If you’re a non-technical person, managing development teams and technical projects can be difficult. Your project team members are working on tasks that you’ve never done yourself, using unfamiliar tools and speaking in jargon that that you don’t understand. It’s natural to worry that you won’t be able to build an accurate timeline or prioritize the right tasks, much less provide your team members with the support and guidance they’ll need along the way.
Fortunately, if you approach the challenge with the right attitude, you can avoid trouble and actually turn your outside perspective into an advantage. These tips will help you understand your team members’ point of view and how you can set them up for success on every project.
Get the Right People on Your Team
Many project managers, especially those who have moved into PM roles after working on similar projects earlier in their careers, can jump in and complete tasks if other team members are having problems or are unavailable. As a technical project manager with a non-technical skill set, however, you can’t count yourself as an extra resource when things get difficult. That makes it especially important that you staff your team with the right people from the beginning. If you don’t feel that you have the knowledge to evaluate potential team members’ skill sets, recruit someone with specific expertise to assist you in selecting your team and allocating resources.
Ask for Input
Unless you’ve managed similar projects in the past, it can be almost impossible to make accurate estimates of task duration and level of effort. This is an ideal situation to use the bottom-up approach to task estimation, so try to involve your team members in the planning process as much as possible. In addition to task duration, ask for input on topics such as potential risks, task priorities and action plans to resolve any issues that may arise.
Learn as You Go
Even though you may never write a line of code yourself, you can still gain valuable new knowledge through technical project management. Try to pick up as much as you can as you listen to your team members discuss their challenges and successes. The more you learn about what your team members are doing, the easier it will be to understand what you can do to support and motivate them throughout the project.
Rely on Your Own Strengths
Even though you lack the technical expertise that your team members have, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have nothing to contribute to your team’s work. Chances are, you were assigned to the project because your other skills, such as time management, communication and risk management, are needed in order for the project to reach its goals. Make the most of your project management tools, and let your confident and organized approach to your work serve as an example for the rest of your team.