Posted by: kerrywills | March 6, 2010

Do PMs need to know content?


There is a common viewpoint that Project Management skills are transferable across industries, companies and types of work.  I do subscribe to this belief to a point. Project Managers need to have the fundamentals of estimating, planning, resource management, communications, risk management and issue management to name a few. A Project Manager can focus on managing the project and defer any content-related topics to the team. However, I believe that it is important for a Project Manager to also understand the content so that linkages and decisions can be made quicker.

Speak the same language

PMs have a perspective that spans across the projects and therefore they have the ability to see implications and impacts that team members may not be able to see individually.  They are also held accountable for the overall outcome of the project. Therefore I do think that they need to have a knowledge of both the business content and the technical solutions.

On my own projects I set up time with the Business Analysts to review requirement documentation. I also sit with the technical team to understand the systems and technical solution being implemented. I have found this very useful in working sessions so that I understand what is being said as well as can poke at potential issues and risks. I also believe that being able to speak the language of the business and technical teams adds credibility for a Project Manager.

What do others think?

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Responses

  1. Too often, a PM without context is unable to ask the probing or challenging question to their team. As a result, risks go undetected and the ability to mitigate these risks diminishes.

    My experience, Kerry, has been that project managers who have the breadth of experience in business analysis, solution architecture and design along with the capabilities required to manage and deliver are the most successful and best to work with. It is, as you say, required to speak the language of business and technology.

    Good topic and congrats on the book.

  2. totally agree….the best PMs that I have worked with are the ones that actually get involved in the project to the point where they understand the material. my opinion is that PMs that focus only on the PM aspect of feel more like project admins that project MANAGERs.

    They dont need to be the expert in it, but at least make an attempt to understand the project’s intent, core business processes and systems. will make for a better relationship with the business, and can help guide UAT. In fact, I suggest all PMs perform UAT on the systems to even further their knowledge.

    -RW

  3. I totally agree. The world is changing and getting a lot more competitive. Having basic PM skills is barely even “table stakes” to get in the game any more. Here’s my own blog on this topic:

    http://chuckc3pm.blogspot.com/2010/01/full-function-project-management.html

    Chuck


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