If you’re organised and able to define a process from input to outcome, you should consider project management as a potential career.
The idea behind project management is relatively simple and relies on two very easy definitions. Firstly; a ‘project’ in this context is any type of unique or transient endeavour undertaken to produce certain results or outcomes. The actual success or failure of projects is measured against these outcomes.
Secondly; ‘management’ in this sense is the way in which knowledge, skills, methodology, experience and other resources are applied to the scheme in order to achieve the desired outcomes. The way these two definitions are processed towards the objectives forms the art of project management.
There are finer points within the process to consider as well. These are usually based around six key areas: scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources. Just as a manager has a raft of responsibilities in any sector so the project manager accepts these as within their remit and makes sure that day-to-day they are all competently pursued and kept under control.
Well-developed interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication and conflict management are also vitally important, particularly if the desired timescale from the client is challenging – which, given that ‘time is money’, it usually is. Naturally, this immediately reflects the sort of team-working, processing and leadership skills that are acquired during a career in the Armed Forces.
People tend to think of project management as a role primarily found in sectors such as the construction industry but there is much more to it. A quick look over the corporate members list (numbering around 500 organisations) of the Association for Project Management (APM) shows the breadth of need for project managers in such diverse fields as construction (of course) but also utilities, finance, IT, education, management consulting and more. The acid test of a project manager is in being able to look at a project in context and come up with a plan to see it to a satisfactory conclusion within a given timeframe and on budget.
The core elements of project management are:
- Defining the reason why a project is necessary and what exactly the project consists of.
- Understanding the project requirements from specifying quality of the deliverables to estimating resources and timescales.
- Preparing a business case to justify the investment. (Expressing how the outcomes make the project necessary, viable and profitable.)
- Securing corporate agreement and funding.
- Developing and implementing a management plan for the project.
- Leading and motivating the project delivery team.
- Managing the risks, issues and changes on the project.
- Monitoring progress against the plan, budget and schedule.
- Maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation.
- Provider management.
- Closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.
Service-leavers should be encouraged to find that a career in project management starts with building experience and expertise and can take them through a variety of stages and differing roles along the way including: project administrator, project coordinator and project manager with other associated roles not directly responsible for project delivery including PMO analyst, PMO manager, and portfolio manager also available.
Perhaps, former president of APM, Dr Martin Barnes summed Project Management up best, if a little succinctly, saying: “At its most fundamental, project management is about people getting things done.”
What you could earn as a project manager
According to www.cwjobs.co.uk which bases average salary information on recent job advertisements the average salary for a project manager ranges from £47,500 up to around £82,500 with the average being: £62,500. It should be noted that permanent project managers only earn around half of their ‘contracted’ colleagues.
PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management. PRINCE2 methodology is the popular choice for projects undertaken by the UK Government but is also widely recognised in the private sector and internationally. It’s essentially a hallmark of best practice in project management encapsulating guidance on the core competencies of the project management role including: justifying a business case, organising the structure of the delivery team, planning, dividing projects into manageable portions and allowing for flexibility within a given project.
PRINCE2 Qualifications and Training
PRINCE2 training offers levels that can take novice project managers all the way to becoming practitioners through courses presented online or as part of a tutor-led classroom based course.
The major levels are:
This is an introductory qualification that covers the basics in terminology and methodology.
Suitable for candidates wishing to develop their skills.
(The PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner courses can be studied back-to-back with some training providers utilising a course combining online and classroom elements.)
The PRINCE2 Examination Board has determined that all Registered PRINCE2 Practitioners should be re-registered within three to five calendar years of their original certification. (Failure to pass the Re-Registration examination after five calendar years as a Registered Practitioner will result in withdrawal of your registered status.)
The essential benefit of the PRINCE2 qualifications is that they are widely recognised. It is still the case that some organisations in need of a project manager find it difficult to accept candidates from outside their own industry sectors (even though sometimes a fresh perspective would be both healthy and sensible).
Clearly, project managers use skills and techniques that can be applied in any industry sector. Saying that, a project manager with experience in construction, IT or other specific working environments will have an obvious advantage compared with those applying for the same jobs that don’t. Of course, a PRINCE2 qualification can help organisations recognise that you have the desired competencies to tackle the project.
Association for Project Management: www.apm.org.uk
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