Not All Project Managers Are Created Equal

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If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my career, it’s that professionals in the project management and consulting arena are not all created equal. Though titles and certifications may be the same, each individual’s skills and capabilities are definitely not.

As an example, a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) must have a certain amount of project experience and education, and must have passed the PMP exam to earn the right to put the PMP initials on their business card. The experience that comes from earning the PMP designation is valuable, of course. But, in and of itself, it is but a tool for oversight and facilitation. Truly impactful project managers (PM’s) bring additional expertise to the table.

Too often in my experience, I have seen projects, run by PMP’s, who do not have any meaningful business expertise beyond their project management qualifications. They may oversee the scheduling, monitor progress, track milestones and dependencies, and facilitate project meetings. In some cases, this skillset is sufficient and is all that is needed. However, in some of these situations, poor decisions have been made or opportunities for process improvement have been lost, because the project manager did not have the business and process understanding to recognize them. The result – a project outcome that fell short, or that accomplished only the minimum requirements but did not serve to advance the business as it should have.

An optimal outcome is the true value-add of a PMP with real world business experience and expertise. In project management, experience counts. This is especially true in technical projects that have major financial implications. By definition, these projects are staffed with technical resources. Requirements may have been collected from the Finance or Accounting department, and financial users may even be part of the project team. But, if the PM is one without the big-picture understanding of the business and the project’s financial implications, the risk of delay, failure, or lost opportunity is much greater.

Not all project managers, or PMP’s, are created equal. Each will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some will have only administrative PM skills, or have minimal expertise outside of the project management arena. But, utilizing a PM with relevant business experience and expertise, as a complement to their project management skillset, will go a long way to ensuring an optimal project outcome.