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How to manage an IT team effectively without a technical background

All the technical persons in your company who were involved in web application project management went on vacation and you were literally alone? Don’t worry, we live in an era that allows creating global, complex technical solutions that you can manage without a hint of technical knowledge. Creating a team of programmers who have high communication skills is one thing, but proper project management so that functionalities are delivered on time is another matter.

What skills do you need to manage your IT team?

  1. You should be the first to be able to delegate tasks. When you can assign work to specific programmers and you know who will do the work, it’s best to set priorities. A good manager is one who is close to his team and is aware of their strength and weaknesses. If you are a good observer, this skill should be easy to do.
  1. The second skill is efficient and painless solving of various problems that appear during the product creation process. If your developers are looking for the culprit instead of confessing and correcting their mistakes immediately, then it is very bad to testify about you as a manager.
  2. Trust and lack of micro-management are the basic principles that should be introduced on the first day of cooperation. Nobody likes when someone checks his actions every day, everyone has the right to a weaker or more effective day. You should be focused on deliverables and not the programmer’s effectiveness on individual days.
  3. Keeping the focus on the main assumptions while creating a large project can be difficult. Some of the functionalities or errors will be so time consuming that it is easy to break away from creating core functionalities.
  4. Choosing the right people for your project is a key skill you should acquire. When you are able to complement a highly trained team of programmers, you will probably be able to manage it well.

In summary, the features and abilities that predispose to take on this role are:

  • leadership abilities,
  • communication and analytical skills,
  • independence, responsibility,
  • multitasking
  • creativity,
  • resistance to stress.

How you should manage your IT team?

An IT project manager does not need to have hard technical skills. However, soft competences and substantive knowledge are important. As a manager, you are the link between users, decision makers in the company and the team, so you must be able to understand the needs of all these groups. The project manager should know the business expectations and make them translate into specific actions of programmers or testers. 

The less the manager knows about programming, the less he is able to interfere with the team of programmers in their competences, the more he can focus on performing his duties, the more he has to trust them as specialists. People in a project team should have a very high level of trust. Only a lack of trust in specialists may require programming skills, but then the team’s problem lies in a completely different place than programming.

manage IT team

What are the benefits of having technical competence?

  1. First of all, development experience will be useful at the beginning of the IT project managing path, when a man with his hard skills is able to make up for deficiencies in other areas. It will be easier to understand the problems and challenges facing the team. Is able to lead the web application project, receiving less feedback from the team. Over time, these differences blur. Non-technical people with good soft skills, who are able to listen and drill the topic to the end, acquire intuition, knowledge and a kind of intuition in technical issues.
  1. In strictly technical projects, programming experience is very helpful. It facilitates efficient navigation through the hard aspects of the project, effective communication with the team, understanding of the threats and complexity of the field. On some of these topics, the team may not necessarily be willing to talk, considering that business will not understand the whole picture anyway, and trying to explain is just a waste of time, so it will be more effective to just do it. Usually, communication deficiencies are the beginning of serious project problems.

What are the risks of running a project without technical competence?

  1. A person with programming experience may focus too much on the technical area. If he additionally works in a rather stressful environment, he may even run away to this area to avoid uncomfortable situations to which she would be condemned in other areas of PMa’s work.
  1. There may be a temptation to propose solutions to the team, interfere in their competence, pressure on alternative implementation paths to reduce time consumption. For a person with programming knowledge, this is easier to do than for a person who only knows the work of programmers from the side.

Give the authorities the hands of programmers

The key to creating effective teams is empowerment, which is giving power, engaging employees in important decisions for which they take responsibility. A manager who is involved in technical decisions and, worse, makes them, takes the consequences of this decision on himself, leaving the team in the comfort zone. There is a risk that the team will not protest, because it’s easier and more convenient, you don’t have to do long research and wonder if the decision is good. In this way, it is difficult to gain employee involvement and strengthen motivation in the long run, because the sense of influence is limited.

Just because he is the boss, so he probably knows better, right? 

Well no. When a programmer is promoted to the role of a team leader, it is not because he is smarter than all its members (it is impossible), but rather because he has the appropriate predispositions in other necessary fields (of course I assume the perfect case here). It will bring much more value to the team and organization if it focuses on developing skills thanks to which it will support the team well, giving them the right space to act, allow mistakes and encourage learning from these mistakes, i.e. develop.


cto - Chris Gibas

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