UXC: IT project managers short on key skills

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UXC: IT project managers short on key skills

Companies should retrain them.

Large organisations in Australia are in need of well-rounded project managers in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to the chief executive of UXC's consulting business.

Nick Mescher - who looks after brands including Planpower, Lucid, Opticon and GQ-AAS - theorises that a series of market triggers has changed the average skill set of the industry's project managers.

The first trigger, he said, was the growth in shared services departments within Tier One clients (large enterprise and government) prior to the GFC.

Traditional Project management skills, he said, tended to be diverted into these areas and away from the business.

"The role of the project manager as we knew it - which had been quite diverse in terms of skill set - became far more narrow as a result," he said.

During the global financial crisis, one of the first areas where large companies tended to cut spending was within these shared services units.

"We would see companies putting large transformation projects they had on hold during the GFC, and immediately after," he said. "There were still just enough people to get things done, but that was about it."

Mescher thinks that now that the economy is improving and large organisations reconsider these transformational projects, there is a growing demand for project managers. But he believes that the "skills most project managers have got are often too narrow to get the delivery right.

"I don't think they understand all the aspects of project delivery," he said.

This presents a challenge for the large enterprise, he said. Project managers are in need of new skills, he said, but are also in a position to find work elsewhere if an organisation doesn't provide re-training and new opportunities.

"The market is heating up," he said.

"It is time for organisations to focus back on project managers, to do an assessment of the skills required to run the projects required in today's world."

Organisations need to "invest in people that are otherwise at risk of churning or leaving" and put in "definitive programs" around mentoring and coaching, stakeholder engagement, change management and communication skills, Mescher said.

"Now is not the time to be running a resource-thin model.

"Organisations that are ramping up their delivery model better make sure they can deliver. You won't be able to squeeze blood out of a workforce that has options elsewhere."

NIck Mescher is a speaker at the DC Strategics conference in Sydney on August 13, where he will flesh out his concerns on IT skills in greater detail.

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