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The Project Management Skills Gap

When it comes to product innovation and project development, the role of the project manager cannot be underestimated.

That’s why it’s important to take an objective look at the skills and resources available in your organization and determine if a skills gap exists in your project management team.

Traditionally there are two types of project managers. There’s the project manager with business school training who has excellent business skills and a keen understanding of sales and marketing.

Then there’s the engineering type of project manager who has technical training and many years of experience as an engineer. He’s been promoted to project manager and he brings an understanding of the technical challenges to the management team.

The problem is that neither type is perfect.

Business-savvy project managers often have excellent people skills and they’ve mastered the concepts of deliverables, budgets and deadlines. However their technical knowledge can be lacking. When they’re faced with a group of engineers a language barrier develops as the designers talk bits, bytes, voltages and tolerances. The project manager wants hard, quantifiable facts that he can report to his superiors. The problem is this need for quantifiables can have a negative impact on the creativity and innovative skills of the engineers.

By contrast, a project manager with an engineering background speaks the same language as the product design team and empathizes with their creative needs, but he doesn’t know how to translate this into deliverables and budgets. Although he’s in a project management role, it could be said that “once an engineer, always an engineer.”

Of course, the best type of project manager is one who is comfortable in both camps like an engineer with business acumen or a business school graduate with an engineering mindset. This need for experienced project managers who are equally comfortable with engineering tasks and business demands can lead to a skills gap in project management.

Around one third of all respondents say that IT skills shortages inside their organizations encumber innovation and new product development, according to a recent survey by CompTIA, a non-profit association for the IT industry. In talking about IT skills in general, 93% of the survey respondents say that a gap exists between the technical skills their IT staffs possess and the skills their organizations need.

To address this gap many organization use training as a way to bolster and improve the skills of existing staff members, but 39% of the respondents say they don’t think training is effective.

As an alternative to training, organizations should consider IT and project management outsourcing. According to CompTIA, 38% of organizations opt to deal with skills shortages by outsourcing work to third-party providers. The outsourcing model is built around acquiring the best and most experienced people in their respective fields and then using these people to help other companies with skills shortages.

In outsourcing project management you’re not only saving money and time by passing on the role to an experienced third party, you’re also reducing the skills gap. With the project now managed by an experienced manager who understands both business and technology, you and your product design team can concentrate on innovation and success.

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