Do Project Managers Need Business Knowledge?

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I have been debating recently with some colleagues about whether project managers need to have in-depth business knowledge of the business area in which they are managing projects. By in-depth we specifically meant having previously worked in the business itself before becoming a project manager.

 

In fact, there are some organisations that use certain employees as project managers from time to time but mainly they fulfil some other role. Clearly the business knowledge of those people must be seen as an advantage when managing projects. Or is it as simple as that? If I was being cynical I might suggest that those organisations only occasionally need project managers and it is easier (not to mention cheaper) to simply temporarily transfer someone from an existing role than to employ a contractor.

 

I wonder what those employees feel about it? Maybe it provides a welcome change from their regular job, or, indeed, a chance to try out the role of project manager without committing to re-training.

 

But can it actually be a hindrance to have relevant business knowledge – can a project manager remove himself from the coal face and look at the bigger picture? Can he/she effectively communicate with stakeholders and senior management from the overall project perspective without being biased towards the “workers” in the project team?

 

Or does business knowledge, in fact, enable the project manager to communicate more effectively with everyone on the project from the junior team members to the most senior stakeholder?

 

Perhaps the answer is “it depends”… it depends on the project management skills and personality of the individual project manager and it most certainly depends on the business area itself. The industry where the answer is most obvious is perhaps in IT where a knowledge of IT itself is always a benefit.

 

 

 

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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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