In this six-part series, Joseph R. Czarnecki, project management specialist and senior consultant at ESI International, identifies six top business skills at which every IT project manager needs to excel.
Change is the only thing one can count on. Mergers, acquisitions, redundancies and other organisational changes often create anxiety and uncertainty because such business changes affect every level of an organisation. Armed with savvy change agents, smart organisations leverage their project managers' skills to manage the inevitable shifts in the business landscape. IT change agents need to call on their other essentials business skills we have talked about in the previous articles: business savvy, communications, critical thinking, financial know-how and even coaching and mentoring.
As IT professionals begin to take on more business-oriented roles, their understanding of the risks, benefits and repercussions of change becomes essential. Positively managing and implementing change within the organisation is vital to success.
Change management itself involves a very general three-step process. First, IT managers need to define the current ("as is") state, identify the desired ("to be") state and evaluate the gap between. In this phase, the key business skills we brought to light in another article in this series - critical thinking and problem solving - are imperative. IT managers need a "business mindset" to view the Big Picture to determine where the organisation is versus where it needs to be and to identify the specific goals and objectives of the change initiative.
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The next step involves engaging everyone from the executive suite to the ground-level to ensure everyone is on board. In this phase, high-impact communication melds with an IT professional's leadership and change management skills. The IT managers' coaching skills will be called in to play as people within an organisation must be allowed an opportunity to react to the desired change, and may need some one-on-one support.
Providing this opportunity enables people to become accustomed to the idea of change and to align their thinking in ways that will help both identify potential problem areas and contribute substantively to process improvement. And of course, leadership skills such as persuasion and influence are also required for a smooth change management process.
The third and final step involves implementation: agreement on and delivery of the processes and technology to realise the future state. During implementation, employees throughout the organisation need to remember why they are working so hard on implementing a change. Therefore, change leaders should continually remind people, using multiple media (formal e-mails, milestone celebrations, informal conversations) what the change is and why it is so important.
As change agents, IT leaders should ask themselves the following questions to help both themselves and the organization ensure successful implementation:
- Can I clearly articulate the change and rationale of the change to each level?
- Do the individuals in my team have the right ability and desire to work in the new environment?
- Are additional skill sets needed to transition to the new job?
- Do the people in my team have the right mentor?
- Does the change impact short-term productivity? If so, will additional support be needed to ensure business success?
- How do these new demands impact my department financially?
As we have seen, the top six business skills ensure long-term career success for IT managers today. With a proper business mindset, high-impact communication, critical thinking, financial literacy, coaching and mentoring and change management abilities, IT leaders, and the companies they work for, will enjoy long-lasting success!
Read the previous articles in the six-part series of top business skills for IT managers
- Part 1: Establishing a business mindset >>
- Part 2: Advanced communication and interpersonal skills >>
- Part 3: Critical thinking and problem solving >>
- Part 4: Financial and outcome management >>
- Part 5: Coaching and mentoring >>
Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, MSP Practitioner, Senior Consultant, Global Learning Solutions - EMEA, ESI International, leads the development and customisation of learning programmes including courseware, executive workshops, coaching programs and assessments for many of ESI global clients. As a subject matter expert and recognised thought leader in project management, Joe has authored various professional articles for trade publications. He is a member of the PMI-UK Corporate Council.
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