Technical v Generalist PM

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Jenthepm
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Hi All

In general what is the difference between a tecnical pm? I'm presuming this means managing projects of a more IT technical nature ie infrastructure projects rather than business led projects. I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards
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dhaughey
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Right. It’s simply a PM that specialises in managing IT projects. Having said that, there are really no IT projects, just projects that have IT elements. With a few exceptions, most IT projects are part of a wider business project. You’ll often find the IT PM works hand-in-hand with a business PM to deliver both the IT elements and business elements of the project.

So what makes an IT PM different from any other PM? For me there are two things that distinguish them:
  1. Technically savvy with a good understand technology and how to work with a technical team.
  2. Ability to take on projects that have never been tried before.
Unlike many non-IT projects, there is a lot of ground breaking stuff, where there is very little information or lessons learned. This is what makes IT Project Management particularly challenging.

Whether an IT PM needs to be technically savvy is a contentious point. For me it’s necessary, others say no. Make your own mind up after reading this article:

Must Project Managers Be Technically Savvy?

Cheers,
Duncan
Jenthepm
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Hi Duncan

Thanks for your reply and article. The article focusses on a PM working with software development. I generally work with suppliers who provide packaged/off the shelf solutions that may need customisation, or internal 3rd line technical teams who specialise in the areas of infrastructure and network. It would be impossible in my situation to be able to be a specialist in each area of IT as my role is quite generalist. Isn't part of the PM's role to learn enough about a solution (if the PM is not coming from technical background, ie having been a developer or 3rd line systems engineer) to question the suppliers and 3rd line technical staff to understand that the solution will meet the business requirements?

Kind regards

Jen
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dhaughey
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Hi Jen,

I agree with you. When given a project the PM may need to do some research in order to understand the technical aspects of what they are being asked to deliver. I don't agree with Luc Richard when he says "you must capable of designing and developing the solution yourself". This is why you have technical specialists. However, it's important for the PM to be able to communicate with the technical specialists at a level they can understand and where necessary explore options and challenge decisions. If you are unable to do this, you are getting what you are given, whether or not it fits your customers' needs.

The principles of project management may be the same for all projects; it's what you bring in addition that makes the difference between a good PM and a truly outstanding one.

Keep your technical knowledge up-to-date and spend time to learn the technical aspects of new projects, and you'll be in a good position to delight your customers.

Cheers,
Duncan
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