The Next Evolution of the Technical Project Manager

With the constant innovation occurring in the information technology space, technical project managers (TPMs) need to hone their skills and processes to include a consultative approach, modern leadership, and efficient information management. We're going to take a look at a number of specific ways that TPMs can achieve these goals in the coming years.

Product Manager (PM) vs. Technical Project Manager TPM

Often, PMs and TPMs collaborate and share responsibility for project delivery. However, they may have distinct sub-responsibilities requiring different skills and strategies. Let us look at some differences.

TPMs may have a background in development and continue to stay abreast with changing technologies. However, getting heavily involved in development on a day-to-day basis is not recommended, as it may divert the TPM's focus from their core responsibilities.

Technology is constantly evolving, and TPMs should be able to adapt, manage, and integrate various technologies based on their project requirements.

Increased reliance on SaaS systems

Older enterprise resource planning (ERP) is being replaced with SaaS systems, which offer businesses access to improved features without paying nearly as much. These capital savings are used for other projects or to meet operational expenses, while saving on depreciation.

Companies may also outsource maintenance to external vendors, as it is sometimes more cost-efficient. TPMs may collaborate with these external vendors to implement the software required for their company.

Increase in the usage of low-code tools

Low-code tools are replacing basic coding processes by providing code-free alternatives to traditional development. The ongoing proliferation of digital goods and services (and reduction of physical stores and goods) has boosted interest in low-code tooling as a way to accelerate digital transformation.

These tools assist businesses to accomplish more with existing resources. However, low-code tools do not replace the need for data scientists and developers. The tools are for enabling rather than replacing. Therefore, the increased use of low-code tools will not eliminate the need for experienced TPMs, especially while developing highly technical and complex projects.

Need for soft skills

A TPM requires technical skills like developing work breakdown structures, critical path diagrams, and preparing a budget. However, the value of “soft skills” is increasing. Some of these include acting as a liaison between technical and non-technical stakeholders, providing leadership, fostering teamwork (by understanding emotions and motivation), applying critical thinking, conducting research to understand the bigger picture, prioritizing tasks, and applying creativity. TPMs must also stay updated on information, news, and other trends that affect their business and sector.

How will the role of the technical PM evolve in the future?

Project management is an important business discipline. Understanding the impact of coming changes can help professionals know what they must proactively do to stay prepared.

Increasing dependence on virtual teams

Remote teams are increasingly common due to factors like changing corporate values, improved connectivity, and rise of gig economies. Even though remote work was already rising, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented shift. Almost 50% of American workers are telecommuting, and this is expected to continue in the future, which presents unique challenges for TPMs.

For the success of their projects, good communication is critical. Professionals will have to improve their communication skills and focus on building teamwork among the virtual teams spread around the globe.

Change management

Companies go through hundreds of small and big changes during the year, which may include minor adjustments to internal processes or complete overhaul of strategy, supply chain, or structure. The coronavirus pandemic has forced several companies to adapt to significant changes while ensuring the completion of existing projects.

TPMs will have to manage their current projects and also work on the company’s change initiatives. According to a research report from the International Project Management Association (IPMA), 63% of companies have projects requiring some change management. The same report shows that only about 30% of companies consider their change management capabilities to be effective.

TPMs will have to manage projects more efficiently and must include change management plans outlining protocols and steps that should be adhered to. They will have to be versatile and adopt hybrid methodologies for effective project management.

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Changing methodologies

As the teams become dispersed and work in remote locations, TPMs will have to rely on new processes for project management. Specifically, they will need to acclimatize to versatile working methods, allowing them to follow more outcome-oriented and less rigid procedures.

Professionals already should understand concepts like Agile, Lean, Scrum, and Kanban for the management of various projects. Embracing hybrid methodologies and familiarizing themselves with newer methods is important.

Emphasis on soft skills

The role and responsibilities of TPMs do not end with completing the project on time and within the stipulated budget. They need to understand people and manage them to provide the best results. Efficient managers should anticipate the need of their team members, motivate them, and identify and overcome any potential roadblocks that may affect the project.

