What does it take to be an interim IT project manager in Hong Kong?

By Robert Half on 20 June 2024

What does it take to be an interim IT project manager in Hong Kong?

  1. Patience
  2. Emotional Intelligence
  3. Adaptability
  4. Critical thinking skills
  5. Leadership skills
  6. Organisational skills
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

The information and communications technology (ICT) industry contributed 3.3% to Hong Kong's GDP in 2021, amounting to HK$95.6 billion.

The growing demand for digital transformation projects is shining the spotlight on the people who make them happen. Together with Melissa Lau, Director at Robert Half Hong Kong, we explore why interim IT project managers are the key to succeeding in tech.

The current landscape

Businesses are faced with a clear choice: upgrade their technology, systems and processes, or face the prospect of being left behind. New ways of working, evolving customer behaviour, and the importance of data management – under the digital transformation banner – have become drivers of change.

The issue of cyber security is also shifting the landscape. In 2023, Hong Kong experienced a significant increase in cybercrime cases, with a total of 34,112 cases reported, leading to financial losses of HK$5.5 billion. This represents a substantial rise compared to previous years, with the number of cases more than doubling since 2020.

With Cyber-crime predicted to cost the world $9.5 trillion in 2024, businesses are keen to develop more than just their digital backbone. Facing prevalent and sophisticated cyber-attacks, they’re ready to improve their security posture too.

But here’s the challenge they face, businesses often fall short of the expertise to deliver these types of projects. They might have strong technical teams, but small and medium-sized businesses, especially, don’t usually employ full-time IT project managers. But when something needs to be delivered, with multiple departments involved, they are fundamental.

Timing is everything

Melissa Lau oversees Robert Half’s Technology operations in Hong Kong. With over 10 years of experience, she’s well-versed in the world of tech talent. Melissa says there are usually three scenarios when interim IT project managers can help. She outlines each stage below, along with some real-world examples that she has encountered.

1. The proactive stage

“This is where they are invited to join a project at the very beginning. They are involved in the planning stages, helping to develop the scope of the project; they might even assist with the selection of a suitable technology vendor. When interim IT project managers are involved from the outset, they can build solid foundations and relationships more easily.”

2. The midpoint

“Once business analysts have done their research and a technology vendor has been selected, an IT project manager will come in and plan out the rest. They will pick up the main pieces of the puzzle and put them together. This scenario works well when a business has some technical expertise but needs help to deliver the outcome.”

3. The challenging stage/s

“This would see an interim IT project manager engaged when things aren’t going well. They would either replace someone else or, give the business some guidance if they are doing it themselves. Recently, a client had a finance software project running significantly over budget. They wanted someone with experience in cost-cutting and getting a project back on track. The person we found did both of those things, the project was delivered under budget, and their contract was extended.”

The skills to succeed

In any of these three scenarios, interim IT project managers will quickly assess the status of a project, before directing and guiding project teams. Melissa believes the most skilled professionals are those with unique skills and experience.

She says, “Top candidates have a proven ability to act decisively and work well with others. They take ownership of a project - the buck stops with them. While technical skills are essential, the right soft skills can elevate their performance and their reputation.”

Let’s take a look at some of the most coveted skills for an interim IT project manager:

  • Patience – A sense of composure is critical when working across different departments.
  • Emotional intelligence – Working with different personalities, the ability to influence, communicate, and gain buy-in is important.
  • Adaptability – Working within a business for a finite period demands a proactive, results-oriented approach.
  • Critical thinking skills – A strategic approach is essential to navigating an evolving environment and overcoming challenges.
  • Leadership skills – Management, negotiation, and coordination are essential in driving your team towards project goals. The ability to earn trust quickly is essential!
  • Organisation skills – With so many tasks and projects to manage, it’s important to be able to organise, prioritise, delegate, and multitask.

Related: How to update a resume to keep pace with technological change

When it comes to career pathways for an interim IT project manager, Melissa says jobseekers need to be clear on general expectations.

