IT Project Manager

    If you are wondering how to become an IT project manager, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the information technology industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    IT project managers oversee the development of computer systems to meet a client’s specific business needs, and they make sure that work is completed on time and on budget. They may work for a company specialising in IT or for any organisation that relies heavily on IT systems. Common employers include IT and telecommunications companies, banks, local authorities and public sector organisations.

    Examples of projects you might work on range from managing the installation of a new patient record system in the health service to upgrading telephone networks in a call centre. Projects can be in-house or for external clients.

    Typical responsibilities:

    finding out what the client wants from their IT systems
    planning project stages and assessing the business implications for each one
    putting together and coordinating the work of the project team, for example analysts and developers
    monitoring progress and making sure costs, timescales and quality standards meet agreed targets
    modifying plans to cater for unforeseen circumstances
    keeping senior managers and clients up to date with progress
    signing off and evaluating completed tasks.
    You would use various project management methods and computer software to put plans into place. During the roll-out of a new system you would be responsible for making sure there is a smooth changeover from the old IT system to the new one.

    If you are a senior project manager, you would work with management teams, shaping project strategy, managing large-scale and high-risk projects, controlling overall costs and managing relationships with project partners.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good IT project managers include:

    excellent organisational and leadership skills
    excellent problem-solving skills
    the ability to understand complex information and assess requirements
    a methodical and structured approach to projects
    excellent communication skills, both spoken and written
    excellent IT skills
    a flexible approach to work
    a good understanding of business demands
    the ability to work effectively with other professionals
    the ability to work within budget limits
    excellent time management skills and the ability to meet deadlines.

    How to become an IT project manager
    You will usually need several years’ relevant experience preferably backed up with formal qualifications, such as a foundation degree, degree or postgraduate qualification in computing or project management. Qualifications in information systems or related areas would be acceptable, as would a business-related degree with technical options.

    You may be able to move into project management if you are already working as an IT professional and have taken on some responsibility for project development. You could also work in the IT field if you have project management skills from another industry and some technical knowledge.

    This work can involve using a range methods and tools, such as PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) or project management software. Knowledge of these will be useful but it is not always essential. Experience of managing projects is usually considered more important by companies, as they can provide you with any specific training once you are working for them.

    For information on PRINCE2 and software training, see the Association for Project Management (APM) and PRINCE2 websites.

    For more details about this career, qualification routes and training providers, see the websites for the APM, British Computer Society and e-skills UK.

    Training and Development
    The type of training you do will depend on whether you are already an IT professional or you have come from a business background with project management experience.

    As a new or experienced project manager, you could work towards professional qualifications at various levels from one of the following organisations:

    Association for Project Management (APM)
    Chartered Management Institute (CMI)
    Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB)
    Project Management Institute (PMI).
    See each organisation’s website for more information about their qualifications and training.

    The PMI is a US based organisation that works with slightly different methodologies than UK professional bodies. If you are working for a US company in the UK or EU you may be expected to take their qualifications. This also applies if you are looking to work in the US.

    You could also choose to study part-time for a project management degree or postgraduate qualification whilst you are working, or you could work towards NVQs at levels 4 and 5 in Project Management or Business Improvement Techniques.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Salaries for new entrants range between £24,000 and £29,000.
    For experienced managers this rises to between £31,500 and £40,000.
    Senior project managers can earn upwards of £45,000 a year.
    Salaries depend on the type of role and the scale of the project. Additional benefits such as bonuses may be available based on successfully meeting completion dates.

    Job Prospects
    Opportunities for IT project managers are growing as more companies use computerised information systems to manage and develop their operations. You can also find work overseas, especially if you are working for a multi-national company.

    If you take up continuing professional development schemes like those offered by professional bodies, you may be able to move into departmental management duties or progress to more strategic roles like operations management.

    Useful IT resources:
    Association for Project Management (APM)
    150 West Wycombe Road
    High Wycombe
    HP12 3AE
    Tel: 0845 458 1944

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