What is Project Management?

The business world is governed by projects. How those projects turn out, the speed at which they’re accomplished and the associated costs are all factors of critical importance to every organization.

That may explain why you’ve seen the rise of the project manager.

It’s not an easy job, or even easily defined. Essentially, project managers have the responsibility of overseeing a project from beginning to end. Along the way, they must get an often-disparate team of workers to focus on a common goal and complete tasks on time.

Project managers always have an eye on meeting deadlines and staying within budget while completing a project in a way that aligns with the original business goal and overall business strategy. They watch out for issues such as “scope creep,” a common challenge that happens when a project expands beyond its original parameters without adjustments made in time, costs and resources.

Clearly, it’s an important job within organizations around the world. A Project Management Institute® report projects organizations will create nearly 22 million new project management roles globally through 2027. Demand for project management skills is far outstrip supply, according to PMI®.

What Project Managers Do

That all sounds interesting, but what do project managers actually do? The answer can depend on the specific industry and company. However, there are five major phases of project management.

  • Initiating – Setting the overall project goals and direction
  • Defining – This is where a project manager plans, in detail, every step of the project quantified by the time, money and resources (including supplies and people)
  • Launching – Carrying out the project and staying within the parameters set by the plan
  • Monitoring – Controlling and monitoring the process as it goes and making changes when needed
  • Closing – Acceptance of the project’s result and bringing the project to an end

Keep in mind that projects are temporary in nature and designed for one specific result, which can range from starting a new product or service to streamlining an existing process or operation to make it more effective and efficient.

Skills of Project Managers

Project managers may use software to plan, execute and monitor a project. Successful project managers have the ability to work with these systems, as well as a commitment to process improvement (which is why many project managers also are certified in methodologies such as Six Sigma and/or Agile). They also need leadership skills such as communication, change management and managing people to maximize their talents.

Frank Ryle, a project manager veteran and author of the book, “Keeping Score: Project Management for the Pros,” told Fast Company that project managers should be “comfortable with ambiguity” and “willing to reshape the rule, the process, whenever things change.”

Given the global nature of today’s business world, project managers often must walk into situations where they don’t know anyone, according to Ryle. They need to be comfortable with diverse cultures and a host of different personality types.

Getting into Project Management

The need for project managers is worldwide. PMI estimates that organizations around the globe will need a staggering 88 million people working in project management roles by 2027.

How to get into this growing field? Earning a degree in business administration with a focus on project management is a good place to start. Such a degree teaches the fundamental tools and techniques of project management and how successful projects fit into overall business strategy.

A degree prepares you to earn your certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. PMI® also maintains the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), a collection of tools, techniques, examples of success and best practices for project managers.

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