The organizations of the future will need technical skills, including networking, robotics, and data analysis. However, organizational and soft/social skills are definitely not out of the picture. An excellent accompaniment to a technical skill is project management. This is not just a nice resume piece: What is the importance of project management? It is a growing, changing approach to organizational problem-solving.
Project management can be applied to almost any field of work. Therefore, the skills are transferable and universal. However, business and IT fields are the most common areas where this skill is displayed and demanded.
Thankfully, there are certifications and licensures at all levels. You do not have to have years of experience or extensive degrees to display some project management credentials. You can work up to mastery gradually, or you can do just enough to get you where you want to go.
A great thing about project management is that it is not an area that inherently demands a college degree. With hard work, you could be a top project manager without any college degree. However, at least two years of post-secondary (college or graduate) work is ideal. Conversely, project management is an excellent accompaniment to almost any post-secondary degree. It shows that you have a practical skill that is likely to make you a better leader than your otherwise equal counterparts.
The skillset is an obvious must-have if you want to work in the Project Management Office (PMO) of a company. (The PMO is the department that controls planning of projects.) However, a sense of project management is helpful even for followers: If you do not understand the point of what the leader is doing, you might not perform as well. Most top project managers have worked successfully as followers at some point.
This does not have to be a purely mercenary skill: All organizations, even non-profits, need their projects done efficiently and effectively. Therefore, even if you do not see yourself as a corporate mogul, project management is worth your while. Also, governments need people who can lead projects; therefore, even if you aspire to a government job – in any country – project management is an excellent skill to have.
Certifications and Accolades
As mentioned above, there are certifications for different levels of project managers; furthermore, there are some certifications that apply to certain areas, such as IT, or certain management philosophies, such as Six Sigma. Most of these certifications require an exam – which is now most often taken on computer, not paper-and-pencil.
Arguably, the top certification you can get in project management is the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI), an organization with international scope. Considerable experience must be demonstrated, along with passing the exam, to get certification.
If you are a beginner but think you would like to advance to PMP status, consider becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) – also certified by PMI. While this certification might not give you a substantial raise or a new job instantly, it is a great way to track your progress and let an employer know that you have progressed in this area.
There are also PMI certifications that address certain subareas of project management. For example, you can gain certification as a Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP), Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP), a Portfolio Management Professional (PMI-PfMP), or a Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA).
Most of these are what they sound like: portfolio management involves planning the investment strategy of an organization to fit project resource needs; business analysis is the use of measurement and calculation to determine what is working towards business goals.
If you want to manage projects in the IT field, consider becoming an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP). Agile is the top methodology of IT project management. Outside of the PMI line, consider also becoming a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): This funny-sounding certification is offered by the Scrum Alliance. Scrum is a component methodology of IT project management, frequently used along with Agile. Note that the CSM is entry-level but still the perfect stepping stone towards greater certifications and qualifications in this area.
The Program Management Professional (PMI-PgMP) is a general intermediate between CAPM and PMP. However, there are organizations, besides PMI, that offer other intermediate certifications. For example, the International Association of Project and Program Management (IAPPM) offers the Certified Project Manager (CPM) certification.
Similarly, the CompTIA Project+ is a great alternative to the CAPM, especially if IT is your desired specialty. CompTIA is the Computing Technology Industry Association, and this is their entry management certification.
Also similarly, for an advanced certification: The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM) offers the Certified Project Director (CPD) certification. This is a top credential that requires vast experience and can be considered on par with the PMP.
Despite there being multiple excellent certifying organizations, all of which are global in scope, the PMI reigns in the United States. In Europe and Australia, consider the PRINCE2 a counterpart. PRINCE2, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments, was created by the UK government. The professional-level PRINCE2 takes about the same amount of academic and job experience as the PMP; however, there are foundation and practitioner levels, for those who are entry-level and intermediate, respectively.
There is an extensive lineup of Japanese-origin project management methodologies; the most popular is Six Sigma. Six Sigma certification conveniently comes in a series of belts (as in martial arts) starting with the yellow belt and progressing to green belt and finally to the much-coveted black belt.
What You Will Have to Learn and Do
At all types and levels of certification, experience is important. A few entry-level certifications require no experience, but generally, project management is a practical, rather than academic, area. For most certifications, you need to have worked in at least a part-time job or mentorship/internship that involved a planned project. High-level certifications, such as the PMP, demand a full-time job and project leadership experience.
Furthermore, many certifications must be maintained with continuous credential requirements (CCRs), sometimes measured in professional development units (PDUs). PDUs/CCRs may involve demonstrated project management success, as well as teaching, development, research, or writing in the field of project management.
