Project Management Institute

Whose job is it, anyway?

VIEWPOINTS
THE BUSINESS OF PROJECTS

BY GARY R. HEERKENS, MBA, CBM, PMP

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Whenever I have discussions about the need for project managers to understand the business aspects of their projects, one question often pops up: Is that really the project manager's job?

And it's true that at many organizations, engaging in business-oriented activities is not explicitly included in the job duties of the project manager. However, there are many excellent reasons why project managers should take the initiative to proactively learn about (and participate in) the wide variety of issues and activities related to the business and strategic aspects of the projects they manage. Here are just a few:

  • 1. You are likely to make better project decisions. Basing choices solely upon technical or functional considerations means all of the critical inputs required to make the best possible decision aren't being considered. Project managers who do not understand the business aspects of their projects are destined to make subpar decisions from time to time.
  • 2. You're likely to become involved in a broader, and perhaps more interesting, range of activities. Practicing business-based project management may include anything from helping to prepare project business cases to participating in strategic planning sessions. And many of today's intelligent, capable and ambitious project managers would welcome such opportunities.
  • 3. Respect for you—and your role as a project manager— will increase. In addition to giving you an immediate career boost, practicing business-based project management will help us all. It demonstrates that project managers are able to contribute much more than many are currently being allowed to.
  • 4. It reinforces the strong connection between projects and business. This is a key concept that simply cannot be overstated. Organizations that do not recognize this connection are likely to waste considerable money and human resources. And project managers who practice a business-savvy approach can help organizations see the link.

Recognize the Opportunity

The project management landscape is changing—slowly, but surely. As we travel through the next few years, project managers will be expected to possess business acumen and understand how to apply it to their projects. Even if business-oriented skills and competencies are not specifically identified within the formal job description for a project manager, the expectation may still exist. And even if this expectation doesn't yet exist, project managers who demonstrate the initiative to practice business-based project management are likely to be appreciated and valued. In short, those who practice business-based project management will be viewed as superior project managers.

This presents a unique and valuable opportunity for project managers. In today's environment, those who take the initiative to concern themselves with the business aspects of their projects will immediately differentiate themselves from their peers who bring only technical and functional knowledge to their projects. So seize the opportunity now! PM

Gary R. Heerkens, MBA, CBM, PMP, president of Management Solutions Group, Inc., is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author with 25 years of project management experience. His latest book is The Business-Savvy Project Manager.

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This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK SEPTEMBER 2009 WWW.PMI.ORG

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