Project Management isn’t just for IT or Engineering anymore

As part of this month’s Ideaca blogging network challenge, we were tasked with discussing our thoughts on Emerging Practices.

One of my favorite quotes to reference from the The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK, pronounced pemmmmbock) is “As project management is a critical strategic discipline, the project manager becomes the link between the strategy and the team. Projects are essential to the growth and survival of organizations.” So, while operational duties are of very high importance to maintaining the forward momentum and revenue generation for a company, projects are strategic and help organizations react to changes in the external environment that may slow forward momentum and/or impair revenue generation.

Taking this as rote, one Emerging Practice that I am pleased to see is that more industries and functions – outside of Engineering and IT – are recognizing the need for project management:

So what does this mean for Project Management as a career? It means that effective Project Management is not just for IT and Engineering anymore. In fact, the rest of the organization is going to have to contend with:

  • Increased workloads for Subject Matter Experts. If you know the organizational area, you must know how to manage the project to do something in this organizational area.
  • Gone are the days of black box projects – clients are demanding more visibility into what is being delivered, how it’s being delivered, and how delivery is progressing.
  • Organizations are demanding value from their staff’s time – projects are going to have to deliver more than a “thing.”
  • Successfully implementing changes in an organization can no longer be ad-hoc, and to a lesser extent grassroots. Rather, efforts must be controlled activities.

This is both amazing, and troubling at the same time. It’s amazing because having proper control, visibility, and communication for organizations can return recognizable and material value. It’s troubling though, as many organizations may start expecting their people to be expert project managers without any proper training or experience (this link is a great discussion on LinkedIn, by the way).

If your organization is transitioning to more of a project focus, and you don’t have the time or desire to become a fully trained PMP, there are a number of ways to get up to speed on how to be effective:

  • Hire a dedicated (or shared) Project Manager – This person should be able to apply project management best practices while you are focused on the subject matter at hand. If your department doesn’t have the budget or enough work for a full time Project Manager, share the PM (both cost and time) with a different department.
  • Mentoring – Junior PMs will often work with Senior PMs for mentoring, so why not do the same? Your company should have a PM for you to reach out to, or you can contact someone in your local PMI chapter.
  • Training – Most colleges offer introductory PM training. In exchange for some of your time over a couple of weeks, you can get trained up on how to run a small project effectively.
  • Reading – There are many great books available. One that I recommend is Project Management Lite: Just Enough to get the Job Done…Nothing more. Another, more detailed, is the big bible – Rita Mulcahy’s guide to passing the PMP on your first try. You don’t have to attempt the PMP, you just need to read this book.

Has your organization made the transition to more project-based initiatives?  How has it impacted you?  What have you learned?

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About Jason H Zalmanowitz
I am a nerdy Management Consultant / Project Manager with a MBA, have spent the majority of my career working for consulting firms in Calgary, and I race in triathlons because of (and thanks to) my wife. As a Project Manager, I have managed field implementations, strategy development projects, software development projects, and hardware implementation projects. As a consultant, I have helped companies articulate how and why they are going to implement and interact with sustaining technology to support their business.

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