Why technical skills project manager: explain on cases

    Not everyone will be able to effectively lead a team of IT specialists. The work of a project manager in IT is distinguished by the fact that in it the system analytical skills are closely related to technical skills. They are necessary for the project manager and are not limited to in-depth knowledge in one or two areas. The success of PM in IT also largely determines the understanding of the digital market as a whole, knowledge of what is under the hood of technological systems, how and why they are designed, how they work.

    We will explain what the IT project manager should study and why, Alexander Chernyi , the speaker of the Project Management in IT course in the past Digital Project Manager at Oleg Chulakov Studio, and now the Product Owner at Dodo Pizza will help with case studies .

    Communication skills

    Effective communication with the customer and with the team is a key component of the work of the project manager. Especially at the beginning, when the customer only gets an estimate for the project and often has a poor understanding of what to pay for and why the work will take so long.

    Sometimes a competitor tries to intercept a competitor, suggesting that it seems to do the same, but faster and cheaper. For PM without technical skills this is a very unpleasant situation. But if the manager has established communication with the team, he understands the team leaders well and represents what the money is spent on and working hours are spent, explaining to the client the difference between two solutions that look like at first glance. Alexander Cherny recalls a case study from previous experience:
    image“We were approached by a client with a request to make a copy of an existing project with other content. When it came to evaluation, it turned out that my assessment is very different from other proposals in a big way. The fact is that other agencies offered solutions without an admin panel, where it was impossible to simply take and replace content on their own, without breaking anything.
    I explained that cool system stuff cost more, and I wrote about the advantages of the site on React: ease of scaling and making changes, own libraries of components, fast loading and speed of development. As a result, we did not do a stupid job, but a decision that saves the company’s money in the long term. ”

                                                                                Alexander Cherny, Product Owner, Dodo Pizza

    An experienced PM can independently answer the technical questions of the customer, describe the idea and convey to the team. This helps build trusting relationships, saves time at the project evaluation stage and at the start of work, and saves nerves.

    Skills to expand the toolkit

    Many managers convey tasks in words. This leads to inaccuracies and omissions when it comes to the implementation of the project’s functionality. A competent approach is to independently document the task and sketch a prototype, visualize ideas. To do this, it is enough to master free tools like Figma or Readymag.

    In addition, PM constantly fix tasks performed during the project, but this is done differently.
    “Sometimes projects lead to a notebook-tudnik, but this is a sure way to miss something. Universal solutions are popular, but they become obsolete. Many giants, say, advertising agencies, work for them without problems and do not want to change. But when you do something really complicated, Trello and Basecamp are no longer enough. ”

    Here you can use skills with advanced task trackers that combine various project management systems and have a flexible internal structure - ActiveCollab or Kaiten.

    Skills for finding alternatives

    The client can not, and should not know everything. It so happens that he asks to build a product on a non-optimal technology, for example, he wants a React site for static content.

    It is easy to follow the client’s lead, but this path is far from optimal. If PM understands the core technologies of development, he will probably be able to find a more suitable alternative with which the project will start earlier. The released resources will go to cool features or save money.

    This illustrates a case with a small but commercially successful online store. Suppose the owner of such a business is excited about the idea of ​​acquiring a mobile application.
    “For the sake of a single store, users are unlikely to download the application, but without the IT background, without the stacks of technology, they cannot offer the customer a successful alternative. And the best in such a situation would be a SPA (single page application) - a site that works without reloading. As in the application, the customer experience will not be interrupted, but the client is easier to access the site, and the customer saves on the development of about 50% of what he could spend on the application. "

    The work of the Project Manager cannot be standardized. Limited resources, changes in the plans of the customer, unaccounted factors - at any moment things can not go according to plan, and then the knowledge of technology and the potential of the team also comes in handy.
    “For a real estate related project, it was necessary to plan the houses. In the midst of work, the customer reports that the layouts will not be by the required date, and when they will be - it is not clear. In such a situation, you can feverishly postpone deadlines, rotate tasks and hope for the best, or you can globally change the plan and throw strength on the dynamic designer of layouts. When the layouts were finally ready, the customer already had a handy tool for processing them, and the team continued to work on the main task at their usual pace. ”

    Skills for correct evaluation

    Design in IT is first of all interface design, and its integral part is layout. Therefore, there are frequent situations when it is necessary, for example, to instruct the designer to make an activation screen with hundreds or different states. And here the designer evaluates each screen in two hours. It turns out that the task will take a lot of working time.
    “In such a situation, you should have a sufficient idea of ​​the design in order to propose to build everything on the components and make states with modified elements. So, from the titanic work of creating hundreds of layouts, the task will turn into the development of logic and the preparation of layouts templates. In this example, design knowledge will reduce the time to complete the task from two hundred hours to fifty. ”

    PM is worth studying how the design systems are built and transferred to the layout: first, to correctly estimate the approximate number of hours for a task, and second, to visually show the designer what the client wants.

    Skills for start without fiasco

    Alexander recalls a case where sales collapsed after the launch of a redesigned online store site: the project manager simply did not take into account how one-moment cardinal changes would affect the position in search results.
    “And it often happens that even the sites of large companies fall an hour after the launch with the 500th error. Even the coolest project team will not help if you forget to put time for testing into the project plan. ”

    Knowledge of the basic principles and methodologies of testing, understanding where to look for weaknesses of the project and how to launch it correctly are basic skills that many managers who come to IT (and not only beginners) lack.
    "If to summarize, IT skills are needed to look professional in front of the team and not to look like a fool to the customer."

    If you are confident in soft skills, learned to listen to a customer and are going to IT, then it is best to pump IT skills, of course, in battle. And so that you get the first couple of levels that will help bridge the gap between theory and practice and launch a career in the role of Project Manager, we organized a course on project management in IT .

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