How do I become a Project Manager?

An entrepreneur or business owner is likely to have some project management skills in their locker. For example, being able to devise a strategy and then follow it through. But what about methodology?

Project management isn’t about managing by the seat of your pants. Countless projects have failed or gone over budget because risks weren’t evaluated, or the project didn’t deliver business value. Those are the areas where a budding project manager needs to depend upon a methodology.

project manager

Having the right skills and a dependable methodology is a great start point to becoming a project manager. All that’s left is to build some experience in running a real project for a client. How might a potential project manager persuade a client that they are up to the job? How about qualifications?

It’s a little like being a graduate again. Having a good degree from a good university but with no real business experience under your belt. An entrepreneur will have the charisma to pitch a good business idea to the client. They also need to persuade the client that they can deliver it. Qualifications matter.

Qualifications

Certification in an established project management methodology goes a long way with a potential client. It demonstrates that you are serious about executing the project and delivering what is promised; that when the project hits some turbulence you will be able to recover. It brings gravitas.

Now, from the assortment of project management methodologies, which is the one that will strike a chord with the client, and the next client?

“Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was a popular phrase in the days before systems become a commodity. IBM had a reputation as being a bankable and stable vendor. You could choose to take a risk with one of its competitors, but why would you? In project management today, you could say: “Nobody ever got fired for choosing PRINCE2”.

PRINCE2 is the most widely used and studied project management methodology, responsible for millions of successful projects worldwide. One of its strengths is that it can be applied to projects in different industries, making it ideal to have on a CV. Regardless as to what kind of project, or where in the world it is being executed, it can be managed with PRINCE2.

Another of its strengths is that there is a formal certification process, with two levels, Foundation and Practitioner. Very few methodologies have this rigour.

PRINCE2 Foundation is designed for people with no prior knowledge of project management. The course usually takes 3 days, with a final exam. This qualifies the person to participate in a project team, with a thorough understanding of the seven project management principles.

PRINCE2 Practitioner is designed for people qualified to Foundation level. This course usually takes two days, again with a final exam. It builds the skills necessary to apply the seven principles on a real project. Some training specialists also provide a combined Foundation and Practitioner course, over five days.

There are alternative certifications available, both for entry level and experienced project managers. However, these are often generic, and not linked to a specific methodology.

Skills

A successful project manager will have a range of skills that they can apply to the role. These encompass soft skills, such as being able to inspire people and the thinking skills that are required for planning and analysis.

Planning is a thinking skill. A project manager needs the ability to think through how the project will be run and to put together a project plan. They need to ensure that the project achieves its targets, delivery dates and budget, with sufficient detail for the client to sign off.

Time management is self-discipline. To keep the project on track, the project manager will need to carry out a range of tasks such as checking on progress, initiating new tasks, identifying risks and reporting. Prioritisation is vital, knowing which tasks must be completed, which tasks can be delayed or delegated and understanding the consequences.

Leadership is a people skill. The project manager needs to inspire the team to work to their potential, to deliver high-quality work against deadlines. Good communication is also essential, making time to communicate decisions and priorities, in addition to being able to listen.

Who can help?

Being a project manager involves a lot of responsibility and demands good decision-making. It can help to have a sounding board; a person who will listen to suggestions and challenge flawed thinking, perhaps acting as a devil’s advocate. It’s best if this person is outside the project team so as not to share sensitive or worrying information.

Becoming a project manager

It’s likely that an entrepreneur or business owner will already have most of the thinking and soft skills needed to execute a project, albeit they will need to apply those skills in the context of a methodology. Winning the project in the first place, however, will require winning over the client; certification in a well-known methodology such as PRINCE2 will definitely help here.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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