The demand for professionals with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is expected to increase. Some of the soft skills required include communication, empathy, and motivation, which deliver better results for companies in the long-term.

How the Technical PM Role Will Change in 5 Years

Statistics suggest that companies will recruit more than 50,000 technical PMs across the U.S. between 2012-2022. The average salary of TPMs in the U.S. is $88,397 per year.

Organizations that embrace the use of technical project management skills are expected to complete 76% of project objectives. By contrast, in the absence of project management skills, the organization is likely to hit only 61% of project objectives. Companies know this, and the demand for technical PMs should accordingly surge in the next five years.

Moreover, it is predicted that artificial intelligence will disrupt the role of project management in most organizations by automating task management and resource allocation. TPMs will be responsible for devising innovative solutions that harness AI and deliver better projects, faster. Even with automation, TPMs will be responsible for keeping an eye on project progress, as organizations cannot blindly trust automation software.

It is also expected that the number of certification courses for TPMs will grow to enhance the skills of employees. This will help technical PMs to become increasingly specialized and help developers and testers. To remain employable or level up to higher positions, technical PMs will need to learn more technical skills to compete with others and secure a job in the fluctuating market.

How the Technical PM Role Will Change in 10 Years

It is estimated that the world will need around 88 million employees in project-oriented roles by 2027. Technical PMs should be ready for a strong and steady surge in demand, as it can provide an opportunity to boost their careers.

However, these statistics won't matter to project-oriented employees who are not specialized enough to match the growing requirements of advanced technologies. In particular, the ability to leverage low-code tools to create internal and customer-facing apps may become an increasingly essential qualification for PMs and TPMs alike.

Technical PMs will be increasingly relevant over time as they are required for the overall development of the company. They negotiate, organize, prioritize and brainstorm ideas for the company's benefit while budgeting the tasks and managing risks.

Approaching Technical PM Labor Shortage

According to a report released by the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are three primary reasons for the gap between the requirement and availability of experienced professionals:

The world economy is project-oriented, and demand for qualified managers in sectors like healthcare, professional services, and publishing is rising. This increase in opportunities is driven by a higher reliance on technology and the need to maximize the value offered by developers.

Greater demand for professionals in emerging economies like India and China

As mentioned above, it is expected that companies will require about 88 million professionals in project-related roles, by 2027. A majority of them will come from India and China. However, the dearth of qualified professionals may result in a potential loss of over $200 billion in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for countries like Canada, U.S.A., UK, Australia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

Growing attrition rates due to retiring professionals

Experienced project management professionals are reaching retirement age, which should result in some turnover in senior roles. In the U.S., almost 97% attrition is expected in the manufacturing industry, while about 52% of employees in the management and professional services sector are poised to retire.

How to position yourself for the changes in the next decade

There are multiple ways to become a professional TPM and no single one is right or wrong. Individuals who want to work in project-oriented roles must identify, anticipate, and adapt to the changing requirements of the industry.

One of the best ways to stay updated and prepare for the future amidst evolving trends is to pursue an advanced degree in project management. In addition, here are some things professionals can adopt to benefit from this opportunity:

  • Embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and leverage it for successful completion of projects
  • Opt for a smart mix of agile and traditional methodologies for the best results
  • Learn how to use data analytics to create business value

Change is the only constant in the project management industry. This industry is rapidly changing with newer tools, trends, and technologies. The change is not expected to slow down, so you must equip yourself to take advantage of the coming talent boom.

Crowdbotics offers teams the ability to hire expert technical PMs on demand. Moreover, Crowdbotics provides an integrated low-code platform that experienced TPMs can use to plan and execute the applications themselves.

Crowdbotics follows industry-leading agile software development practices and builds apps on a modern tech stack. Businesses who are in need of high-quality technical project management should get in touch with us today to discuss their project requirements.

Originally published:

November 18, 2020

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