By DeVry University
Nearly every industry needs project management professionals to keep things running smoothly. Project managers are responsible for mastering and deploying methodologies that set team members up for success, from the planning and initiation stages through completion. Project managers tend to be:
- Good team players.
- Educated in general business concepts.
- Fluent in widely accepted methodologies and technologies.
If you are interested in becoming a project manager, read on for a birds-eye view of relevant methodologies, tools and technologies that you may find yourself using to keep employees on task and projects running smoothly.
Being a Project Manager: What Are Your Responsibilities?
Project managers (PMs) work with any number of departments within (or even outside of) their organizations. Their role is to ensure that things move as they should—on time—with little to no problems. When bottlenecks occur in the system, it's the job of the project manager to sift through the issues and uncork the process so it flows correctly again.
PMs tend to have a wide range of responsibilities, including (but not limited to):
- Working with management to develop project parameters. Project managers estimate costs and develop budgets to ensure that the job can be met within specified parameters from the outset. A project isn't a success unless it comes in on time, exceeds the client's expectations and is delivered on budget. This type of planning generally requires that PMs know how to price vendors, supplies and labor.
- Selecting, hiring and managing teams. As a PM, you'll be responsible for using your judgment to select the right people for the right jobs. The point isn’t to bog the team down with unnecessarily elaborate spreadsheets or whiteboards, but rather to stimulate creative minds to do what they were hired to do, on time and within certain parameters.
- Monitoring results, documenting problems and developing solutions. During the initial phases of a project, PMs and their teams must have a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished, what the timeline is for each goal and what needs to happen if certain things don't go as planned. PMs tend to monitor and analyze both expenditures and team performance to ensure that projects continue to move along the timeline as they're supposed to.
- Writing performance reviews. Experienced PMs may be tasked with issuing final reports, which include proper documentation of a project from the planning stage through completion. If you strive to be a project manager, one valuable skill to cultivate would be the ability to distill data and information into bite-size reports. Taking comprehensive reports that document all project requirements, as well as the project's history, and turning it into a performance review could be an important part of your job. This includes what was done, who worked on each task and what could have been done better.
What Do You Need to Know to Get Started?
The varied roles and responsibilities of project managers mean that they can have an impact on every aspect of business. They help run the projects that form the core of the company output, and therefore have to understand the metrics that are critical to success.
This is why building a foundation in business concepts is an important first step for prospective PMs. A strong project management education should include topics like:
- Leadership and organizational behavior.
- Project management systems and methodologies.
- Program management.
- Project cost and schedule control.
- Project risk management.
- Contract and procurement management.
- Project communications and managing project teams.
- Essential business topics like accounting, finance, economics, and statistics.
- Quality management.
- Organizational structures and business processes.
- Legal, political and ethical dimensions of business.
With a foundational knowledge of top business metrics combined with key project management principles, project managers can more efficiently deploy PM methodologies to help drive company success.
What Are Some Top Project Management Methodologies?
When it comes to project management methodologies, there are several in common practice. Different industries and companies require different project management strategies. Personal preference of company leadership may even play into which methodology is used.
For example, if you work in product distribution, you will likely utilize a different PM methodology than you would if you worked in the service industry. On the other hand, if you work in government, your skill set might be used differently, just as it would if you were hired to an organization to facilitate change management. You may find yourself using a methodology simply because company leaders are most familiar with it.
This is why PMs strive to understand the basics of several top methodologies used by companies of all kinds. A few examples include:
- Waterfall—Organizes projects in a downward flow, so that participants can only move to the next step once the previous one has been completed.
- SCRUM—Emphasizes teamwork and accountability, focusing on “sprints”: iterative processes that help small teams work toward common goals. SCRUM requires that someone be anointed “Scrum Master,” who then runs short daily meetings to keep things on track.
- Agile—Facilitates completion of projects in small sections so that teams can respond to unpredictability and adjust accordingly. In many circles, agile has become so synonymous with project management that many may ask, “What is Agile Project Management?” Put simply, Agile is a flexible methodology that emphasizes early delivery and helps track a project's lifecycle from inception to completion.
How Can You Leverage Project Management Tools and Technologies?
Two project management tools used by several of the above methodologies include GANTT charts and PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) – which are useful in developing project schedules in various technologies. These tools assist project managers as they work within larger methodological frameworks:
- GANTT—Uses charts to help plan projects, showing when work is due and what needs to be done on specific days.
- PERT—Aims to realistically evaluate how long a project will actually take to complete by analyzing the time associated with each individual task.
Professionals in project management often leverage software that brings these types of charts and concepts online and makes them easier to manage and share. Examples of project management tools frequently used in the business world include LiquidPlanner, Trello, Wrike, Asana and Jira.
What Should You Know About Certification and Careers in Project Management?
If you decide to work toward a project management degree or certificate, you may also decide to take the PMP® certification exam. Some courses – such as DeVry’s Advanced Project Management Practices and Professional Exam Review (PROJ605) class – provide curriculum to help you prepare for this exam. The courses and examination are designed to help project management students better understand business and project basics and learn how to use that understanding to move companies forward.
As a project management professional, you may find your skills useful in a variety of fields and within many different positions, such as:
- Project manager
- General manager
- Compliance manager
- Supply chain manager
- Loss prevention manager
- Operations manager
- Organizational change manager
- Procurement manager
- Project developer
Different roles require varying levels of education and knowledge. Leveraging your personal characteristics – like being a people person and team player – and layering on education can help you on your journey towards becoming a project manager.
Interested in learning more about degree and certificate programs offered by DeVry? Explore our Project Management programs.
PMP is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.