Everybody seems to agree that the Project Manager (PM) role is critical, especially when software is a determining factor in an organization’s growth (or survival). This is a challenge for PMs since the growing relevance that their role acquires in projects also demands that they develop new skills and competencies.

In practice, they are at the same time conductors, masters of ceremonies, and jugglers, and their duties are numerous and relevant: from strategy and product definition to collaboration with technical and design functions. They also have to describe product requirements, interact with customers and partners, collaborate with other function roles, plan and maintain the roadmap, do metrics analysis, coaching and team management (including recruitment), market and competitor research, and financial analysis. The role’s importance grows as the project’s size and complexity increase. Prioritization, in this context, is their way of living.

You may feel dizzy just by reading the previous paragraph. Perhaps less than half of PMs say they feel prepared to perform as expected.

What is expected?

They say some variables define good quality at a glance. What does a PM “look like”? What are the skills and competencies that make the difference?

PMs should look after the entire life cycle of software creation: from understanding the client’s business, to defining requirements during discovery, to evaluating the metrics and analyzing information. They must also be knowledgeable of the market, have technical development know-how, and the necessary soft skills to enable productive relationships with customers and partners.

Unlike until very recently, when software was considered a satellite and not the core of the business, technical knowledge was only a desirable skill for PMs to have, not indispensable to streamline decision-making and underpin the success of the project.

However, human skills are becoming more and more relevant: the ability to communicate with diverse groups (teams, clients), to motivate, to show empathy, to be curious, to be always ready to resolve issues, to obtain the maximum potential from each team member and to influence change is at the core of the maximum added value of his function.

Asking and delivering

As in all other areas of life, it is essential to strike a balance for everything to work in harmony. In the case of PMs, their companies often demand that they are fully prepared to meet the needs mentioned above -and many others that may arise daily- but without delivering in the same proportion.

Our experience at Making Sense shows that PMs are an excellent support for their teams and their clients and that, in turn, they need to be supported. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that they receive the training that will provide them with the skills that they will need later and that they receive coaching and mentoring to consolidate their roles.

But not only that: their mission and role must be clearly defined. And they must feel reassured that making mistakes is not punishable. Outstanding PMs are the result of years of experience, having gone through complex situations, having come out successfully, and having “seen it all” (although each new client will always bring an entirely new case). The organization, in this sense, must provide support and continuity so that their experience is leveraged by the different projects.

Is it possible to recognize a PM at a glance? Yes: it is the one with a motivated team and a group of satisfied customers.