Remote Work Presents New Challenges for Project Management Staffing

December, 2022

The role of the IT project manager is critical in this dynamic, changing IT environment. The rise of remote/hybrid work puts project managers in the middle of recreating business and project management processes to reflect a more dispersed workforce. They have the task of using collaborative tools and digital workplace technologies to ensure the progress of projects where traditional mile markers such as daily or weekly meetings or informal conversations at the water cooler will need to be recreated at a distance.

New technology adoption, regulatory compliance, outsourcing, remote/hybrid work, and the ever-present mandate to do more with less make it vital that projects be adequately planned and controlled. Because so much of the work in IT organizations is project-based, IT leaders realize that project management is essential in delivering successful projects—and thus, value—to the business. While project managers do not guarantee successful projects, they improve the odds.

It is no surprise, then, that the number of project managers as a percentage of the total IT staff increased again in 2022. As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios, project managers in 2022 made up 6.0% of the IT staff at the median, the highest percentage in five years.

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Project managers will face some challenges. To remain in control and stay on budget, project managers will have to devise new ways outside the traditional methods of managing teams. Project managers will also have to look at a combination of tools and leadership styles as they adapt to working with hybrid teams.

Another challenge for IT leaders is the resolution of the ‘too many cooks’ problem. Too much project management can be as bad as too little. Adding layers of management and complexity can reduce the speed and agility of the business. Many development best practices such as agile and DevOps, call for fast, iterative deployment. There is a need for project coordination and facilitation in agile processes. But too much emphasis on project management, as traditionally understood, can create unnecessary administrative overhead.

“One basic reason that project management staffing is growing is that some other jobs, like data center operations, are declining due to the cloud,” said Tracell Frederick, research analyst for Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “This leaves jobs like project managers growing as a percentage of the total IT staff.”

In our full report, we examine the question of how many project managers a typical IT organization requires. We present five benchmarks: project managers as a percentage of the IT staff, project managers as a percentage of the application group, users per project manager, applications per project manager, and application programmers per project manager. All of these ratios are presented by organization size. In addition, we look at the influence of sector on the key ratios. We conclude with recommendations on assessing the performance of the project management function.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios . The full report is available at no charge for subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).