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14 Essential Project Management Skills in 2021

Bringing together the requisite skills, knowledge, tools, and business processes to achieve the outcome is the core of project management. And there is a long list of skills that enable project managers to accomplish all that. This article will list 14 of the most important project management skills in 2021.

According to industry predictions, by 2027, businesses will require 87.7 million employees to work in roles associated with project management. And with projects only getting more complex with time, project managers need to know how to manage both the big picture and the smallest details. What’s more, project managers need to stay on top of their skills and the latest developments in the profession to be truly successful.

Project management skills

A great project manager knows how to deliver projects on time, budget, and scope. However, the job of a project manager goes well beyond delivery. Project managers are also responsible for

  • creating a vision for a successful project
  • uniting clients and teams
  • ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

And to ensure all that, the best project managers are equipped with a wide range of skills – from technical skills (or hard skills) to soft skills.

Read on: How to Be a Kickass Project Manager

The difference between hard skills and soft skills

Hard skills or technical skills refer to the job-related knowledge and abilities that employees need to perform their job duties effectively. Hard skills can be quantified and measured, and transferred when changing a company or industry. These skills are usually learned through formal project management training or on the job as a project manager.

On the other hand, soft skills are the personal qualities that help employees thrive in the workplace. Some people see soft skills as a resume fluff, but in reality, they do carry weight. And although difficult to define, they are all related to how project managers interact with colleagues, solve problems, and manage their work.

Now, let’s look at some of the most important hard and soft skills for project managers.

Hard skills

1. Planning and forecasting

It’s often said that project success and failure are determined in the planning phase. And the responsibility of creating a realistic roadmap and conveying their vision to stakeholders, clients, and other team member falls on the shoulders of a project manager.

Project managers also need to be comfortable with data analysis to interpret past projects and use this information to provide an accurate prediction of project outcomes.

2. Budget management

Only 43% of organizations say they’re delivering projects on budget. And with most organizations being forced to tighten their belts during the covid-19 crisis, accurate budget management has never been more important.

Experienced project managers know how to create a viable budget and control it throughout the lifecycle. They also have the ability to efficiently track costs, put together spreadsheets and decide what the budget should be spent on.

3. Risk management

As a project manager, you can put together a perfect plan, but things will still go wrong. Indeed, unless you have a magic eight ball, you cannot account for everything. And that is okay… as long as you’re prepared for them.

Risk analysis during the planning phase enables project manager’s to define the most difficult moments, put together a risk mitigation strategy, and be much more proactive in those difficult situations.

4. Tracking and monitoring

How to ensure your project doesn’t go over time and budget? By keeping your finger on the pulse – at all times.

And the best way to do it is by having a structured way to track and monitor progress. This enables project managers to be much more proactive and make quick changes on the go when projects run into any problems or fall behind.

5. Subject matter expertise

Project managers work in a variety of industries, from construction to IT and everything in between. And every industry comes with its own specifics. This means you can be a fantastic project manager in one field but fail in another.

To ensure you, as a project manager, rise to the top (and stay there), it’s important to better understand the industry and find the best way to apply all the skills you have.

6. Project management methodologies

There are different project management approaches and methodologies – from Agile to Waterfall – all with their own unique principles for overseeing and completing projects.

It’s not enough to know just one because the best methodology depends heavily on the industry and the nature of the project. A skilled project manager has the ability to recognize the best approach and apply it to that specific project.

Read on: Agile Project Management: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

7. Tech-savvy

As organizations become increasingly digitized, an excellent technical skill set is essential for project managers to keep up and lead the way. Not to mention, using project management software to manage projects will make it easier to ensure project success. Research shows that 77% of the best-performing projects use at least one project management tool.

“Good project managers must be interested in staying up to date with the latest software and other technologies that will keep their teams on the cutting edge.” – Tiffany Irene, CEO of iSpeakPR.

Soft skills

8. Communication

Let’s start with the obvious (and the most important) skill – communication. According to Project Management Institute:

90% of all project managers work is communication.

As such, project managers must know how to communicate clearly and efficiently when managing any project and team. What to communicate, when to do it, and how to deliver it are critical ingredients to getting the project where it needs to be.

9. Leadership

Leadership goes far beyond being the one in the driver’s seat, calling all the shots.

A project manager with the right leadership qualities knows how to support their team throughout the entire project, set clear expectations, motivate their people while also holding them accountable, and navigate conflicting situations and personalities.

10. Negotiation

In addition to being a leader, mediator, delegator, and supporter – project managers also need to be good negotiators. It’s all about working together with clients, stakeholders, suppliers, and project teams and finding a sweet balance that makes everyone believe they’re getting what they want.

11. Collaboration & teamwork

Every project manager needs to learn to collaborate effectively because they are the link between their team, management, clients, suppliers, and everyone else. They also need to ensure great teamwork within the project team. This includes knowing how to effectively delegate responsibilities, handle conflicts, evaluate and boost performance, and push team members to improve their skills.

The ability to collaborate enables teams to work together more productively and complete tasks successfully. Teamwork is also said to spark innovation, foster personal growth, and boost creativity.

12. Coaching

Coaching is a balanced mixture of poise, productivity, team management skills, tutoring, mentoring, and much more.

Yes, as a project manager, it’s your job to bring out the best in your team. This means knowing how to communicate with every individual, boost their motivation and give them the confidence to stay on track and produce their best work – even under pressure.

13. Organization

Organization skills are about bringing order to chaos, resolving any issues, and staying on top of everything. That’s right, to ensure processes are running smoothly and in line with common goals, project managers need to have strong organizational skills and know how to prioritize tasks, compartmentalize projects, and document everything.

14. Time management

Time is the most valuable resource we have, and project managers need to know how to put together a realistic timeline and ensure all deadlines agreed at the beginning of the project are met.

Further, project managers should be comfortable juggling tight deadlines, constraints, and stakeholder needs and stay calm under a lot of pressure.  Lastly, project managers also need to know how to manage their own time during project execution to ensure all parties are always informed and up to date and the project stays on track.

Read on: Project Tracking: The Key to Delivering Projects on Time?

Improving project management skills

Project managers need to wear many hats and be a jack of all trades. They also need to stay up to date with the latest trends and improve skills accordingly. For example, over the past year and a half, managing remote teams has become something expected from project managers.

Luckily, there are several ways to develop your project management skills, including:

  • Project management books. The list of project management books is long… and getting longer every day. Although new books are great for keeping up with the most recent project management trends, some of the best books for project management fundamentals are written a long time ago. Take a look at our favorite project management books.
  • Blogs and Podcasts. We get it – books are not for everyone. And that’s alright because there are many relevant blogs and podcasts that can be incredibly helpful. These are also very invaluable and interesting because they usually focus much more on everyone’s personal experience.
  • Online courses. Reading a book or listening to a podcast is a great way to get started. However, not everyone likes to learn by themselves and prefers to have more structure. Project management courses and training can help you systematically develop project management skills.
  • University degrees. Universities all around the world have started to offer dedicated project management degrees. It definitely requires a longer commitment, but project management skills are definitely those you can use in every role you might take on in the future.

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Liis Milk

Liis Milk is the Content Marketing Specialist at Scoro. From research to clever writing, she cares about creating engaging content. Best described as a photo enthusiast and a word nerd, she gets inspired by nature and books. Never says no to good conversation, sports and traveling.

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