IT Project Manager
IT project managers use technical and management skills to plan and co-ordinate IT projects. They try to make sure that all the planned activities are finished on time, that they are of a high quality, to specification and within the budget.
Also known as
- Project Manager, IT
Video: - Jamie: IT Project Manager
IT project managers plan, manage and co-ordinate IT projects and teams. They might be involved in a large installation of new hardware or software, or they might work with a team of consultants and developers writing new computer applications for a customer, for example.
At the start of a project, a business case is produced. This outlines the purpose of the project and compares the costs with the expected savings or benefits. The customer or user of the system has to approve this before work can begin.
Project managers then speak to the people who will eventually use, or be responsible for, the system, to find out exactly what they need. They might take responsibility for costing and pricing the project, and agreeing the budget. The detailed work in preparing this information might be carried out by others, such as systems analysts.
They also agree the specific items to be delivered by the project with the customer or user, and set start and end dates; then they use their technical skills to plan out the activities that are required and the order they need to be done in.
Project managers prepare the project definition document (sometimes called the project brief or specification) that will define the project. They can then decide on what skills are required and who the project team members should be.
They analyse projects to see if there are risks attached to them, for example, if there is a chance that hardware will not be delivered on time. They try to minimise these risks right from the start, as well as throughout the project, and build in some extra time if they judge that it might be needed.
They often use specialist computer software packages to plan all the project activities, and to decide when each one needs to be completed by.
Some activities can be carried out at the same time, if there are enough people to do the tasks, but other tasks have to be completed in sequence. (A general example of this idea is when building a house, the foundations must be laid before the walls are started.)
Project managers make sure that the members of the project team have the tools and resources they need to do the job. They monitor the progress of the project and report regularly to the customer or users.
They might, for example, arrange regular meetings where progress is discussed and any problems are raised. The project manager tries to anticipate problems and find solutions to resolve conflicts.
Project managers keep track of how much money and time have been spent on the project; they try to find ways to complete all the planned activities successfully, on time, within the amount of money allowed and to the quality specified.
The project manager is responsible for making sure that the customer accepts the project when it is handed over by the project team.
At the end of each project, the project manager reviews what went well and not so well, so that the performance of the team and the quality of the products or service can be improved.
Project managers are often responsible for several projects at the same time.
Some project managers might have to travel around to visit different customers or sites. Those working in IT consultancies might have clients in different countries and if so, foreign travel is a normal part of their work.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As an IT project manager, you'll need:
- To be a good planner who can prioritise tasks.
- Time-management skills.
- A logical approach to analysis and problem solving.
- To be able to think ahead and keep calm under pressure.
- Communication skills; you should be a good listener and you will also need to be able to speak well in front of groups of people.
- Interpersonal skills.
- Management skills; you should be able to lead and motivate others.
- To enjoy working in a team.
- Good negotiating and persuading skills.
- To be confident, adaptable, tactful and decisive.
- Number skills in order to keep close financial control of projects.
- Good written communication skills to produce reports.
You will often need technical IT skills. You might need to enjoy travelling, and you are likely to need a full driving licence if you work for an IT consultancy company.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
IT project managers earn in the range of £30,000 - £37,500 a year, rising to £48,500 - £63,500. Higher earners can make over £80,000 a year.
Benefits could include performance-related bonuses, and some employees could be offered 'golden hellos' when joining particular employers.
Hours of work
Project managers' working weeks are based around office hours, Monday to Friday. However, they sometimes work in the evening and at weekends according to the demands of the project, and especially when nearing deadlines.
Where could I work?
Employers include computer manufacturers, software houses and ICT consultancies. Jobs are also with employers in industry and commerce, including banking, finance and insurance, and in the public sector, with local and central government departments, the NHS and gas, electricity, phone and water companies.
Opportunities for IT project managers occur in towns and cities throughout the UK. A significant number of vacancies for IT and telecoms professionals are in London and the South East of England.
There are some opportunities for IT project managers to work in other countries on projects for international/UK-based companies.
What's happening in this work area?
