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The Technical Project Manager: Paradox or Paradise[1]

SECOND EDITION                                                         

By Zelda Jones, PMP

Texas, USA
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ABSTRACT

As companies experience dissatisfaction with project management performance, and with ‘big data’ and Cloud technology becoming more prevalent, a trend is forming to bring highly technical resources into the project management role.

While a technical resource is far more than a subject matter expert and may have the ability to dissect technical issues, does he or she also have the skill set necessary to deal with communication, budget, resources, schedule, and the politics surrounding the project as well as motivate and lead a project team? With the technical project manager focused on the technical issues, who is focused on managing the project? Can ‘hard’ technical experience transfer to a ‘soft’ skill set?

This paper explores how the strengths and weaknesses of the technical project manager can impact the project in both a positive and negative manner. 

Keywords: technical project manager, technical project management challenges, technical project leadership, big data, emotional intelligence, active listening, transferable experience

Introduction

Gartner’s 2012 survey, ‘Why Projects Fail’, noted that 28% of IT projects with budgets of $1 million dollars and above fail while smaller projects have slightly lower failure rates.

The number one item on ESI’s Top 10 Project Management Trends for 2013 is Organizations will continue to call for strong project leaders but will focus on investments in hard skills. [1] The implication is that corporations are expecting their PMs to be not only good project managers, but to be technically adept as well.

Theoretically, the title Technical Project Manager (TPM) implies that the project manager will have a greater amount of technical skills and, therefore, have more technically related responsibilities than a Project Manager (PM; in the traditional sense of the title) whose primary responsibility is to oversee and manage the processes that deliver the project. The TPM role would, therefore, call for a greater depth of technical expertise in order to direct the technical aspects of the project, and occasionally step in to provide hands-on solutions.

The traditional PM may have extensive technical knowledge but focuses primarily on management activities as they relate to the project. Whether a technical resource can perform strategic project management activities while directing technical activities and possibly troubleshooting and solving technical issues, poses an interesting argument. Does the technically trained resource have the skill set necessary to successfully manage the overall project while also leading the technical activities?

More…

To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and symposium organizers. For more about the annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, click here.

About the Author

pmwj28-nov2014-Jones-AUTHOR PHOTOZelda Jones flag-usa

Texas, USA

Zelda Jones, PMP has over 20 years of project management experience in a variety of industries including courts, research and development, telecommunications, and health. Zelda has become increasingly aware that stakeholders often base their project decisions on flawed reasoning, personal agendas, and misinformation. Therefore, stakeholders don’t always make the right decisions for their projects. In random conversations with fellow Project Managers she learned that the predicament is widespread due in part to the project management culture of providing exactly what the customer wants (and pays for).   She urges PMs to work with their stakeholders to promote fact-based decision making for the best outcome of the project. A graduate of North Texas State University, Zelda earned her PMP in 2006. She is a 7 time presenter at the UT Dallas Project Management Symposium. She lives in North Texas and frequently travels for business which allows her to pursue her hobby, Geocaching. She is a member of Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR). Zelda can be reached at [email protected].

[1] Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 8th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2014. It is republished here with permission of the author and symposium organizers. For more about the annual UT Dallas PM Symposium, click here.