Not just anyone can be a professional project manager

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

It would seem that everyone thinks that they can be a project manager at the moment. However, not everyone has what it takes to be a professional project manager and manage projects effectively – and to be honest, that’s okay.

Picture the scene

Your online calendar has advised you that you have a meeting shortly for which you will need to review a series of pieces of information. There is just one hour to go until this all-important meeting with your stakeholders, but you do not have any of the information that you need. A search of your emails might offer you some shreds of hope in the form of a few pieces of the information that you need but it isn’t enough. You fire off a few emails to your team trying to get their input, you get what you were looking for, you update your files, and you are good to go. Then at the last minute your meeting is, predictably, cancelled.

This communication, bringing information together, fitting all the pieces into the puzzle is project management in a nutshell, and more people are doing it than they realise.

However, a good deal of the people fulfilling this type of role have not undertaken any form of formal training to gain the appropriate qualifications that mean they can be a professional project manager.  It is this lack of training combined with the increased expectations of a demanding workplace that are setting people up for failure.

The right processes

In order to be a professional project manager, you need the right project management qualifications, although these can be learnt and studied for whilst you work in the role. However, project managing is a skilled and demanding role and there are a number of other things that you need as well. In order to succeed as a professional project manager, you require the ability to potentially manage a number of projects spread over several teams at the same time. The ability to adapt, and quickly, to meetings being cancelled at short notice, or worse still don’t meetings being sprung on you at a moment’s notice. Deadlines and budgets may also be changed and not always in the way that you might like. Project managing is stressful without all of these changeable elements. In addition to being able to cope with these and increasing stress levels all too often a project manager needs to be able to deal with the fact that some projects simply don’t get carried forward to completion and simply die because the needs of the company suddenly change.

Whilst there are a number of different project management approaches that companies can take, not everyone chooses to use a standard approach and take advantage of all of the advantages that that offers. In fact, over half of the companies who believe that they are using a project management approach probably are not.  If they want to use project management effectively employing those with the appropriate project management skills is something that they may need to consider.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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