Startups or other businesses transforming a great idea into a digital venture typically need strong leadership. If you’re the one initiating a new venture at your company, or the owner of a startup starting a new project, the instinct may be to lead the project yourself. However, trying to split attention between too many ventures prevents them from getting the attention they need and prevents you from focusing on the next impactful move your organization could take.
Instead, finding a talented project manager with the skills required to lead your venture after it has been fully developed and implemented tends to be a wiser choice. Any software development project leveraging a modern, iterative methodology requires deft leadership to keep everyone on the same page. So in addition to strong technical and managerial skills, you also need someone that’s personable with superior communication abilities.
Ultimately, your startup needs to treat its project manager as essentially the CEO of its digital venture. It’s the right approach for getting the high-end leadership skills required to bring your great business idea to the market. This approach especially makes sense for companies with multiple digital ventures in the pipeline. In that scenario, your actual CEO needs to focus on running the business.
The Benefits of a Project Manager as a Digital Venture CEO
While a digital venture shares many similarities with any software development project, the differences remain critical. Arguably, the most important one relates to the startup nature of these kinds of ventures. After all, a successful effort just might result in an emerging business with strong growth potential.
Ultimately, project managers with significant experience leading projects for mobile apps or interactive websites generally boast the right mix of skills. They understand the modern developer, the latest technology innovations, and the state of the art software development methodologies used throughout the industry. Their personality and strong communication abilities keeps the entire team engaged and on the same page, including developers, engineers, and client stakeholders.
Someone with an entrepreneurial mindset provides the necessary focus to lead an effort from initial development and through the various growth stages that a company might see. This involvement includes the subsequent marketing and commercialization of the app, interactive website, and/or related business service. In the end, they take ownership for the digital venture in the same manner as the proverbial CEO.
Finding Project Managers With the Skills to be a CEO
While project managers are easier to source and hire than an experienced executive, finding one with the soft skills and potential needed to be developed into a leader takes a more focused approach. Crafting a compelling job posting helps attract the talent your organization needs to ensure a successful digital venture and subsequent startup. Here’s a sampling from the job posting we use:
Seeking a take-charge, self-directed person who is interested in managing a mini-team of developers and engineers dedicated to provide a mobile or web app solution to our clients. This person should have an entrepreneurial mindset and, consciously and subconsciously, act as if they have personal equity in the initiative’s success or failure.
By offering an opportunity for ownership, this posting resulted in finding three all-star CEOs now running startups incubated at our agency. So take a similar approach with your job posting.
The Skills Needed to Champion a Digital Venture
So what does a talented project manager bring to the table when it comes to leading a digital venture that transitions into a successful startup business? Obviously, their mix of technical skills and business acumen remains critical. The best technology PMs boast a keen understanding of the latest in programming, sometimes including practical experience as a developer. Their business knowledge is wide-ranging, with significant exposure to the relevant business domain for the digital venture in question.
Importantly, they also possess the soft skills necessary for success in this role. These include communication skills, problem solving, an intrepid demeanor, and of course, excellent leadership. They need to be able to see the big picture, across all functional areas of this emerging enterprise. Focusing only on one silo simply won’t work for startup digital ventures.
Someone with a forward-looking and optimistic attitude is essential for inspiring everyone to give their full effort. Being able to foster collaboration and teamwork is also critical. Finding someone with experience in DevOps is a definite plus from a team-building standpoint.
Ultimately, a digital venture project management role serves as a great litmus test for any fledgling CEO. On these kinds of projects, many of the same skills and abilities come into play, albeit at a smaller scale. Their ability to successfully build an effective team and navigate the interactive nature of an iterative development methodology bodes well for the future of the venture and subsequent startup. In short, your next CEO just might be the project manager leading your next digital venture to a successful outcome.
Learn how NineTwoThree uses this method of treating project managers as startup CEOs in our blog on creating a Digital Venture Studio. We’ve used this approach for several internally funded digital ventures and our CEO Andrew Amann outlines the entire methodology.