not burn out due to a surplus of tasks.
Over the course the project, they have to oversee the budget and make sure that real-time costs are in line with the budget. If there are discrepancies in cost, time or scope, the technical project manager has to adjust the cost, time or scope of the project to deliver it on deadline without overspending.
Depending on the size of the project, the technical project manager is also responsible for collaborating with the various department heads in the organization as they relate to the project. Coordinating these various entities can be a steep hurdle to clear, but technical project managers also have to work with outside vendors. Being able to build these relationships is key to running a successful project.
Technical Project Manager Job Description
If you’re in the market for a technical project manager, you’ll want to make sure that the candidate is a good fit with your organization. That can mean many things. For one, every organization has a culture and if your candidate doesn’t conform to that culture, there will be problems. Those types of requirements are too selective to define here, you need to do that part. We can outline the basic responsibilities, skills and qualifications, education and training necessary in a well-rounded technical project manager.
- Develop and manage the project, communication, resource plans and processes
- Analyze all management and technical processes to ensure they’re delivered as expected
- Meet regularly with project stakeholders and define project goals and objectives
- Lead budget and resource allocation through all project phases
- Schedule project timelines
- Make estimates for the budget and schedule
- Generate regular reports to update stakeholders and manage projects
- Establish and train teams on processes and strategies
- Oversee day-to-day technical operations, including assignments and personnel review
- Define roles and responsibilities of the team and determine clear deliverables
- Research and evaluate new hardware and software technology and help make decisions on the cost-benefit analysis of new purchases
- Update and maintain hardware and software systems as needed
Skills & Qualifications
- Strong leadership qualities and ability to motivate a wide variety of teams associated with the project
- Clear communication skills to guide project teams and coordinate with vendors and management
- Being able to solve problems
- Having analytical, computer and math skills
- Knowledge of new and established software systems and the ability to train others on them
- Organizational and time management skills to keep teams and projects on schedule
Education & Training
- Master’s degree in project management or related technical field preferred
- Project management certification preferred
- Several years of professional work as a technical project manager
- Trained in project management and knowledge of various methodologies to deliver successful projects
- Experience leading, coaching and developing technical teams
- Comfortable in a highly competitive, collaborative and fast-paced work environment
- Managerial experience
Tips to Be a Good Technical Project Manager
If you’re looking to fill a technical project manager position or you’re moving into that role yourself, here are some of the best practices for technical project managers. Many of these skills aren’t specific to technical project managers, but to anyone leading a project or wanting to succeed in their profession.
The first thing a technical project manager should be is self-motivated. They’re leaders and can’t be reactive as they’re responsible for the success of the project and motivating all involved. They must lead by example, staying focused and on task, but also being intuitive when it comes to acting before issues arise to avoid projects falling off track.
We’ve mentioned analytical skills in the technical project manager’s job description, but it’s worth expanding on this skill. Technical project managers deal with a lot of data and sometimes it’s hard to find the signal in the noise. That’s where analytical skills come in handy. Knowing how to evaluate project metrics will lead to better decision-making.
Communication is the bedrock of everything. It’s another job skill, but it’s so much more than that. Projects often fail when leaders aren’t able to clearly communicate. Directions are unclear and time, money and effort are wasted for no reason other than poor communication. Remember, communication is a two-way street. A good communicator also listens. Don’t neglect to get feedback from your team.
When planning a project and developing a schedule there will be issues. Rare is that plan that just comes together. That’s why problem-solving is so important. Many think of it as being able to quickly resolve issues when they arise in the project. That is part of it. But it’s also anticipating those issues and making steps in your planning to avoid them from ever happening.
It goes without saying that leadership skills are crucial, but it’s worth covering. What makes a leader? It’s hard to say. Leaders are born, but others are put in a position of leadership and develop those skills. Whether it’s innate or learned, you can apply yourself to be a better leader. Be an example. Get your hands dirty. Listen to everyone and make them feel heard. Once you have trust, you can motivate teams to work more productively.
ProjectManager Is Great for Technical Project Managers
One thing we left off our best practices for technical project managers is having the right tools to get your work done. ProjectManager is online project management software that provides technical project managers with real-time data to manage their work. Our software also has features to help with planning, scheduling and tracking your projects to make sure you deliver on time and within your budget.
Track Projects in Real Time
We have Gantt charts to plan and schedule projects. But once you put in that work, you can’t expect everything to be seamless. Once you set a baseline on the Gantt chart, you can track the planned effort against the actual effort in real time. This data is collected automatically and displayed in colorful graphs and charts on the real-time dashboard. There’s no setup required, get a high-level view of the project whenever you want. Then use one-click reports to go deeper into the data. All reports can be customized to show only what you want to see. Then easily share them with stakeholders to keep them updated.
Communication is key to project success. With our online software, you can stay connected with everyone on the project team whether they’re in the office, on-site or working remotely. Comment at the task level, share files and get email and in-app notifications to keep you updated in real time. Having a virtual collaborative platform means that everyone can work better together, whether they’re in a different department or even an outside vendor.
Technical project managers have to deal with a lot of documentation that is necessary to run any project. Our software acts as your project documentation hub with unlimited file storage to hold your important documents and images. Now they’re accessible anywhere and anytime, which is crucial when you’re working in a highly technical environment.
ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you plan, schedule and track projects. Our collaborative platform keeps everyone connected and multiple project views mean your team can work how they want to. Whether it’s the traditional Gantt chart or the agile kanban board, robust list view, calendar or more, you get the tools you want to do your job your way. Teams at NASA, Siemens and Nestle are already using our tool to deliver success. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.