Project management skills you need to excel in 2023

Two adults using project management skills.

Technically speaking, anyone who oversees a project is a project manager. But if you want to be a thoughtful and impactful project manager who brings out the best in your team, you’ll need a wide variety of project management skills.

Business executives want to ensure project managers are performing their roles effectively, and project managers want to continuously improve their impact and efficiency. To help you evaluate and improve your organization’s project management, we’ve put together this guide with a list of essential skills and everything you need to know to manage projects successfully in 2023.

In this post, you’ll learn:

What are project management skills?

Project management skills are the abilities and aptitudes that help you lead and execute team projects more effectively. While there are dozens of crucial project management skills, virtually all of them can be placed in one of three categories — soft, hard, and technical skills.

Acquiring and honing project management skills will improve your ability to oversee teams and achieve key organizational objectives. As you learn new skills, you’ll be able to more effectively complete important tasks, provide deliverables by set deadlines, and take on increasingly challenging projects.

However, project manager skills aren’t necessary only for professionals who lead organizational projects. You’ll likely need project management skills if you’re interested in any HR, IT, marketing, or finance program manager role. That’s because most industries apply project management principles to many critical business functions.

Eleven soft project management skills

Soft project management skills are those that don’t require technical knowledge or specific tools. Rather, soft skills are generalized or intuitive talents that can apply to a wide range of disciplines and industries.

Some must-have soft project management skills include:

1. Collaboration

Collaboration is a foundational skill that every project manager must possess. As a project manager, you’ll be responsible for collaborating with your team members and encouraging them to work together toward common objectives. When you can coordinate talents and team members, everyone will thrive.

If you need to hone your collaboration skills, prioritize listening to your staff and promoting open lines of communication.

2. Leadership

Leadership involves much more than simply telling others what to do or assigning tasks. A true leader will encourage and motivate team members, increasing productivity.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a natural-born leader, you can still develop valuable leadership skills by taking a proactive approach. For instance, you could speak with your team members and gather feedback about your leadership style.

3. Communication

Lack of open communication creates friction among project teams and can lead to costly errors. That’s why project managers must possess strong communication skills.

Project managers who are great communicators can effectively build trust with their teams. They can also ensure that important information is disseminated efficiently, reducing the likelihood of errors and minimizing friction among team members.

4. Organization

Like all other soft project manager skills on this list, organization is a talent you can develop. However, doing so will require some discipline and the right tactics.

The best way to get organized is to develop a defined process and a single source of truth for your project. Your source can be a Kanban board, chart, or other visual tool that makes it easier to manage your project.

5. Problem-solving

At least once a day, a team member will come to you looking for help solving a problem they’ve encountered. That’s part of life as a project manager.

To be a great problem-solver, you must approach every issue holistically. While you don’t necessarily have to know the answer to every problem, you need to be able to think outside the box and methodically develop a constructive resolution.

6. Teamwork

While you may be the project leader, all team members add value to the project. If you want to take advantage of your team’s full skill set, you must ensure that everyone feels valued, welcomed, and appreciated.

Fostering teamwork can be challenging, especially if your project includes new employees. Fortunately, you can help your team build chemistry by encouraging everyone to voice their ideas and being supportive of them when they do.

Acquiring and honing project management skills will improve your ability to oversee teams and achieve key organizational objectives.

7. Time management

Individual team members can get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of their work during crunch time. Consequently, they may lose sight of deadlines as they strive to churn through their assigned tasks.

As the project manager, you must possess exemplary time management skills so your team members can keep their attention where it should be — on their work. To enhance your time-management skills, consider prioritizing tasks so you know which aspects of the project need to be completed first.

8. Critical thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing information and forming unbiased, logical conclusions.

Before you can examine an issue critically and objectively, you must detach yourself from the situation. Take a step back and closely examine the facts being presented to you. Once you do that, you’ll be able to apply what you know to determine the best approach for your team’s situation.

9. Adaptability

Adaptability means managing your and your team’s emotions when unexpected hurdles derail your best laid plans.

No matter how great your plan is, it will change when the project gets underway. You might encounter a problem that cuts into your budget, or your stakeholders may have decided to push up your delivery deadline. Either way, you’ll need to adapt if you want the project to succeed.

10. Conflict resolution

You and your team are understandably passionate about your project. While that passion is an asset, it can also cause tempers to flare when the road gets bumpy.

When this happens, you’ll have to put on your conflict resolution hat and mediate a solution that makes all parties feel heard and understood.

11. Negotiation

You’ll often have to go to bat for your team as a project manager. To do this effectively, you’ll need exceptional negotiation skills.

You may have to use these skills to obtain additional resources for your project or negotiate a new deadline if the original one was unrealistic. Whatever issues arise, negotiation skills will help you navigate any challenge with grace.

Five hard project management skills

Hard project management skills are talents and abilities specifically geared toward leading projects. These hard skills include:

1. Project planning

Project planning is the process of creating a blueprint for your project. This blueprint should outline the elements critical to the project’s success. Typically, your plan needs to include the following:

Clearly defining all of these aspects of your project will help you hit the ground running.

2. Project scoping

This is the process of defining your project’s limitations, goals, and overall size. Limitations include resources, your budget, and deadlines.

Project scoping helps you avoid “scope creep,” which occurs when deliverables exceed the parameters of your project.

3. Meeting facilitation

Without facilitation skills, your team meetings can easily descend into chaos. If you want to keep meetings on track and productive, you must be able to guide the sharing of ideas and prevent participants from hogging the floor or talking over one another.