The IT industry is predicted to grow much faster than the rest of the UK workforce over the next ten years. The recession has affected the IT industry, but overall it has emerged in a very strong position.
One reason for this strength is the realisation, by the global economy, of the importance of IT in helping businesses to survive the recession and economic downturn. Investment in technology is also viewed by many as a way for public bodies to become more efficient.
There is a shortage of candidates with IT skills and qualifications in the UK.
Future skills needsTechnical skills are highly important in this industry. However, employers have also highlighted the need for the following non-technical skills:
- teamworking skills
- good communication skills
- business skills.
Opportunities occur for experienced IT project managers to work on a self-employed, freelance basis - usually on short-term contracts, for the life of the project.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on specialist IT job boards and employers' websites, in computing magazines and professional journals, in local/national newspapers, on Universal Jobmatch and at Jobcentre Plus.
Short-term contract work is found through specialist IT recruitment agencies.
Entry Routes and Training
Many IT project managers have previous experience as computer systems analysts, consultants or developers/programmers. Entrants to these jobs are usually graduates in a relevant computing subject. Graduates in other degree subjects can take a postgraduate conversion course in IT.
A number of universities offer the Information Technology Management for Business degree that has been jointly developed with major employers. Some universities and employers offer internships or student placements that develop business, communication and interpersonal skills.
Other IT project managers enter after gaining skills in general business management, and/or as members of project teams.
An Advanced or Higher Apprenticeship is also great place to start.
Courses are widely available in the use of project management software packages and in project management methods, for example, PRINCE2.
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, offers professional certifications such as the Certificate in IS Project Management for people with management or information systems experience, or proven project management experience. Candidates attend an accredited training course and then sit written and oral exams.
The Association for Project Management (APM) offers a knowledge-based professional examination for recently appointed project managers. This is known as the APMP and is based on the Association's standard Body of Knowledge. The APM also offers an introductory certificate, which provides a basic overview of project management principles.
The APM has an intermediate qualification, the Practitioner Qualification. It also offers a higher qualification, the Registered Project Professional, for people with more experience. This is achieved through portfolio assessment and a professional review presentation and interview.
The Project Management Institute offers the Project Management Professional certification for practitioners with experience.
The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) offers relevant project management qualifications.
Some project managers take a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in order to get a greater understanding of the business process. MBAs are widely available part-time and by distance learning.
Experienced and qualified IT project managers can progress into senior IT management posts, or into general management.
For entry to a degree course in a computing or business subject, the usual requirements are:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs at grade C or above in 2/3 other subjects
- English and Maths at GCSE.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- Edexcel (BTEC) Level 3 National qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
To get onto an Advanced or Higher Level Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least five GCSEs at A* - C, including English and Maths, and possibly two A Levels.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
New entrants normally have an IT-related degree, for example, computing science. However, entry is possible for graduates with non-IT related subjects, if they can provide evidence of IT technical ability. Taking a postgraduate IT conversion course or an MBA (Master of Business Administration) could improve your chances of employment.
If you don't have the usual qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree course, a college or university Access course, for example, Access to IT/Computing, could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
Distance learningRelevant distance learning and flexible learning courses are available at a number of centres; these include:
- The Association for Project Management (APM) offers an introductory certificate (APM-IC), and further qualifications at three levels: foundation, practitioner and certificated project manager.
- PRINCE2 project management courses. Further information and a full list of providers is available on the APM Group website.
- The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) offers relevant project management qualifications. Further information and a full list of providers is available from the CMI.
- Liverpool University offers an MSc in Project Management: Information Technology.
- 4% of people in occupations such as IT project manager work part-time.
- 17% have flexible hours.
- 2% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
Queen's University Belfast
The Tech Partnership
Skills for business and information technology
Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT
Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 0845 3004417
Bring IT On
Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Tel: 020 3353 2000
Professional Issues in Information Technology
Author: Frank Bott Publisher: Chartered Institute for IT (BCS)
Association for Project Management (APM)
Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World
Author: Elizabeth Harrin Publisher: Chartered Institute for IT (BCS)
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844