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How to Become a Successful Project Manager in the SAP World

Last week, I completed the delta Stay Current content so I could stay compliant with my SAP certifications. This allows me to maintain the credentials of the technical certifications. But the question I hear often is, as a project manager, why maintain technical certifications?

Soft Skills and Hard Skills

Project managers must have important soft skills (behavioral and social skills), such as planning and organizing, leadership and influence, communication, negotiation and conflict management, to effectively manage a team during any kind of project. We also require the hard skills (technical skills), for which the project manager has the support of their team (PMO, solution architect, technical lead, technical consultant). Even with this technical support, I never stop trying to think outside the box, in a process of continuous improvement.

So, on some occasions, I asked the opinion of the technical team that worked with me on several projects. The opinion is almost unanimous: project managers who understand (even at a high level) what is being discussed effectively contribute to the scenario and proposal of the solution, and are critical to identifying risks and evaluating opportunities. Often these project managers can be proactive, anticipating the identification and mitigation of risks, bringing important points to the discussion and in a timely manner for taking action.

Project managers who understand (even at a high level) what is being discussed effectively contribute to the scenario and proposal of the solution, and are critical to identifying risks and evaluating opportunities.

Also listening to my project manager pairs, I often hear comments about a great discomfort they usually have: insecurity in relation to the technical lack of knowledge about subjects being discussed in meetings with clients or team of consultants. In these situations, the project manager participates in technical meetings only as a listener, feeling insecure to contribute to something he or she doesn’t know about. In relation to the team of consultants, the project manager may feel uncomfortable when not being able to contribute proposed solutions or criticize what he doesn’t know, being insecure even to evaluate the technical efforts estimated by the team. What project manager has not experienced this in their professional career?

The project manager, with minimal technical knowledge, can:

1. Support the technical team during the projects

In many situations, the technical team is impacted in its activities due to impediments and offenders, such as unavailable tools, undefined processes, or lack of resources. With the information obtained from the technical team and a minimum technical knowledge, the project manager can be more effective in actions to eliminate impediments and offenders with the team, customer, and suppliers. This increases the overall perception and satisfaction of the technical team, since the project manager doesn’t act only in delegating roles and tasks to the team without understanding the context (which is one of the biggest annoyances of the technical team) but also in the search for the solution, allowing the plan made at the beginning of the project can be fulfilled.

2. Support the client in their strategy

When executing a project for the client, the project manager can get to know the client’s reality and support them more effectively in defining the landscape and solution strategy, seeking the best solution to meet their particularities and staying tuned for new features that are constantly being released by SAP. This improves the client’s perception of the partnership and level of satisfaction, as the client recognizes the partner’s effort and concern.

3. Support the Commercial team in its actions

With minimal technical knowledge, the project manager will be able to work in pre-sales, especially with clients where he or she already knows the environment and can be precise in his proposals, as well as in the elaboration of proposals (aware of the base and new clients).

Some suggestions for the project manager to obtain technical knowledge are to actively participate in discussions during projects (especially during the Explore phase), participate in technical and solution webinars, and carry out training in the OpenSap and Learning Hub platforms. In addition, the experience of managing projects naturally results in good opportunities and knowledge.

In summary, I don’t think the project manager should have the technical knowledge of a consultant or architect, but in having a minimum of technical knowledge, he or she can become a more complete professional. In the same way, in my opinion, technical consultants would be more complete if they had a minimum knowledge of Project Management and SAP Activate methodology, as they would understand many actions and concerns of the project manager—in the end, the best of both worlds.

Wishing you success in all in your projects!

About the Authors

Marcelo Martins
Marcelo Martins is a Project Manager at GP Strategies with 34 years of experience in the IT field and 20 years of experience in leading IT teams and projects. He has certifications related to project management and technical modules. He believes in planning, training, and focus, and that we can always improve and innovate. He understands that the strength is in the union of the team, where each one acts with the best they have.

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