Facilitating meetings can be a true art form, especially if you’re tasked with leading a passionate group of professionals and subject matter experts.

4. Project roadmapping

Project roadmaps and project plans sound similar, but they aren’t the same. Where a project plan provides intricate details about your project, your roadmap offers a high-level overview. Think of your project roadmap as the highlights of your plan, listing the timeline, key deliverables, and milestones important to stakeholders.

Project roadmapping skills will help you create an easy-to-digest overview of your project, which you can use to win over decision-makers.

5. Project timeline mapping

Your project timeline should list the order in which tasks will be completed. It should also define the duration of each event or task. A clear project timeline will help your team members meet deliverable deadlines and stay on task.

When building your project timeline, set clear start and end dates. You may also want to include dates for any major milestones you hope to hit along the way.

Six technical project management skills

a graphic that describes technical project management skills.

Technical project management skills are abilities directly linked to a specific tool and require certain knowledge. These technical project management skills include:

1. Project management software proficiency

Project management software proficiency is just what it sounds like — it refers to your ability to use a software solution effectively to oversee all aspects of your project. Adopting a project management software like Adobe Workfront or Asana will help you operate more efficiently and keep your project on track.

If your organization isn’t already using project management software, do some independent research and explore the many options out there. Once you’ve found one or two options you believe would be a good match for your business, break out those negotiating skills and meet with stakeholders.

2. Risk management

Top project managers can identify potential risks before a project is underway and proactively develop plans for mitigating these risks. While a project manager has no way of knowing which risks will actually threaten their project, it’s important that they’re prepared for any major obstacles.

Honing your risk management skills takes time. However, you can expedite this process by consulting with more experienced project managers within your organization. Find out how they approach risk management and apply these best practices to your project-planning processes.

3. Cost management

Cost management involves assessing how every task will impact your overall project budget. Throwing too many resources at one task can cause you to burn through your resources and leave you without the funds to see your project through.

To manage your costs effectively, continuously refer back to your original budget and see how your actual expenses align with your estimated costs. If completing one task was more costly than projected, you’ll need to save money down the line to stay on budget.

4. Budget management

Cost management and budget management are interconnected project manager skills. The former involves overseeing the costs associated with individual tasks, while the latter involves monitoring all the financial resources allocated to your project.

Budget management begins during project planning. From the outset of your project, you must set a clear budget and break it down into various expenses. Closely monitor how your actual expenditures match up with your budget. If your real costs begin outpacing your projections, tighten down on spending.

5. Writing and reporting

Stakeholders expect project managers to keep them in the loop about the status of ongoing projects. To do this, you’ll need writing and reporting skills.

When preparing reports for stakeholders, make sure the information you’re presenting is concise, relevant, and digestible. Remember, they’re concerned about the bigger picture, not the day-to-day details of your project. In light of this, your reports must provide an easy-to-understand overview, not a detailed synopsis of everything you’ve done.

6. Technical expertise

As a project manager, you must be fluent in the language of the subject matter experts (SMEs) you work with. You’ll need a broad range of technical expertise to be involved in all facets of the project.

For example, you may need functional knowledge of mobile app DevOps and marketing if you’re leading an application development project. The specific technical expertise you need will vary depending on the project’s scope.

While there are dozens of crucial project management skills, virtually all can be placed in one of three categories — soft, hard, and technical skills.

Four project management methodologies

Project management methodologies will help you apply your skills and keep your projects organized from start to finish. Some top project management methodologies include:

1. Gantt charts

Gantt charts provide a means of visualizing your project. This method uses horizontal bar charts, with each bar representing a given task and the length of the bar revealing how long it will take to complete that task.

Modern project management platforms have incorporated Gantt chart concepts into their tool sets. However, Gantt charts are rarely used as a standalone project management solution.

2. Kanban boards

Kanban boards are an extremely popular project management tool that enables you to visualize your work distinctly. Under the Kanban methodology, stages of work are divided into columns. Traditionally, the board will have three columns — “To-Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” However, you can add more columns if needed.

Individual tasks are represented by cards. At the start of the project, all cards will be in the “To-Do” column. The cards are moved as your team completes tasks. The card system allows you to monitor how many tasks are in progress and what work still needs to be completed.

3. Agile management

Agile management has become a favorite of software development and product engineering teams. As a lean project management methodology, Agile management focuses on reducing waste and maximizing team flexibility.

Agile includes concepts like incremental evolution and continuous improvement. It also encompasses other tools and methodologies, such as Kanban and Scrum.

4. Scrum

The Scrum framework is designed to optimize team collaboration. This workflow approach allows you to break down your project into small, easy-to-complete fragments.

Scrum is unique in that it includes built-in feedback loops. After each series of work, you gather feedback from your team to see what worked, how much progress was made, and what needs improvement going forward. Scrum can help your team deliver value incrementally through enhanced collaboration.

Empower your project management skills with a robust software

Acquiring and honing strong project manager skills will help ensure that you’re as effective as possible when leading projects. However, developing specialized project management skills is only the beginning. If you want to put your skills to their best use, you’ll also need the right project management software.

We recommend evaluating your current solution to determine whether it helps or hinders your project management capabilities. If it’s coming up short, it may be time to upgrade to Workfront.

Success is 10% inspiration and 90% process. We’ve got the 90% covered. Connect, collaborate, and simplify workflows using Workfront to launch campaigns and deliver personalized experiences at scale.

To learn more about Adobe Workfront and see if it’s the right solution for your project management needs, take a product tour or watch the overview video.