Technical Skill vs. Managerial Skills in Managing Projects

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Comfort Enahoro
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I am a postgraduate student researching into the essential skills that a Project Manager require to successfully manage a project. My area of focus is on the debate between the Technical skills and Managerial skills and the relevance of the project manager's skill-set to the project outcome. Does a project manager need technical skills to successfully manage a project, for instance, a construction project, IT project, finance project, military project, medical project, etc; or are managerial skills such as Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing and Controlling, sufficient to do the job successfully?

For example, if someone is a project manager of an IT project, does he/she need to have IT qualifications/skills and experience among other things to successfully manage the project? Or can any experienced project manager from any other discipline and industry, who does not have IT skills and experience, successfully manage the IT project as long as he/she possesses excellent set of managerial skills along with other needed skills? Is project management managerial skills and experience transferable from one industry to another or from one technical project to another?

Please bear in mind your choice should be based on the assumption that the project manager possesses additional essential skills such as people skills, leadership skills, and project management skills (i.e. risk management, scheduling, budgeting, planning, resource management, etc).

It is very important that you give the reason for your choice out of the three possible options: technical skills, managerial skills, or probably the combination of both set of skills. Please give your response also in the light of context such as the type of project, the size of the project, the experience level of the project manager, in-house or external contract projects, and any other essential factors to be considered.

For better analysis of the data I will gather, I will appreciate it if you can state the industry in which you work currently or have worked in the past, and the number of years of project management experience you have, including the years you held the position of a project manager. Views and opinions from experienced project managers and practitioners are highly welcomed and sought after.

Thanks.

Comfort.
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dhaughey
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Hi Comfort,

It’s worth having a look at the comments on this article:

Must Project Managers Be Technically Savvy?

I think at the least it helps if the project manager is technically aware. It doesn’t mean he or she needs to be able to do the job themselves, but they should have an appreciation of what it takes.

If you are going to be talking to technical people, you will get much further if you can speak their language. They will relate to you better if you show you recognise what it’s going to take for them to deliver.

I found this quote from Jim Highsmith, which backs up my thought that project managers need some technical expertise:
... As a software development consultant, I’ve never encountered a successful software company (although my sample size is limited) in which the team and project leaders were not technically savvy. [...] Championing technical excellence requires that the project leader, and team members in general, understand what technical excellence means – in the product, the technology, and in the skills of the people doing the work.
Source: "Agile Project Management", Jim Highsmith, Addison-Wesley, Second Edition

The best project managers will have a combination of both managerial and technical skills. Good project managers will gain enough technical knowledge to help them deliver a successful project, so it needn’t be an issue.

I manage IT projects and have a good technical understanding to a level where I can have an intelligent conversation with developers, infrastructure engineers, DBAs etc. This helps and enables me to have an understanding that less technical project managers don’t achieve. I know some of them feel uncomfortable and not always sure what is happening, or why something is needed. It takes time to gain the technical expertise, but it’s worth it.

For me project managers do need to be technically savvy.

Duncan
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I think the technical and the managerial skills both are required to manage the projects with complete understanding.
Comfort Enahoro
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Thanks for your comments.
Comfort Enahoro
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Dear all,

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO MY RESEARCH

This is to notify you that I have completed my research project, in which you participated as online forum discussion participants, sharing your project management experience on various capacities on the topic “Technical skills vs. Managerial skills: The Essential skills for successful management of projects”. I handed in the Dissertation on Friday 2nd September 2011 and the Project Closure Report yesterday Monday 12th September 2011.

Although your contribution was acknowledged anonymously in the Dissertation, I am writing to thank you personally for taking part in my research online discussions. It was an honour for me and I am grateful for your time and invaluable contributions to the research. The dissertation would not have been completed without participants like you who willingly took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the interviews and online forum discussions. I deeply appreciate your interests in my research topic and your contribution to the research data. God bless you.

My use of this forum is now closed.

Thanks.

Yours sincerely,
Comfort Enahoro.
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