The demand for good project managers is always on the rise, and the field has grown extensively over the years. Project management is a critical aspect of every organization, and how a project manager handles their work directly impacts the success of a business.
Project managers are the ones who make sure everything goes as planned and get the team back on track during unexpected events. It is an essential position that comes with rewarding work and a generous salary, but how do you become a project manager?
We’ll get to that, but first, you need to understand why project management is so important.
The Importance of Project Management
The importance of efficient project management in an organization can not be overemphasized; a good project manager ensures that each aspect of the business runs smoothly. Project management empowers employees to deliver better results and directly impacts the organization’s bottom line. It also allows the team to focus on the right work at the right time, helping everyone to stay on track and within budget constraints.
Some of the benefits that stem from good project management are:
- Improved Communication: Project management, when done right, makes internal communications easier and more efficient. Working within multiple departments or teams can be challenging, but with good project management, you can increase transparency, simplify collaboration, and ensure accountability.
- Track Performances: Through project management, businesses can utilize data from past projects to see where their team can make improvements and what they are doing well. Measuring your key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to track and understand the ways your team performs over each project. This can lead to operational improvements as well.
- Save Money and Time: Well-planned projects allow your team to deliver their work within budget and on time. A good project manager maps out the entire project roadmap and tracks commitments, deadlines and the projected spending to reallocate resources when necessary; this prevents project delays and overspending.
- Make Better Decisions: When you can see the details of each project your business takes on, you understand what to prioritize, where resources are going, and if the organization is moving closer towards its goals. Project management allows you to discover problems before they become an issue by making decisions based on actual data.
What Do Project Managers Do?
If you ask a project manager what they do, they’ll probably reply with “what don’t I do?”
Defining a project manager’s role in an organization can be challenging since they are involved in different parts of each project from start to finish. Their responsibilities range from measurable things like budgets and planning to less tangible ones like the leadership and support they give to their teams. It really depends on industry, company, job function, and project type.
Some of the primary duties of a project manager are:
- Planning Projects: Project managers define the range of a project and ensure that it is within the scope of stakeholder’s expectations while being linked to a long-term strategic goal for the organization. There are two stages where the project manager creates an outline of the plan and discusses the timeline, budget, and required resources. In the beginning, the goal or objective and success criteria need to be developed along with high level constraints and the project manager’s authority level, which is known as scoping or chartering. Once complete, the project manager moves on to what is known as the scheduling or project planning, where the detailed plan is created and executed by the team.
- Resourcing Projects: After the initial plan is in place, project managers look at the three primary resources needed to make the plan successful: people, time, and money. These resources are limited, and a project’s success relies on the project manager allocating them efficiently. Project managers are responsible for effectively identifying and sourcing resources as well as administering the procurement process for those resources, be it machines, materials, supplies, physical locations, and technology needs in addition to people.
- Managing Projects: Projects rarely go as planned, no matter how well-managed it is. Project managers track their resources and deadlines closely to tackle any issues quickly and efficiently. They maintain the flexibility to make changes to a project’s plan at a moment’s notice to keep their team on the right path. Ultimately, creating transparency and accountability for team deliverables along with resolving conflicts between stakeholders and managing their expectations becomes the daily focus.
- Delivering Projects: One of the most straightforward responsibilities of a project manager is to deliver the finished project within budget and on time. They are accountable for the planning, resourcing, and managing of a project to result in the project being delivered successfully. But a good project manager will deliver what a stakeholder needs, not what was simply requested. This goes back to the ability to accurately scope out the “Definition of Done” with detailed success criteria and then have the ability to manage stakeholder expectations throughout the project, including the team.
- Analyzing Projects: Once the project gets delivered, a project manager has one more crucial step: reviewing it with the team. The project manager, and the team who worked with them, will review and analyze how it went and ways to improve on best practices for future projects. More and more, this process is happening multiple times throughout the project lifecycle in order to make on the fly adjustments rather than waiting until the end. The retrospectives look at the operational aspects of how the team interacts with each other and is more focused on the people vs the product.
- Motivating the Team: One important and often overlooked responsibility of a project manager is to keep the team motivated and on track. Understanding what motivates different team members and how to navigate conflict allows project managers to keep their team feeling valued and happy, which leads to better productivity. Project managers have the responsibility to get stakeholders involved to perform their duties properly and timely, and this requires empathy, communication, leadership, persuasion, and consensus building.
How Do You Become a Project Manager?
Now that we understand the importance of project management and what a project manager is responsible for, there’s one more question to answer: how do you become a project manager? Below are the different paths to take.
There are two different ways people become project managers:
- Traditional Path: A traditional project manager is someone who sought out a career as a project manager. They learned about the profession and subsequently seeked out roles and qualifications or degrees relating to project management. Folks may traditionally move from being a project team member, to becoming a project coordinator, assistant project manager, project engineer, or a role within a “PMO” or Project Management Office such as project analyst or project controls technician.
- Accidental Project Managers: These are “non-project manager” project managers who manage projects as part of their work. These are people like marketers, web designers, producers, or product managers who aren’t typically viewed as project managers but typically manage projects as part of their day to day operations. These folks end up becoming full time Project Managers as their skill set increases and opportunities open up to move from their traditional roles.
For any project manager, there are ten key aspects that they manage:
- A project’s scope
- Schedule Management
Becoming a Qualified Project Manager
Whether you’ve had your sights set on becoming a project manager or became an “accidental project manager” at your current job and want to pursue it as a career, getting certified as a project manager should be your first step.
Obtaining a formal qualification for project management is the best way to gain more job opportunities and more earning power, but it can also introduce you to new methodologies, techniques and best practices that you might have been unaware of.
The leading organization for project management, the Project Management Institution (PMI), offers the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification: the most well-recognized credential for project managers. Obtaining a PMP certification is the best way to build your project management portfolio of professional development and move up the ladder in an organization.
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