IT project managers move up corporate ranks

More organizations are customizing career paths for IT project managers and investing in them to assume executive positions, according to an industry observer.

It may not have been possible years ago, but project managers are now increasingly being groomed for the top echelons of organizations.

Leroy Ward, executive vice president at project management training institute ESI International told ZDNet Asia in an interview that an increasing number of companies are customizing career paths to groom IT project managers for leadership roles, without requiring them to move outside of the project management scope.

"Organizations are expanding the concept of what a project manager is or does; they are looking at project managers as future leaders and developing them as such," Ward noted.

This means that IT project managers are increasingly given greater responsibilities, and have more authority and autonomy, Ward pointed out. With the higher visibility however, more is also required of them. On top of technical know-how, IT project managers now also need to be equipped with good interpersonal and communication skills, as well as a basic understanding of financial management.

"What companies are looking for today are IT project managers with good business acumen," added Ward.

Project management has a "very bright" future, Ward said, simply because project management is a tactical way of managing organizational strategy. "Companies, when executing strategic plans will, nine out of 10 times, implement [those plans] through individual projects," he explained.

As a result, the investment in project management by organizations has "grown tremendously" over the years, said Ward. He did not give an estimate on how much more organizations are, on average, spending on IT project management training.

In addition, the number of holders of the Project Management Professional certification, awarded by the Project Management Institute, has risen significantly over the past two decades--from just over 400 in 1990 to over 270,000 today. There are also over 200 universities worldwide that offer higher degrees in project management. These figures are expected to increase in future, said Ward.