The modern project manager’s winning ingredient

High demands and expectations are the order of the day for today’s project managers. It’s no longer enough to have a fully certified toolkit – that only qualifies you to enter the race for the good projects. It takes something extra to succeed as a project manager. ProData Consult’s Product Director Daniel Bred shares some of these winning ingredients with us here.

These days, the right certifications are the project manager’s admission ticket. In the past, you could succeed through simply being highly competent if the organization was familiar with your skills. Today, the right certifications are often an entry requirement for just being considered for a project or a job. What’s more, expectations as to the level of certification have also risen.

“The requirements for the project manager’s certifications have shifted. Previously, it was possible to get by with a foundation certification, but today, you’re often expected to be certified at practitioner level,” Daniel Bred explains.
Because these certifications are now viewed as basic qualifications by most organizations, a state-of-the-art toolkit isn’t enough to make you stand out from the crowd. You also need to rely on other factors.

Link business, processes and IT

According to Bred, one of these factors is the ability to link business, processes and IT. In recent years, the distinction between a business project manager and an IT project manager has begun to blur, and as a project manager today, it’s a distinct advantage to be able to engage both the business and the IT department in dialogue.

“If you can speak both the language of business and the language of IT, you’re in a better position to succeed with your project. Not just a project that works here and now, but a project which can be implemented, operationalized and succeed in the long term as well,” Bred says.

As a project manager at a large organization, you also need to be able to understand issues in a larger perspective. The critical issues are constantly changing, which influences how individual projects are prioritized and how they fit into the project portfolio as a whole. As a project manager, you have to be able to handle this while still driving the project in the direction which will allow it to fit into the organizational context.

“If the puzzle piece you deliver doesn’t fit because the puzzle has changed along the way, your project won’t be a success. A good project manager can navigate the project in the right direction, even when circumstances change,” the Product Director explains.

In fact, success should never be measured at the end of a project. A project can only be considered a success after it’s been operationalized and has been proven to deliver lasting value to the business.

“Making a good piece of software that can support a business process is fine. But if there’s no one to support it and maintain it later, it will die a quiet death,” Bred adds.

Precisely this fact of life places high demands on the project manager’s ability to link business, processes and IT, to ensure that when all is said and done, the project can be implemented and operationalized to the benefit of the business.

Industry insight is becoming a requirement in certain sectors

As Product Director for program and project management, Bred has observed that project managers who have a degree of industry specialization have an advantage. For project managers, industry insight and familiarity with how business works in a given industry have become more sought-after qualifications. In fact, in some industries, it’s even a requirement.

“Your industry insight enables you to understand new developments in the industry better, whether it’s new regulations or business models. This knowledge gives you a clear advantage when you’re heading a project which is critical to the business,” Bred explains, and continues:

“And industry specialization provides the advantage of giving project managers the ability to engage in dialogue with the business. Precisely because there’s an understanding of the environment the organization operates in.”

Communication, charisma and leadership

Another winning ingredient in a successful project manager is the ability to communicate. An ability which has become increasingly important as the role of the project manager has developed from a more traditional management style to a more leadership-oriented approach. According to Bred, while the ability to communicate is crucial, it’s something that only comes from experience:

“The practice of project management has become the practice of communication to a higher degree. And I’m not just talking about the ability to express yourself correctly in writing or speech. On the contrary, it’s about the ability to create dialogue and a sense of belonging to the project. You have to be able to convince others of the importance of the project’s scope, create a direction and commitment. That ability comes with experience. It’s not something you’ll find in a book.”

As a project manager, you don’t have the same direct authority as a line manager. This means that you have to be able to motivate project members to move in the same direction and create a sense of unity without having formal authority. This takes charisma and good communication skills. At the same time, project managers are challenged by the increase in the number of distributed teams, because now the premise for the interaction between project members has changed.

“Being a credible and skilled communicator has always been important. But it’s more important now than ever before, because the team is spread out across different units and countries – this creates different challenges,” the Product Director concludes.

Who’s Who:

Name: Daniel Bred
Age: 45
Education: Engineer specializing in Production Management from the Technical University of Denmark
Title: Product Director for program and project management

Daniel is a former partner and Product Director at Raft Consulting and has also worked as a Business Manager at IBM, among other things.