“To work as an interim IT project manager in Hong Kong you need two things. The first is an undergraduate degree in IT or Computer Science. The second is project management certification. Employers typically want to see that you have completed the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.”

“Often, we see business analysts move up to project management. We do see more business-focussed project managers, who come from a project coordination background, but there is a higher demand for those with technical skills,” says Melissa.

Taking a proactive approach

Hong Kong is actively investing in developing a strong tech workforce to drive its innovation and technology sector. Through government initiatives and collaborations with educational institutions, the city aims to address the current talent gap and position itself as a leading hub for tech innovation in the region.

With tech transformation in the spotlight, it’s clear why businesses are trying to accelerate their projects and their productivity. Melissa says, this has led to the demand for interim IT project managers.

“The digital landscape is changing and Hong Kong businesses are racing to evolve and elevate. More often than not, big projects come with big challenges - budgets get blown and projects go off track. With an interim IT project manager on board, businesses can trust an expert to implement a major project without adding extra pressure to their current workforce.”

Of course, positive outcomes and project success come at a price. However, when it comes to return on investment, interim staff can prove to be more cost-effective than a full-time hire.

It’s an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial for businesses and contractors alike. Businesses are leveraging this trend, particularly in the fast-moving world of tech, where the benefits of interim staff are compelling. Let’s take a look at the top reasons for hiring an interim IT project manager:

  1. Flexibility – With no long-term commitments, the business can increase or decrease the scope of work as required.
  2. Expert skills – It can be hard to find a full-time candidate with a niche set of skills. So, why not leverage a specialised skill set for the duration of critical projects?
  3. Return on investment – Looking for ‘bang for buck’? With no additional benefits like paid leave, interim staff can prove to be more budget-friendly. They’ll work on a specified project and only be compensated for the hours they’ve worked.
  4. Project success – Forget about putting additional pressure on already stretched teams. A skilled interim IT project manager will help you to achieve more in less time by focusing on pressing projects.
  5. Skills assessment – Hiring a full-time IT project manager is a major commitment. Why not take the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a candidate and determine whether they could be a good fit for the organisation in the future?

Melissa Lau encourages a proactive approach when it comes to engaging an interim IT project manager.

She says, “The best approach is when businesses seek help at the beginning of a project so the chosen professional can set it up and run it successfully. If you’re going to engage someone halfway through, ensure you have done the initial groundwork. It is possible to salvage a project – recent experience suggests this happens a lot – but a proactive approach will give businesses more confidence in their ability to execute and deliver change.”

Interim IT project managers are leaders who can deliver digital transformation projects and bolster cyber-security. So as businesses position themselves for the future, their skills are invaluable.

Gone are the days of trying to find an expert, full-time candidate. By leveraging the skills and expertise of an interim IT project manager, businesses can expedite their tech goals, minimising cost and maximising returns in the process.


1. What is the career path for an IT project manager?

The career of an IT project manager usually starts with entry-level positions like an IT Support Specialist, Junior Project Coordinator or Software Developer, then often progresses into an Assistant Project Manager before reaching IT Project Manager. Senior Project Manager is a common position to progress to before reaching leadership executive positions like Director of Project Management or even eventually CIO.   

2. How much does an IT project manager earn in Hong Kong?

According to the Robert Half Salary Guide, an IT Project Manager can earn between $600,000 and $1,366,000 depending on skills and experience.     

3. What skills do you need to be an interim IT project manager?

  • Patience 
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Adaptability 
  • Critical thinking skills 
  • Leadership skills 
  • Organisation skills   

4. What are the responsibilities of an IT project manager?

  • Consult on relevant issues and streamline processes and procedures. 
  • Advise and implement strategies to deliver effective solutions. 
  • Ensure projects are completed successfully in line with budgets, deadlines, and organisational expectations.  
  • Manage relevant internal and external teams to maximise performance and minimise potential issues. 
  • Review completed installations to improve the implementation of future projects. 

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