Project Management Today: Far Beyond a Technical Role

As business becomes increasingly more complex and as competition in the marketplace heats up, people who have the necessary skills to manage projects and who can execute upon the overall strategy of their organizations are at a distinct advantage. Having only the technical skills just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Let’s put this another way:

Many organizations rely on two groups to get work done: one that sets the overall strategy or vision of the business and another that carries it out. The trouble with this model is that the group responsible for executing the organization’s strategy may or may not have a complete understanding of the strategy, because that strategy was crafted by a completely separate group. This leads to inefficiencies and miscommunication that negatively impact strategic objectives.

Recently, the Project Management Institute (PMI) unveiled the PMI Talent Triangle, which focuses on the three areas of technical, leadership, and strategic business management expertise that today’s project managers must have in order to maintain their credentials so they can remain competitive and stay relevant in the market.

According to PMI’s latest research, companies want project managers who are also skilled in leadership and business intelligence in addition to technical competencies. Project managers of this type can better support long-range strategic objectives and drive increased revenue.

First and foremost, today’s project managers must be responsible for ensuring tasks are completed on time, within scope, and on budget. Project managers have always been accountable for this, and that role is not going away. However, forward-thinking organizations are demanding their project managers have broader sets of skills that will allow them to think more strategically about the organization as a whole. Organizations also want project managers to use these more strategic mindsets to focus and drive their projects so as to realize tangible benefits.

It’s no longer enough to have project managers simply manage projects. Instead, project managers must now be able to think beyond individual initiatives and see how those initiatives fit into the larger scope of what the organization is trying to achieve.

The project manager’s role has changed from tactician to strategist.

Why is this so important? When a project manager has a diverse skill set that includes strategic management skills and leadership capabilities, organizations reap the benefits. The new evolution of project management can increase profits, squeeze more out of the organization’s return on investment, impact the quality of work, and mitigate risk.

The new PMI Talent Triangle proposes that project managers must be adept in three key areas so their companies can keep up with the competition.

First, project managers should be proficient with the technical aspects of each project in terms of scope (time, budget, and cost); schedule management; risk management; data gathering and modeling; agile practices; governance; and lifecycle management. These skills ensure projects are delivered to get as much done as possible with limited resources in order to maximize ROI and impact the organization’s strategic objectives.

They must also be trusted leaders within their organizations, as they are called to manage teams scattered throughout the world. Managing conflicts between team members, solving challenges that arise every day, building teams, coaching or mentoring team members, and coming up with ideas that will save the organization time and resources are now part of a project manager’s responsibilities.

Additionally, project managers must also be skilled in strategic business management practices in order to maintain their credentials. They must be able to manage several projects at once and manage the operational functions, such as financing, of each one. At the same time, they must be able to react to the ever-changing market conditions while ensuring that projects remain legal and compliant with all relevant regulations. They must be able to communicate the organization’s strategy to their customers, and know the ins and outs of the industry.

Today’s project managers must deliver more quickly and efficiently in order to keep up with constant changes to the market and higher expectations from both their organizations and their customers. The only way they can accomplish this is through better organizational, management, and leadership skills.

What organizations really need are more resourceful project managers who know how to get projects completed and know the best, most effective, and most efficient ways to do it. That’s why PMI reorganized its certification standards: so project managers can get the extra training they need around leadership and business skills.

It’s becoming clear that top organizations are grooming project managers to become the next generation of leaders. As a result, they need to provide project managers with the training to help build the skills necessary to ensure strong leadership that drives alignment of organizational strategy and project execution. Organizations and their teams are more successful when project management is seen as a key contributor to the realization of strategies.

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Joe Czarnecki
Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, MSP, SCPM, is vice president of product & sales support at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution. Joe's in-depth knowledge allows him to align client needs with course offerings, guide the contextualization of courses to client's cultures and processes, and bring insights from clients to the development of new courses. Joe has more than 25 years of experience in instructional design, with a focus on portfolio and program management for financial services, aeronautics, manufacturing, energy, and technology companies.