CIOs cite need for project management expertise

If you’re looking for work in IT, you may want to enroll in a project management course.
According to a new survey by Robert Half Technology, when asked what areas staff could improve on most, 24 per cent of CIOs cited project management skills.

“Project managers were in huge demand seven or eight years ago, but as the market had a downward turn these employees were the first ones to go,” Geoff Thompson, division director at Robert Half, said. “Now we’re seeing a lot of hiring within the market and project management has become a top priority for a number of organizations.”

Equally important to CIOs was technical abilities. Thompson cited IT security, audit, and .Net skills as primary examples.

“Things are moving so rapidly that there is no choice but to keep up with those technical skills,” Thompson said. “Even if you look at basic desktop software, with Vista coming out, it’s really a never ending stream of technology.”

Other skills IT bosses want out of their employees include: organizational skills with 19 per cent, verbal and written abilities at 14 per cent, and interpersonal skills at 7 per cent.

“A lot of these communication skills, are tied into project management,” Thompson said. “IT folks are now communicating with the non-technical departments more often and these are being classified as essential skills.”

The trend toward project management skills in IT is evident when comparing this survey to its 2001 counterpart.  When asked the same question six years ago, 34 per cent of CIOs thought technical skills needed most improvement, while only 23 per cent cited project management abilities.

“Companies want to hire PMP and PMI certified professionals,” Thompson said. “They want to ensure that plans stay in line and that they stay on budget.” 

A related study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit for Hewlett-Packard, indicated that about 25 per cent of IT projects are delivered late; leading to lower profits and poor business outcomes.

Mark Sarbiewski, director of product solutions at HP, said that although a link does exist between project management and delayed IT projects, too much emphasis is placed on the area.

“The thinking is that if an IT project goes off the rail it has to be assumed it wasn’t managed properly,” Sarbiewski said. “The problem with this line of thinking is often times companies don’t have a great sense of what their real capacity is and they end up putting too many projects on the road, setting their employees up for failure.”

Thompson agreed that while project management is important, sometimes companies can be at fault for project delays. He said that the existence of project management training programs, often separate the top IT companies from the rest.

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