These do not have to be overwhelming additions to one’s workload, however. For many, these activities naturally accompany their job; also, teaching positions, innovations, research projects and published writings can all be resume assets, in and of themselves.
For the PMP exam, you will need to learn the Project Management Body of Knowledge – an in-depth overview of the field of project management. Going over this information is a critical part of test prep, along with taking practice tests to get used to the format.
The Body of Knowledge concepts coincide with the 5 stages of project management: starting the project, planning, executing, observing and maintaining, and bringing the project to a close. This sounds simple, but each stage can be broken down into smaller divisions; furthermore, different types of projects and project management methodologies demand slightly different approaches to these basic stages.
Six Sigma is frequently combined with Lean methodology to make Lean Six Sigma – a business management super-philosophy with Lean’s waste elimination and Six Sigma’s refinement of process. Ultimately, Lean Six Sigma demands many of the same skills that PMP does: integration of different goals within the larger organization; definition of problems to be solved; monitoring of the project using performance indicators; and development of long- and short-term goals.
Subareas of Project Management
Project management is an umbrella concept for countless different skillsets; however, PMI breaks it down into about ten different subareas, many of which can be broken down further into their own subcategories, too.
Schedule management and risk management have their own PMI certifications, as mentioned earlier. Risk management is probably the biggest subarea of project management, and as such, can be broken further into issue and crisis managements.
Project integration management addresses the challenge of bringing together the goals of different parts of an organization and creating a path to true cooperation between parts.
Scope and cost managements have to do with keeping a project within preplanned limits, so that the project does not change in objective or expense in an unintended, unregulated way.
Procurement and resource managements have to do with acquiring the materials, funds, people, etc. needed to finish the project. (Procurement refers more specifically to making deals with suppliers to be sure resources come on time and at the best possible price.)
Portfolio management (which has its own PMI certification) could be viewed as a subcategory of resource management, since investments are ultimately a resource. Human resource (HR) management is also a subcategory of resource management.
Communications management is what it sounds like – the development of strategies for efficient and effective transfer of information or ideas among those involved in a project. It might involve the basis, the means, or the timing of various messages.
Stakeholder management is similar, in that it is primarily a communication-oriented management: stakeholder managers must first clearly establish who the stakeholders are and how different types of stakeholders are affected by the organization’s actions. Then, they must act as a kind of intermediary – maintaining helpful communication between organization and stakeholders.
Last but not least, there is quality management, which includes the subcategories of quality assurance, improvement, assurance, and control. These areas of project management have to do with making the final product or service as good as possible on a consistent basis.
How Project Management Helps Organizations
It might seem that project management is not really doing/producing anything; however, organization and planning are more important to production than you might think. The more you learn about project management, the more you understand how much waste, loss of direction, and inefficiency can crop up with poor management.
PMPs and similarly advanced managers often have to bring together multiple projects in multiple departments of large companies and create an integrated whole that produces a desired result. They have to understand different areas of project management enough to work smoothly with specialized managers.
While the technicalities of project management have been the focus of this article, it is worth noting that soft skills (people skills) are very important in project management. Ideally, the project manager will communicate in a non-threatening and motivational way. A good manager can take criticism, deal with misunderstandings, and resolve conflicts – basically, he/she needs to be an emotionally intelligent leader. Also, in our global economy of today, cultural sensitivity is essential in a good manager.
How Project Management Helps You
The project management skillset is very much in demand all over the world, especially when it is combined with IT skills. The demand for this combination of skills seems to be on the rise for the foreseeable future. General project management skills are a must-have for anyone who aspires to be a CEO, or really any chief executive. Similarly, the IT and PMP combination is crucial to rise to CIO (chief information officer) status.
Getting a project management certification might not get you a top position overnight, especially if it is an entry-level certification. However, it will get you on your way, and such certifications are likely to make you stand out in contrast to those who otherwise seem of equal job status. If you feel like your skills tend to get ignored, project management certification might change that.
Eventually, such certifications will get you a higher salary, especially if you display good leadership skills.
How Project Management Helps Everyone
People who can apply Scrum, Agile, and related management methodologies are likely to make a big difference in the future. Agile involves flexibility, constant improvement, and systematic pursuit of constructive creativity.
This and other project management approaches are exactly what governments, corporations, and non-profits need to tackle such problems as inaccessible healthcare, climate change, and malicious cyber attacks.
Project Management Is Likely to Keep Being Important
The content, goals, and people might change; however, the need for project management skills is not likely to diminish. At its heart, project management is about getting stuff done and delivering a good product or service that is worth the money expended. It is about increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the world. Therefore, you can learn project management both as a way to further your own goals and as a way to make a difference.