Updated: Oct 12, 2020
A lot of us work on projects. Projects are how organizations implement change. You may feel like you spend a lot of time working on projects. You may be an executive responsible for the implementation of a new program, business process or IT system for your company, division or department. You may be a team member who contributes to the project because you have a specific subject matter expertise or you are a power user of a core business system. You may be required to lead a procurement for a new product or service or are involved in training and communications. The bottom line is that you may spend a lot of time working on projects, but you are not a project manager.
With the technology revolution, we have seen the evolution of project management as a specific discipline with different methodologies and certifications. Project managers build core competencies in the skills required to define, plan and implement projects. Project team members operate in their respective disciplines (finance, human resources, IT, procurement, customer service) with different competencies and certifications. However, when it comes to working on projects, there is a standard set of core ‘project’ competencies that all project team members should have, but are often ignored because they are considered part of ‘project management.’
Activities such as requirements definition, developing a business case or evaluating organizational impacts are core business competencies and not specific to project management. These actions follow a structured framework and require particular subject matter expertise. Although these activities may be part of a more significant project and led by a project manager, the majority of the input comes from functional stakeholders.
However, in many cases, these activities occur early in a project’s lifecycle before the initiative may be a considered a project. The project manager may not even be involved in these activities and is assigned to the project after these events occur. And that is where the gap is: we are not developing the core competencies required of project team members because we consider them part of ‘project management.’
These competencies include the ability to:
Conduct an evaluation of the current state and define the desired future state
Define the requirements for a new business process or system
Identify and evaluate solution alternatives
Assess the impact of change on the business and its customers
Define a high-level implementation timeline
Project success is dependent on the strength of the project team. Without building ‘project’ competencies in the team, projects will continue to struggle due to lack of the project team’s foundational knowledge. The stronger the team’s understanding and ability to participate in critical project activities such as defining requirements, evaluating alternatives and identifying organization impacts; the higher the probability that the project will meet its objectives.