Complete Guide to Technical Project Management

Published on
September 6, 2023

Q: What is technical project management?

A: Technical project management is like regular project management … but more technical. 

Ok it’s not quite that simple. 😂 A technical project manager is actually a unique hybrid role, because it requires both management and technical skills. Similar to a project manager that deals with a broader scope of work, a technical project manager is responsible for overseeing people and projects, so they need to have those leadership, mentoring, and managerial skills. But the difference in the technical field is they also have to have a high level of IT expertise and experience managing complex IT projects. 

In this article we’ll explain the key responsibilities and qualifications of a leader in technical project management, and how they differ from the broader project management practice. We’ll also share some examples of the tech-centric projects, essential skills, and key certifications associated with technical project management. 

What technical project management is

Technical project management is the process of leading, planning, and executing technical projects, often involving software development, IT operations, and system integrations. Unlike traditional project management, it zeroes in on the unique challenges and intricacies of tech-focused endeavors.

These projects are typically led by a highly skilled technical project manager. Someone who understands both the technological intricacies, and the dynamics of team collaboration. Their role isn't solely about keeping a project on track; it's about optimizing processes, ensuring that each piece of code is effective, and preemptively addressing potential roadblocks.

What differentiates technical project management from other types of project management

There are a few key distinctions that set technical project managers apart from other project managers or scrum master types.

  • Skills: While general project managers are skilled in organizing tasks, managing timelines, and ensuring efficient resource allocation, technical project managers possess an added layer of tech-savviness. They have a foundational understanding of software development practices, familiarity with IT terminologies, and often some coding knowledge.
  • Responsibilities: All types of project managers handle budgets, timelines, and team coordination, but a technical project manager goes a step further. They're in charge of software lifecycle management, integration of new technologies, and even troubleshooting technical issues that arise during a project's lifecycle.

  • Companies You’d Be Likely to Work For: While a general project manager might find themselves at home in a broad range of industries—a technical project manager's habitat is primarily within the tech ecosystem. Think software development companies, IT consultancies, tech startups, and any organization heavily reliant on IT operations.

If you're in the tech industry, the specialized expertise of a technical project manager can be a game-changer. Similarly, leaders in tech also rely on specialized software tools to supercharge their Agile workflow. For example, Spinach is an AI scrum master that gives dev teams instant meeting summaries with action items, documented decisions, and smart ticket suggestions. 

Examples of technical projects

There's a myriad of projects that require a technical project manager in order to be highly successful. Here are four examples that stand out as distinctly "technical":

Cloud Migration 

With companies rapidly shifting to cloud-based solutions, moving data and applications from on-premises hardware to the cloud is a massive undertaking. It's not just about data transfer; it's about ensuring compatibility, security, and optimal performance post-migration.

Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) 

From conceptualization to maintenance, SDLC comprises several phases like planning, designing, testing, and deployment. Each phase has its technical challenges. A technical project manager ensures that every phase seamlessly transitions into the next, meeting tech and business requirements.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Whether it's updating server hardware, rolling out new networking equipment, or integrating cutting-edge tech solutions, infrastructure upgrades can be complex. They require careful planning to ensure minimal disruption and compatibility with existing systems.

Cybersecurity Initiatives

Implementing new security protocols, tools, or conducting vulnerability assessments are highly specialized projects. With their expertise, a technical project manager ensures that such initiatives are executed flawlessly, keeping potential threats at bay.

Note that each project example isn't just about ticking boxes; it's about navigating a maze of technical decisions and challenges.

What skills are required to become a technical project manager?

Here are the top skills that typically appear in Technical PM job descriptions and why they're indispensable for anyone diving into this role.

Technical Proficiency: Understanding the languages of tech – software development practices, IT terminologies, or system architecture – is fundamental. This ensures a TPM can effectively communicate with developers, IT pros, and other tech stakeholders. A technical project manager can easily translate tech jargon into actionable insights and decisions. 🖥️

Risk Management: Every tech project has its share of uncertainties. A technical PM's ability to identify, assess, and mitigate risks means fewer surprises and more proactive problem-solving. This skill safeguards projects from potential derailments, ensuring smooth progress and delivery. 🔒

Stakeholder Communication: Technical PMs have to be able to understand highly complex technical concepts, and then convey them to non-technical stakeholders in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s truly an art form. Effective communication ensures everyone is on the same page, aligning expectations and facilitating collaborative decision-making. 🗣️

Time Management & Prioritization: Tech projects are notorious for their moving parts. Juggling multiple tasks, deadlines, and deliverables requires impeccable time management. The ability to prioritize ensures that the most critical aspects of a project get the attention they deserve, keeping everything on track. ⏳

Budgeting & Resource Allocation: Money and resources aren't infinite. A keen sense of budgeting ensures that funds are used optimally. Combine that with the knack for resource allocation, it guarantees that every dollar and every resource hour contributes maximum value to the project. 💸

Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking: Tech roadblocks are inevitable. A technical PM's ability to think on their feet, analyze problems, and develop efficient solutions can be the difference between a hiccup and a full-blown crisis.

Team Leadership: Leading a tech team demands empathy, motivation, and conflict-resolution skills. By fostering a positive and collaborative environment, a technical PM ensures that every team member is empowered, motivated, and geared towards project success. 🏆

Certifications for technical PMs

For those eager to shine in technical project management, snagging a relevant certification can add that extra edge to your professional profile. Here are five certifications that technical PMs may find valuable:

PMP (Project Management Professional)

Offered by PMI, securing this globally recognized certification is a testament to your expertise in leading and directing projects. Ideal for those looking to anchor their foundational PM skills with a gold-standard credential.

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)

Delve into agile practices with this certification from the Scrum Alliance. It's a testament to your proficiency in the Scrum framework, enhancing agility in project execution.

PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments)

This process-driven project management approach is globally recognized and offers foundation and practitioner certifications. Having this certification demonstrates your mastery in tailoring projects based on the environment.

CompTIA Project+

At the intersection of project management and IT, this certification demonstrates your understanding of project management while focusing on tech-related projects.

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) 

For those wanting to delve deeper into IT service management, ITIL offers a structured approach to aligning IT services with business needs.

Recommended Reading: How Important Are Scrum Master Certifications?

Level up your technical project management initiatives with Spinach

Technical Project Management (TPM) seamlessly merges technology with project oversight, making it distinct in the broader discipline of project management. From cloud migrations to cybersecurity, a TPM's role covers a wide range of complex tech initiatives. The most high-performing Technical Projects Managers possess a diverse set of IT-related skills, and they also make use of intelligent software tools to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness in the role.

Looking to take your TPM game to the next level?, Check out Spinach’s robust AI Scrum features, like automated meeting summaries and action items.

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