For a long time, network professionals in Boston and the world have focused on core technical skills that relate to networking including router and switch configuration; server development, installation, and management; scheduling upgrades; and troubleshooting among others. However, in this era where collaboration and teamwork approach determine productivity in any environment, technical skills alone are not enough for any role, technical or otherwise. Thus attaining the PMP certification in Boston is equally valuable to network professionals as other certifications like Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.
For instance, among the top skills that recruiters considered important for successful network engineer/project manager candidates were customer service and project management skills as indicated below.
- Customer service. Providing customer service and support for managed router networks.
- Project management. Applying project management skills to networking assignments such as system design, systems engineering solutions development, gathering systems network requirements, validation testing for feature enhancements, and more.
- Network security. Writing technical network security documentation, troubleshooting and solving network security issues, carrying out system recoveries during outages and external attacks, as well as implementing network security in an organization’s network,
- Infrastructure. Network monitoring, technical issues reporting and recommending network management solutions, infrastructure health reporting, infrastructure design and analysis, infrastructure deployment, operations and maintenance, as well as infrastructure upgrades and migrations.
- Hardware. Hardware configuration, development of staging centers for hardware configurations, validation of staged hardware configurations, and network infrastructure management.
- Routers. Router installation and management, installation of modules in core routers, IOS upgrades, technical support for routers, switches, and Hubs.
Technical roles today are a part of a broader team and do not, therefore, work in isolation. They are expected to perform their duties with a business mind which calls for soft skills and project management skills. This is because they are involved directly with others in other departments and clients who are end-users of their solutions as well as the management and other stakeholders. Professionals who possess leadership, communication, negotiation, problem-solving, organizational, and time management abilities have an edge over their counterparts in the job market.
Project management requirement for networking professionals
While it may not be expressly stated on job requirements, project management skills are critical to the assignments of networking professionals. It makes business sense for companies to hire a network manager with project management skills rather than hire a network manager and a project manager with some networking knowledge.
On many occasions, project managers will be expected to assume project management roles along with their designated roles for IT network projects. They will typically work as part of a team and are expected to drive both the project activities and team players to complete projects on time and within budget. Applying project management methodology to networking projects and assignments comes with several benefits.
- Just like other projects, network projects are bound by time, budget, goals, objectives, and expectations. An implementation of the project management methodology allows for proper resource management for timely delivery and end-user satisfaction.
- Firstly, it is easier for a network professional to learn project management skills than for a project manager to learn IT skills. A network professional with additional project management skills adds more value to the organization.
- In a McKinsey report, Big IT projects will typically be over-budgeted by 45% -50% and overscheduled by 5%-8%. These are challenges that project management skills, specifically budgeting and scheduling, can overcome.
- Project management skills empower talented networking managers with a business mindset. Their thinking shifts from performing routine tasks like troubleshooting, network maintenance, and network management to asking critical questions like, “What will the ROI be for a change in network design or an investment in a particular hardware?”
- With additional project management skills, project managers and other professionals will be in a position to translate business requirements into a network design that will deliver the expected value to the business.
Overall, IT network projects that are planned, initiated, and managed with a project management approach take off well and are usually successful. Network managers are able to guide their teams from both the technical and business perspective. They can plan the project lifecycle and budgets appropriately while also assessing the business impact of each stage in the project life cycle and monitoring project progress. Finally, they can help in drawing a project charter and other important project documents.
Some project management challenges faced by networking professionals
Unfortunately, with all the benefits that come with acquiring project management skills, many networking professionals have not made an effort to acquire them. Thus, most of the challenges that plague projects and assignments in IT networking departments only require the application of a project management approach and skills to be remedied. Let’s look at some challenges that networking professionals experienced in the course of their duties that could be solved by effective project management.
Poor planning and late project completion
Projects are time-bound. Poor planning leads to late completion of projects. Delayed projects have a cost implication and also affect service delivery in the business. Project management helps network managers to plan, allocate adequate time frames for project activities, and communicate the same to clients. This in turn builds client confidence and loyalty.
Handling changes in project requirements
It is normal for project plans to change midway perhaps due to budget allocation reviews, new customer requests, and others. While these changes can be implemented to end up with higher product value, there should be a good business case for them. It is necessary to calculate the business value of the changes in requirements and negotiate appropriately with the client.
According to a PMI report, poor communication puts up to 60% of project budgets at risk. Most challenges that network teams experience out of poor communication have to be resolved at a cost. Proper communication goes with teamwork. No business should be lost on account of poor communication.
Team management issues
An entire team can possess the technical skills required to get solutions through. However, effective solutions require more than an application of technical skills. This is because interacting with other stakeholders like suppliers, contractors, support staff, clients, and even the management requires strong interpersonal, people management, and leadership skills.
Roles in the IT networking department
We have mentioned project managers in this article because they are usually the ones in charge of leading teams to achieve certain objectives. However, there are several other roles in networking that can benefit from acquiring project management skills such as:
- Network Administrator
- Network Systems Engineer
- Network Programmer/Analyst
- Network Systems Manager
- Network Service Technician
- Network operations manager
Project management skills cut across various professions. Today, it is not just enough to possess role-based skills. Interpersonal and project management skills create business sense in the minds of professionals as they go about their role-based assignments. It is one thing to complete assignments to expectations and quite another to apply project management skills in addition, to deliver business value.