As part of their ongoing efforts to offer education opportunities to technology professionals and leaders, The Doyle Group regularly gathers industry experts to engage in in-depth discussions on various technology and hiring topics. Recently, they conducted a panel on project and program management, titled “Achieving Success in a Project Management Career.” The panel was moderated by Founder and Managing Partner Andrew Doyle and included the following project management thought leaders:
- Emily Cellar, VP of IT Infrastructure and Operations at Wheel Pros
- Stephanie Bergdolt, Corporate Technology Capability Leader at Ball Corporation
- Krishna Mullangi, PMO Leader, Strategy & Innovation Catalyst
Here are some key insights that were discussed by Andrew and the expert panel:
How Can You Start a Career in Project Management?
One important point to keep in mind is that experience in the actual work of project management is often more important than having held the title with a previous employer. Are you looking for an entry-level project management position? Provide details on how you planned events, coordinated fundraisers, or performed other project management duties in the past.
In addition, consider getting involved with your local chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI). This is an excellent way to gain experience in the field, and make your resume more appealing. Most of all, put yourself out there. Look to build connections with business leaders in your community. Put your name out there as an interested candidate for open PM positions.
Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator vs. Program Manager
If a company is about to launch a highly complicated project that represents a major investment — or one that will have a major impact on business success — the typical (and correct) reflex is to hire a dedicated project manager to oversee said project. However, what about other initiatives that an organization may launch? You’ll need to analyze some key questions to determine what kind of project management resources should be used, and to what extent. For example:
- What is the scope and expected benefit of the initiative?
- How deeply engaged in the initiative will your key stakeholders be?
- What is the project’s timeline?
- What is the required level of “intensity” during that timeline (e.g., if it’s a three-week project, will it be “all hands on deck” for the entirety of those three weeks)?
- How many of your business resources will be needed to ensure the project’s success?
If an upcoming project only checks one or two of the boxes mentioned above, then it may be a perfect fit for a project coordinator. For instance, do you have someone on your team who doesn’t have formal project management experience, but demonstrates some of the core skills of an effective PM (time management, organization, good communication, etc.)? Sliding them into the role of project coordinator could be a great growth opportunity for them without subjecting them (or your company) to a high level of risk.
What about a program manager? It may be helpful to bring one aboard if your company is launching multiple, interdependent projects at the same time. The program manager can coordinate the interactions between projects, and facilitate communication between project managers. Keep in mind that while a program manager may have oversight of multiple projects (and even project managers), they are not the project manager.
How Can Departments Gain Executive Buy-in To Bring a Project Manager Aboard?
The key is to present a strong business case to your executives as to why an upcoming project requires the oversight of a dedicated PM. Think in terms of the three pillars of project management: scope, schedule, and budget. If you can provide specifics to leadership in terms of “x number of people will be needed to make this project successful” and “it will cost x amount to launch this project, but it will bring a profit of x dollars,” then it’s much easier to argue for centralized oversight to keep everyone on track.
How Can a Project Manager Help Ensure the Success of a Project?
Project managers offer a lot of value in terms of coordinating the efforts of different stakeholders. They keep the project on schedule and facilitate communication. At the same time, experienced PMs understand the importance of letting key stakeholders share in the process of discovery. PMs are often viewed as “process junkies.” However, they’re willing to adapt their processes if it means less friction and more buy-in from other team members. (For instance, doing some extra legwork to avoid another big meeting is often much appreciated by department leaders.) Finding the right balance between organization and adaptability is the quickest, smoothest path to success.
How Should You Define Successful Project Delivery?
The simple answer is: on schedule and under budget. However, there are several nuances that could come into play here. Many companies use a post-implementation review (PIR) to measure the success of a delivered project. It’s a good idea to carry that idea over to the beginning of the project, too — call it a pre-implementation review, if you will. Using this document as a baseline for what success looks like can help project managers stay on track throughout the duration of a project, and make the PIR that much more powerful as a retrospective performance management tool.
How Can Project Managers Prevent Scope Creep and Navigate Unexpected Changes?
The best way to avoid scope creep on a project is to crystallize what the client specifically wants, and then break that objective down into smaller tasks. In addition, PMs should not only baseline the scope of the project. They must also use the resources available to them. For example, if key developers get sick for a couple of weeks, then that should shift the project’s timeline due to resource scarcity.
Best Practices for PMs To Keep Projects on Track
One key step is to get team members accustomed to feedback loops from the outset. Ask for advice often, and be willing to provide constructive feedback when needed. Also, don’t discount the power of “drive-by conversations.” Quick, impromptu check-ins can help facilitate communication and even reduce the need for meetings.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of investing in a project manager, watch the webinar in full. Or jump-start your career in project management. Reach out to our team at The Doyle Group today to begin the conversation. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.