Senior IT Project Manager, Tommy Larsson – 10 questions for the expert

Tommy Larsson has over 20 years’ experience in project management for both small and large complex projects. With a background as a system developer, he also has long experience in system development and system integration projects.

1.  Why did you choose to work as a freelance consultant? 

I worked for a long time as a permanent employee and recently at a consulting company. After that, I wanted to try being self-employed and started as a freelance consultant at the turning of the year 16/17, and it suited me well. It provides a great opportunity for freedom when it comes to, for example, working hours.

2.  What do you think the need for freelance IT project managers will look like in the coming years?

In the previous year, there have been numerous projects advertised in various consultancy companies, so the demand is great. At the same time, many IT project managers apply to multiple advertised projects, which indicates fierce competition. Therefore, it is important that you have the right timing, find the right project where your experience matches the requirements and that you understand the customer’s expectation to you as a consultant.
In the near future, I believe the freelance economy will continue and only become stronger, I don’t see any signs of weakening.

3.   What is the most important professional trend in IT project management right now?

In 2018, a clear trend was GDPR, this is something we saw a lot of. However, at the moment, I don’t see a clear individual trend for 2019. Digitization transformation projects are becoming increasingly common, which is a combination of transforming the business with new IT and taking advantage of the possibilities of new technologies. I think many companies feel the need for change in this area, but in many cases, they don’t know what do.

4.   Which skills do you think set the best IT project managers apart from the masses?

Firstly, you have to have basic project management education giving you a solid project management skill set. Depending on the area, it is also important to have some form of operational competence.

My latest assignment was about structuring the customer’s project. Within the project management team they had well-documented methods and processes, however, it was important to help them follow these and produce clear documentation that assisted them in decision making at different key stages of the project. It was important that the decisions were made on sound information to maintain the quality of the project delivery.

5.   What is essential for a successful IT project – and what increases the risk of failure?

A major success factor is ensuring that the client provides the project manager with a clear picture of why they want to start this IT project. A thorough needs-analysis must be made to answer this question. The project can, of course, be managed in an agile way but you still need to have a clear picture of the benefits the project is to create for the business. It is foundational work which needs to be completed – and it is something I have seen in all my years as an IT project manager.

In many cases, customers don’t seem to understand what they are asking for, which makes it difficult for the project manager to deliver. Therefore, the dialogue between the client and the team is crucial to ensure successful delivery of the project through mutual understanding and expectation alignment.

You are heading in the wrong direction when you receive poor requirement specifications and the stakeholders have different opinions about their needs. In addition, one person might have unrealistic expectations for the scheduling, which is often seen when several projects depend on each other. As the head project manager, the challenge is to respond to these and argue for, for example, more realistic timetables.

6.   How do you keep up to date with trends in your field?

In recent years, I have attended courses to keep myself updated in my area. Otherwise, I also read news on different platforms in areas I’m interested in.
I’m a member of the Swedish Data Association which is a typical news forum. As an old civil engineer, I’m a member of the “Swedish Engineers”, which also contains lots of IT-related topics.

7.   How has your collaboration with Right People Group worked?

When I got my latest project through Right People Group, I wasn’t actively searching for projects or had any contact with consulting companies. When the opportunity presented itself to me, the consultant manager contacted me on LinkedIn which was exciting.

From the very first point of contact, the process went very fast. There was only one weekend between the first contact until my interview with the client – then we were ready to start. Also during the project, the contact with my consultant manager worked well. I felt that I quickly got answers to all the questions I had.

8.   What is your best advice for other IT project managers who are considering becoming self-employed?

I can definitely recommend becoming a freelance consultant, but you also need to think about what kind of person you are. As a freelance consultant, you have to be prepared to send lots of applications and sell in yourself. It is important to connect your consultant profile to all consultant companies according to the roles you are interested in. Furthermore, as you can be contacted on LinkedIn, you need to ensure it is always up to date.

You have to be on at all times, search for projects and follow up. One piece of advice is to always try to grow a personal connection to the project contact person since it will be the first person you need to convince. This can in some cases be hard and in other cases easy – I got good contact to the consultant manager at Right People Group. Some of the bigger companies can be quite anonymous, which makes it difficult to create a personal relationship.

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9.  What do you, as a freelance consultant, want to gain from consultant companies?

Of course, as a freelance consultant, you want to get projects within your field of expertise. One interesting parameter for consultants to know is what framework agreements consultant companies have, which aren’t always communicated. This would make it easier for us to know which types of projects they have.

It is also important to openly publish projects on the company website so I, as a freelance consultant, can easily find them. Furthermore, it is valuable to get a personal contact person who is very transparent. It should be clear, for example, which percentage is added to my hourly rate.

10.   What is your best advice for businesses who are considering hiring a freelance IT project manager?

My impression is that freelance consultants are somewhat more driven than regular employees, just like freelance consultants are more independent.

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