In the past few weeks, we have been exploring the similarities and differences in roles between project managers and product managers.
To wrap up this series, we describe specific skills to master for each role. In this post, we will discuss project management skills and next week, will take a look at those necessary for success as a product manager.
Strategic Project Management Skills
Project managers must view the outcomes of their work from a strategic perspective what is the goal of the project? How does this particular project advance objectives of the firm? Why is it project important now?
Businesses undertake projects for just three basic reasons.
- Improve revenue (growth)
- Reduce costs (savings)
- Stay in business (competition, regulatory)
Project managers with a strategic viewpoint will reinforce growth, cost reduction, or regulatory compliance in their work. It is important to understand why you’re doing a project before developing detailed plans.
Tactical Project Management Skills
All business strategies are converted into tactical plans and operational activities. Tactics describe how an activity, or task will be done, how it will be completed, and when the product or feature will be released.
Project managers are experts at tactical skills, such as creating and managing project schedules, monitoring actual cost versus budgets, and mitigating project risks. In fact, much of the role of a project manager in new product development is to monitor and manage risk. This is the purpose of any staged-and-gated process or the WAGILE approach to develop new products with speed and agility.
Projects often require significant capital investment and resource commitments. Senior executives do not make these decisions lightly. So, a large part of the project manager’s job is to reassure senior executives at their decisions were appropriate. (Of course, it is also important to inform them if the project is completely off the rails and was a poor decision.)
For example, if a product roadmap indicates a next generation product release by year-end, the project manager will develop a schedule with appropriate resourcing with the following tasks.
- Proof of concept (2 months)
- Customer feedback (1 month)
- Generate product specs (1 month)
- Design and produce prototype (2 months)
- Customer feedback (1 month)
- Finalize product specs (1 month)
- Initiate manufacturing (1 month)
- Quality check and ramp up production (1 month)
Operational Project Management Skills
As indicated earlier in this series, project managers are often responsible for much of the day-to-day execution of a project. This means that project managers need strong technical skills to help team members in trouble-shooting and mitigating risks that can impact schedules or budgets. Project managers are also responsible for reporting project status from project initiation to close-out.
Thus, project managers need to master communication, negotiation, and leadership. While all successful new product development team members should be good at communication, negotiation, and leadership, project managers utilize these skills up and down organizational strata as well as peer-to-peer. For instance, knowing what level of detail to communicate to whom can drive a successful dialogue and help project managers enable decisions.
Project Management Skills
Successful project managers demonstrate mastery in many skills. Join us on 11 April at noon CDT (1 pm EDT) for an open discussion session of project vs. product management. Learn more here and REGISTER HERE.
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