In today’s business environment, project managers are now recognized for their critical role in keeping essential business functions running smoothly. As such, there’s been a corresponding boom in demand for workers with project management skills. So far, online training and education platforms have done a great job of turning out candidates that hold the relevant industry certifications to meet the demand, but as any working project manager can tell you – a certification will only take you so far.
In the field, project managers function as multidisciplinary professionals that have to draw on a variety of skills to be effective. Many of those skills aren’t the kinds of things that project managers will pick up without either several years of experience or a carefully-plotted training effort. Still, in a job market where even the least-qualified competition holds industry standard certifications, every effort must be made to stand out. To help, here are the four must-have skills of a well-rounded project manager and how to acquire them.
In the world of project management, bringing standardization to processes is a core part of the job. That implies a certain kind of control and order that project managers tend to impose to maintain efficiency in their work. But what if the project involves changing the very way things get done within an organization? That’s when project managers have to call on their change management skills to make sure everything goes to plan.
At first, the concept of change management may seem to be at odds with the accepted standards of project management, since the goal is to disrupt existing norms. In reality, however, it’s just an extension of a project manager’s conventional role, just with different goals. In the end, both involve managing the transition from one state to another through careful planning and execution. To add change management skills to their arsenal, project managers can seek any of several certifications in the subject.
No matter the industry, the goal of every project manager is to get their tasks done on time, and on budget. They do so to help the businesses they serve to meet their overall goals, be it profit or efficiency. To make sure that everything they do serves those goals, however, project managers have to have a deep understanding of how businesses operate; sort of a broad overview of how they fit into the overall puzzle. To get it, project managers should augment their training with general business courses that will give them skills in several useful disciplines. They should learn about human resources management, the basics of finance, and leadership skills.
Today’s project managers rely on technology to help them get their jobs done. Microsoft SharePoint is a very common foundational technology used as an information hub to keep projects on track. The thing is, SharePoint is most useful to project managers that have more than just a passing familiarity with it. Having a background in web development allows the project manager to customize SharePoint to meet almost any need, and to incorporate new functionality as those needs change. The skills they should learn include:
- .NET Framework
- C# Programming
- HTML5 Coding
With these four skills, a project manager will be able to turn SharePoint into a multipurpose tool for a variety of uses. Better still, they’ll gain an understanding of how the system works at a foundational level – which is extremely valuable when things aren’t working as they should and are slowing down project progress.
One of the things that new project managers are ill-equipped to handle is the complexities of the organizations they’re working in. In theory, a project manager expects to have the authority to command resources whenever they’re required. In practice, organizational turf wars and infighting are common, and project managers must be persuasive to be effective. On top of that, project managers often must negotiate terms with vendors, contractors, and even their upper management to drive better results. Of course, the best way to sharpen negotiating skills is through experience, but project managers can build negotiating skills by taking courses in conflict resolution and persuasion techniques, and then putting what they learn to use as often as possible.
Putting it All Together
Any project manager that builds skills in these four areas will have an advantage over their peers, especially early in their careers. Together, they make for a well-rounded project management professional that has the tools to handle whatever comes their way – and to do it better, faster, and more effectively than anyone else. The bottom line here is that there’s more to project management than a certification can teach, and those in the know will reap the benefits of the additional knowledge and be able to build a thriving career filled with success and accomplishment, which should always be the goal of any project manager.