Torbjorn Zetterlund

Sat 04 2017

What are the key skills of a project manager

by bernt & torsten

In all my years in software development, I worked with or had project managers worked for me in various organizations. This experience has given me a certain view of what I see as a project manager’s key skillset.

You may have a talent for organizing things. But, project management is a particular kind of management that needs other skills to overcome the challenges projects bring.

The following list defines some essential project management skills:

  • Stakeholder Management
  • Risk and Issue Management
  • Planning and Control
  • Scope and Initiation
  • Quality Management
  • Organizational Management
  • Time Management
  • Project Integration management
  • Cost Management

What I found is the key skills of a project manager, is managing stakeholders, controlling a project and risk management. In this article, I will dig in a bit deeper into why these are the key skills.

Stakeholder Management

Who has a stake in your project?

There are your sponsors and other senior executives. Your immediate project team, colleagues from IT, business analysts, accountants, legal… and so on.

Then there are those people affected by the change you are implementing. Directors, senior managers, middle managers, administrators, subject matter experts. And then there’s the external suppliers, consultants, contractors, customers, communities to mention a few.

A project manager has to deal with many people who have a different view on your project and may or may not be in agreement with your goals. Most of the time, they are likely unaware of your project plans.

You cannot deliver projects successfully unless you manage your stakeholders. You need to understand both the importance and the needs of stakeholder groups and learn how to communicate in the most appropriate and effective way.

Risk and Issue Management

Projects can be very complex work, that is one-off activity. Projects are nothing like business-as-usual activities with predefined roles, responsibilities, and procedures.

Rarely is a project straightforward, there can be many challenges along the project timeline, tasks that you are not yet aware of, sometimes you might not know what you doing as you are in a new territory of knowledge, so you can see that uncertainty breeds risk in a project.

As a project manager, you need to spend time identifying and managing problems and risks. You have to figure out while you go along the project timeline what may go wrong and then work out how the steps on how to reduce the risk of these tasks being worked on.

A project manager’s goal is to list and find ways to eliminate the risk altogether, which is not possible, as there are times when you need to deal quickly and decisively with project issues. Risks and issues belong out in the open, and it’s important to have your stakeholders informed and on-board with the actions you plan to take.

It’s important that a project manager must be open and honest about the risks if not, the risks will sink the project timelines.

Planning and Control

Project Managers plan work, by creating an outline plan of the project and working towards a more detailed plan as your project progresses. When works start you check progress against the plan.

As a project manager, you create a project change management plan and make changes to the project plan during the project. You review and manage risks and issues, the attitudes and behaviors of stakeholders, and implement the communication plan. You report to your sponsor and other senior executives. And you start over again. You follow this cycle week in week out and over time you deliver parts of the project.


I hope that you know, got an idea of what I regard as the top project management skills required. In your view, what is the most important skill a project manager should have?

You can add your view, in the comment field below.