Can a Technical Manager be a good Project Manager?Muhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
Project Management is a recognized discipline worldwide but since it was a role generally filled up by the senior resources. As a common practice, this senior resource is the technical lead/development team lead and is assigned as an additional responsibility other than his/her original role.
I have discussed whether a Project Manager has to be necessarily with a technical background in my article “Technical Project Manager”. The foremost thing to understand is that Project Management is a full time job. You should not expect anything fruitful if the role of the project manager is an additional responsibility.
It is not that I am against technical managers transforming project manager or it is not possible. There is a complete framework for project management and anyone who can satisfy those requirements, can be a good project manager.
The technical project manager has one big advantage, if working as a project manager, is that he/she has a very good, in-depth vision and understanding of the solution, technical challenges and estimates. But from a full time project management’s role it can be termed as that he/she is more focused and expert on technical aspects but might lack that level of vision in other areas.
Another area where I have always felt the technical manager, even in its original role, has faced challenges is cross-team communication. He/she is generally very good with the development team but when it comes to interacting with executive management or with other department’s resources, especially the QA department, it always has been their weakest area. The most common reason for this is that technical managers are considered biased towards their own team. This is a challenge a technical manager has to take care of in order to transform into a full time project manager.
Another important aspect that needs to be understood is that there is a lot of soft-skill, as well as communication and presentation skills, involved in Project Management. Technical Managers have a history, experience and command in technical skills but at this level, it takes a lot of time to build other skill sets. For me, it is same as asking a seasoned Mechanical Engineer to work on some Civil Engineering related assignment.
It is not that the technical managers are poor presenters or have poor reporting skills. Its that not part of their daily routine so transforming into a role where presenting and reporting to the higher management is a bit of a challenge.
These days, project managers are used to utilizing a lot of team collaboration tools but unfortunately the technical resources are generally not too fond of using these tools and thus are notorious for under-utilizing them.
So to summarize things, the answer is that it is a long road, full of challenges, to transform from a good technical resource to a good project manager.