Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Characteristics of an effective project manager

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A project manager is assigned by an organization to achieve the specified objectives of a project within the competing project constraints. The role of the project manager is different from a functional manager or an operations manager. Depending on the organizational structure, the project manager may be reporting to a functional manager or a program manager or a portfolio manager.

What are the characteristics of an effective project manager?
We all know that the project manager needs to wear several hats during the course of the project, from a leader to a director to a facilitator and so on. But, can we put down certain characteristics that are necessary to be a successful project manager. PMBOK has given a list, which is explained below:

  1. Project management knowledge:  The project management knowledge includes the 5 process groups, 9 knowledge areas and the 42 project management processes. A project manager should be familiar with how the project management processes interact and the necessary inputs, tools and techniques and outputs of the processes. A project manager should be able to identify and tailor the processes to suit to his/ her project.

  2. Area-specific skills: I call this as domain knowledge; for example, if you are a project manager managing a $5 billion integrated resorts construction, you are expected to have the knowledge and skill sets required in that specific area. If you are handling IT projects, the domain knowledge of IT would help you handle the projects better.

  3. General management proficiencies: The list could be long and the project manager is expected to be familiar. Examples: Financial management and accounting, sales and marketing, strategic planning, contracts, commercial law and so on. In several organizations, there could be other managers or experts to handle these areas; but, the project manager should have sufficient knowledge to co-ordinate with them to extract the work/ information necessary for the project.

  4. Interpersonal skills: Once again, the list could be long. Several project managers fail in handling the projects not for the lack of technical skills, but for the lack of interpersonal skills. The interpersonal skills include leadership, motivation, team building, communication, influencing, negotiation, decision making, political and cultural awareness and so on. PMBOK puts lot of emphasis on the importance of communication for a project manager; it is understood that a good project manager spends about 90% of his/ her time in communication.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Project Manager vs Project Management Office

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A project manager is assigned to a project to achieve the project objectives; generally, to deliver the complete scope of the project within the time schedule, under the allocated budget and to the quality standards stipulated for the project Project Management Office (PMO) is more of a supporting/ facilitating entity within the organization that co-ordinates the management of several projects under its domain.

A comparison of the role of a project manager and project management office is given below:

Project Manager Project Management Office
Focuses on the specified project objectives Focuses on opportunities to better achieve business objectives
Controls only the assigned project resources PMO's role is to centralize and optimize the use of shared organizational resources across all projects
Manages and balances the competing constraints of the individual project, like scope, cost, time, quality, resources and risk Manages the methodologies, standards, overall risk/ opportunity and interdependencies among projects at the enterprise level

Why projects are initiated?

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Projects are initiated in an organization for various reasons. PMBOK identifies the following five major reasons for initiating projects in an organization:

  1. Market demand: A project may be initiated to meet the market demand. Take the example of Tamil Nadu. The shortage of power supply and the inability to meet the power demand in the state is an example of market demand. This could lead to projects for generation of more power, including alternate sources of power like wind energy, solar power and so on. Another example is the foreseen shortage of water supply in Singapore. This has led to a project for recycling used water and subsequently Singapore has a product called NEWater, which is a recycled water. Increase in traffic congestion has led to metro rail projects worldwide, including Chennai, New Delhi, Doha (Qatar), Singapore, Malaysia and so on.

  2. Strategic Opportunity/ Business Need: Examples of projects initiated due to business needs include ISO certification, Document Management System and so on.

  3. Customer Request: Most straightforward of all the reasons; if your customer has a request to do something for him/ her, it forms a project.

  4. Technological Advance: I do not need to say much about this. Everyone has seen how the smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we work and the amount of projects (like apps) that they have generated.

  5. Legal Requirements: The current State Government in Tamil Nadu has implemented compulsory helmets for all two wheeler riders when it assumed power. This naturally would have led to several projects for manufacturing of helmets to meet the demand necessitated by legal requirements. Another example is the legal requirement to digitization of all cable TV operations in major metro cities of India.