What Are Project Management Skills?
Project management skills are the necessary traits and competencies you need to be a successful project manager.
While “project manager” seems like a fairly straightforward job title, this role is responsible for far more than keeping projects on track. A project manager needs to:
- Plan projects from conception to implementation
- Map out timelines
- Assess project risks and opportunities
- Execute each phase of the project life cycle
- Create, allocate, and manage the budget
- Communicate with all stakeholders
- Troubleshoot problems and challenges
- Deliver (and often maintain) the end product or service
Sounds like a pretty big job, doesn’t it? Effective project management skills can help make those responsibilities at least a little bit easier.
15 key project management skills
What skills do you need to get projects across the finish line on time and under budget?
While this list of essential project management skills is by no means exhaustive, it covers the core competencies.
Project manager technical skills
Technical skills (you might also hear these referred to as hard skills) are the more tangible and measurable abilities required to be an effective project manager.
1. Planning and forecasting
It goes without saying, but proper project management requires skilled planning. This can be challenging, especially since many project managers need to make educated guesses about timelines and required resources.
That’s where forecasting comes into play. Project managers need to use any information they have to make predictions and estimates.
2. Risk management
Every project has risks. Perhaps a resource won’t be available when you need it, or delayed approval from a client will set your timeline back a few days.
Project managers are responsible for not only navigating around risks but anticipating them so that they can try their best to avoid them altogether.
Only 2.5% of companies successfully complete all of the projects they take on. The rest go over schedule, over budget, or both.
Project managers know that there are financial constraints they need to work within, and they use their budgeting and financial management skills to deliver winning projects within those limitations.
4. Tracking and monitoring
Project management isn’t just about completing a project — it’s about completing a successful project. That won’t happen if project managers fail to keep their fingers on the pulse.
They need to use their performance tracking and monitoring skills to ensure projects are running according to plan and still supporting the broader business goals. If not? They’ll course-correct when necessary.
5. Project management methodologies
Experienced project managers are familiar with those methodologies and can determine which ones are the best fit for their specific teams and projects.
6. Meeting facilitation
Kickoff meetings, status updates, retrospectives — the typical project process has many meetings, most of which are led by the project manager.
For that reason, a project manager needs to be skilled at facilitating meetings, including creating an agenda, documenting notes, and following up on action items.
7. Subject matter expertise
Project managers work in a variety of industries, from construction to IT and everything in between. While it’s not an absolute necessity, it’s helpful for the project manager to have a basic familiarity with the industry and the types of projects they’re managing.
This level of expertise will help them more accurately estimate costs, timelines, and resource requirements.
8. Project management software
The best project managers know better than to try to coordinate all of the elements of a project with jumbled spreadsheets and task lists.
Instead, they’re experts at using project management software like Wrike to centralize communication, streamline collaboration, and iron out project plans.
Project manager soft skills
Think these are nothing more than project management resume fluff? Think again. Soft skills really do carry weight.
One 2016 study found that 93% of employers say that soft skills are either an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions. Let’s look at some must-have soft skills for project managers.
Project managers are the project leaders and often, the team leaders too. They’re responsible for setting the team’s vision and ensuring everyone is on board and motivated to bring the project through each phase.
This requires getting buy-in from executives and project team members. These leaders should also equip people with the time, tools, and other resources they need to handle their to-do lists.
Any project management skills list is sure to include communication near the top. This includes written and verbal communication.
Project managers need to ensure that team members and stakeholders are informed about the project plan, timeline, and budget and updated on the project’s latest happenings.
It typically takes a village to complete a project. The project manager is tasked with rallying team members around the project vision, coordinating tasks, and ensuring that everybody works together effectively.
To make that happen, a project manager needs to be a skilled collaborator. This also involves conflict resolution, as occasional project-related disagreements are unavoidable.
12. Time management
Every project manager will have numerous demands placed on their time — especially since they’re acting as the point of contact for so many departments and team members.
They must be able to manage their own time and the time and capacity of all of the project’s key players.
Deadlines, resources, task dependencies — it’s enough to make anybody’s head spin, but a project manager views it as a fulfilling challenge.
The best project managers are exceptionally organized and able to keep track of all of the moving pieces.
14. Problem solving
As much as you’d like to think that your project will go off without a hitch, unexpected issues are bound to crop up.
Project managers can’t be discouraged by a problem. Instead, they need to develop solutions to keep the project moving forward — even when the best-laid plans fall apart.
Project managers need to be adaptable. While planning is a core skill, they can’t be so rigid with their strategies that everything falls apart the moment something unanticipated happens.
Project managers need to rebound quickly, roll with the punches, and find ways to keep the project moving forward.
How can I develop project management skills?
You’ll need to possess plenty of project management skills to thrive in a career as a project manager.
Can you check all of them off? If not, don’t worry. There are several ways that you can develop your project management skills, including:
- Reading: There’s no shortage of resources to help you broaden your horizons and refine your skills. You can grab a project management book and study up on your own. Other resources like our blog, eBooks, and even this project management guide will help you lay a solid foundation.
- Taking a course: There is a slew of qualified project management courses from reputable organizations that can improve your skills. The Project Management Institute offers eight different certifications, and professional organizations worldwide offer additional certifications that can help you develop your project management skills.
- Joining an organization: Organizations like PMI, the International Project Management Association (IPMA), and the Association for Project Managers can provide you with tools, resources, and a network of like-minded professionals.
- Familiarizing yourself with a project management tool: A whopping 77% of high-performing projects use project management software, so you’ll need some expertise with a project management platform.