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As IT organizations move more of their operations to the cloud, the mix of skills needed is changing, with most infrastructure-support roles falling as a percentage of the staff, and higher-level roles rising.
It is no surprise, then, that the number of project managers as a percentage of the total IT staff increased again in 2020. As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios, project managers in 2020 made up 5.6% of the IT staff at the median, the highest percentage in five years.
Change is a way of life in IT organizations. New technology adoption, automation, regulatory compliance, and outsourcing initiatives can only be accomplished through projects, which need to be properly planned and controlled. Although the project manager is not responsible for the direct creation of project deliverables such as systems design, program code, or documentation, he or she is responsible for ensuring that these deliverables are completed according to plan. IT projects are known for costly overruns, if not outright failure. Good project management can mitigate such risks. As such, project management staffing will always be volatile, as companies react to project successes and failure. But for the most part, we expect continued growth in this role.
Because so much of the work in IT organizations is project-based, IT leaders realize that project management is a critical element in delivering successful projects—and thus, value—to the business. So, companies appear to be doubling down on project managers. While project managers do not guarantee successful projects, they do improve the odds.
“You do have to avoid the ‘too many cooks’ problem, however,” said David Wagner, senior research director for Computer Economics, a service of Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “Too many layers of management can reduce speed and agility. Getting the right level of project management is key.”
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.