If you are reading this and you’re unfamiliar with what a project manager does here is a very simple definition:
A project manager is a certified professional in the field of project management. Project managers are charged with the responsibility of planning, executing and closing different projects that they are assigned within any organization, typically relating to the construction industry, architecture, aerospace and defense, information technology, telecommunications, or software development.
I have worked in IT Project Management for several years–overall 15+ years in IT–and you would think that the methodology and the kinds of questions that are asked in interviews would be similar regardless of the company. However, I find that every organization has their own interpretation of what project management means to them. The questions that are asked, the choice of methodology and how it’s executed, and even the number of project phases in the lifecycle. I worked for a very large Human Resource and Insurance organization in the Chicago area that had a proprietary 9-phase project lifecycle. The organization was heavily regimented in the area of project management and very mature from an Organizational Project Management perspective.
In contrast, I’ve worked for an even larger organization that was not as well structured in their project management methodology. If you’ve worked in the field long enough you know that most organizations are now developing their own project management practices based off of the needs of the organization. So no two organizations will be the same when it comes to the kinds of activities that are required of project managers coming into the organization.
The overall structure and direction of how project organizations should run–in general–is a universal standard. This standard is based off of the Project Management Institutes Project Management Body of Knowledge, or the PMBOK. The PMBOK sets the standard for how projects should be managed based off of the input and research of best practices and experts in the field.
The goal for any organization using the methodology is to reduce cost overruns, maintain a high standard of quality in whatever product or service that the company is working to produce, and build or implement a project using a formal structure that adds value to the organization from an execution standpoint. Project Management isn’t always about return on investment (ROI) although that is typically the general consensus. Not all projects commissioned by an organization will focus on return on investment, though most will agree that any project commissioned within an organization should be done so with the bottom line in mind.
I’ve worked on projects that had very huge P&L (Profit & Loss) implications for the organization where the goal was to help the organization realize revenue. On the other hand I’ve worked on projects that were simply meant to meet compliance issues with state of government law. The types of projects varies from organization to organization but the methodology on how and why you run a project the way you do never changes.
In my years of experience it’s very normal for an organization to give you several projects to run at one time. It’s also very normal for an organization to expect a project manager to drive a project, in full detail, from inception to close. This essentially means that the success of the project is solely based on the project managers management skills.
Managing projects can be very rewarding and fun, while at the same time very challenging even for the most experienced project managers. Communication, coordination, organizational politics, as well as being able to manage the overall project plan and the resources takes a certain type of cognitive skill.
A great starting point in developing this area of expertise is to take a Project Management course in pursuit of the PMP (Project Management Professional). I must say that the knowledge gained through studying the Project Management Body of Knowledge is a great value add, and it can have lifelong career implications that lean in your favor!
Learn more about the Project Management Professional certification at www.pmi.org