Project Management Skills You Need to Deliver Projects

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Project managers need key soft skills and hard skills to thrive in their position. Some of these include managing risk and controlling costs. Get an overview of project management skills with this guide from Coursera.

[Featured Image]: Project Manager discussing the latest plans with team members.

To be an effective project manager you need key project management skills. You need to make good decisions, manage resources and teams, track action items and ensure projects are executed on time and within budget. 

As a project manager, you're expected to have a breadth of project management skills, from detailed tracking and reporting to strong client and internal communication skills. This guide will help you to understand the key project management skills, including how to work collaboratively, manage risk, take various project approaches, and get started in project management.

What skills do you need to be a project manager? 

Project management is a vocation that requires experience and dedication. If you have a methodical personality, strong leadership skills, and excellent analytical skills, then you're on the right track. However, there is more to it than that. To make it in the world of project management, you need specific project management skills. This guide will start by looking at project approaches and methodologies, as they are a key part of a project manager’s competency base.

The skills you need for project approaches and methodologies

One of the most important tasks in a project is to identify the project management approaches and methodologies that are suitable for your project. The project approach defines how the project will be executed, managed and controlled.

A project manager is expected to know the various approaches and methodologies that will guide the execution of a project. A good project manager will adapt his management style to fit the needs of the team, client, and project. As a project manager you should do courses in and be competent in the skills of various approaches and methodologies. Here are some you may want to look at: 

  • Agile (or Scrum) approach


  • Waterfall model

  • Critical PATH project management

  • Scope management plans

  • Six Sigma approach

Managing risk in projects

A good project manager must be skilled at identifying, assessing, and managing different types of project risks. A project risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on the project objectives. Risk analysis is the process of identifying and quantifying the risks to the successful delivery of a project. It's critical to understand that risks exist before you can manage them.

Some risks are easy to identify and plan for, while others might not be obvious until much later in the process. When this happens, you need to have a strategy in place to deal with them as they arise.

As a project manager, you also must have the skills to follow a framework for identifying risks and performing risk assessments. This process involves several discrete steps and serves as a mechanism to help project managers to manage project risks in several key areas, including:

  • Schedule

  • Cost

  • Quality resources

  • Stakeholder satisfaction

  • IT security

  • Compliance

Financial control and cost projections

Budgeting and forecasting skills have a direct impact on the success or failure of projects. Your budget is one of the most important tools you have to successfully deliver a project. If your client sees that you are taking proactive steps to manage the budget, they will gain confidence in your abilities, and that will make stakeholder management a much easier process. 

As a project manager, you need to plan for your team’s needs, forecast the resources necessary for a successful project, and ensure that your staff have the necessary resources throughout the life of the project. Budgeting for a project takes research, analysis, and the ability to quickly understand project scope and details.

Initiating projects and inspiring the team

Project initiation is the first step of any project and seeks to define the goals for and scope of a project. This includes translating high-level objectives into specific tasks, creating a plan out of uncertainty, and creating the initial scope document. 

Project initiation involves getting the project off the ground—providing the initial motivation, support, recruitment, and direction needed to get things going. It’s an exciting part of the journey that should be carefully thought through. The process requires input from all project stakeholders and hence, must be carried out in cooperation with them. You will need to use:

  • Influencing skills

  • Creativity and imagination

  • Problem-solving

  • Research and analysis

  • Stakeholder management

  • Discovery skills 

Organisational skills

To run a multi-stream project you need exceptional organisational skills. You’ll need to be diligent and to use various tools throughout the project.

Gantt charts can help you track tasks, resources, and milestones in a timeline. This visual project record puts all of the components of your project side by side in a straightforward format that makes task management and resource allocation quick, easy, and accurate.

You may also need project planning software to manage and improve scheduling:

  • You need to delegate tasks

  • You need to structure communication, access privileges, and responsibility frameworks

  • You need to track deadlines and milestones

  • You need to monitor progress

You need a calendar that can fit your busy schedule, provide reminders, and keep track of important dates and deadlines. Project management software, such as that found in Microsoft Project, is built specifically for managing projects. Software like Asana or Trello can be used to manage tasks and time. Software like SmartSheets makes it easy to map out your strategy with project templates and linked spreadsheets.

Communication skills and setting up systems

Communication is a key project management skill. Communicating well with team members is paramount for a successful project. Team members have to be on the same page to produce quality results. 

The importance of strong, clear communication skills has been stressed continually in academia and research and judged a critical component in managerial performance. Most project managers know good communication skills are vital, but when they begin planning, staffing, and executing a project, they often find that communication is one of their biggest challenges.

As a project manager, some of the most important tools you have to be competent with are:

  • Video conferencing tools

  • Email

  • Chat tools like Skype and Google Hangouts

You have to be able to ensure your team follows a unified communications strategy. This involves structured team communications systems, communication schedules, and file management. You will need the skills to set up and manage:

  • A project board- to plan the project on

  • Weekly progress reports- to understand resource needs and progress

  • A central repository- for documents, such as Dropbox or Google Drive

  • Daily standup meetings- to push things forward daily

  • Change case and project iteration meetings- to manage project scope

Personal skills and conflict resolution

Being a successful project manager takes an ability to manage the people and the relationships that get projects done. This means you need to know how to:

  • Build relationships

  • Minimise conflict

  • Resolve disputes

  • Motivate teams

  • Manage personality differences

  • Understand corporate culture and values

  • Improve teamwork 

  • Foster cross-team communication 

  • Build collaborative team working environments.

The way you interact with your team is the key to the effective execution of the project.

Project managers use people skills to manage the resources and people on their team and bring out the best in each individual so that they are more productive.

Skills in specific project industries

Running a complex project involves a lot of moving pieces. Industry-specific knowledge, experience, and skills can help you to navigate the twists, turns, and pitfalls that occur along the way.

For example, having software development experience will help you to lead software development teams. You will be able to talk about specific bits of code. You will be able to cut through jargon. You will know the amount of work people should be doing with a timeframe. 

Experience is a great teacher. If you're new to project management, then industry experience can come to the fore and help you deliver projects. That’s why employers often look for relevant industry experience when hiring project managers.

Building the skills in your CV

When developing your project management CV, you need to make sure that it highlights your relevant hard and soft skills and gives the employer a great insight into your capabilities. List the methodologies and software programmes you have worked with. Use the top half of the first page of your CV to cover all the key project management competencies that the employer will be looking for.

Begin to learn the skills of a project manager?

If you are beginning on the path to becoming a project manager, the Google Project Management Professional Certificate on Coursera can provide you with access to core project management knowledge, skills and training. The learning from this course can help you to manage projects with the right balance of scope control, budget management, quality focus, and urgency—so that your projects are completed on time, within budget, and with high-quality results.

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