The Critical PM Skills- How Do You Rate?

The Critical PM Skills- How Do You Rate?

The Critical PM Skills- How Do You Rate?
 The Critical PM Skills- How Do You Rate? 

A project manager needs to have the right balance of skills in order to be successful in managing projects and teams. The PMBOK guide is a great place to discover the skills you need to master and what are most needed for today's managers. 
  • In the search for the most essential skills needed by project managers today the best place to begin is with A Guide to the Project Management Body of         
  • Knowledge (PMBOK). PMBOK recognizes nine knowledge areas essential for project managers to master. While there are many basic project management skills that fall within each of the knowledge areas, this article identifies the quintessential skill in each area that project managers should focus to lead successful projects and team.
One additional skill that touches each of knowledge areas is also included to round out the list of top ten project management skills. As you will see from perusing the list, there are an equal number of hard and soft skills listed to keep projects on task and external and internal stakeholders satisfied with the results.
  • Scope Management: Writing a Well-Defined Scope Statement     
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Without doubt, one of the most common reasons why a project fails is because of poor scope definition. Defining the scope of the project represents the beginning of every project and the ability to write a clearly defined scope statement provides the project manager with the backbone to say no to overly demanding clients.  In order to write a good scope statement the project manager needs to have a clear understanding of the breadth of the project. One of the greatest disservices to the client is to allow scope creep to take over a project. Having a well-written scope statement understood and agreed upon by all stakeholders is the first step for controlling scope creep. 
  • Communication: Speaking With Authority While Empowering  
When you become a project manager, you will notice that your communication style changes. For example, your vocabulary expands and you begin to speak in acronyms (Gantt charts, PERT, WBS, RBS). While it may be easy to become self-absorbed with this new sophisticated language, don't forget to speak the native tongue understood and spoken by your team.  As a general rule, keep communications simple, clear, directive and motivational. Using words well understood by the team that motivates and empowers them will enable you to communicate objectives and priorities clearly while allowing team members to focus on the details of accomplishing those tasks. 
  • Human Resources: Selecting the Right People     
Under the true team concept, a project manager is only as good as the members of his or her team. Therefore, one of the essential project management skills is the commitment to hiring or selecting the best people to perform each task in accordance with their natural talents and ability to learn.

Matching talents with job requirements is not an easy task itself. Quite often the project manager may have a pool of candidates, some overqualified and some under qualified, to perform a particular job. Choosing an overqualified candidate may ensure that the job is done properly but also may lead to job dissatisfaction and a quick exit by the employee seeking better opportunities. Choosing an under qualified candidate can lead to disastrous results in the form of project delays, lower quality outputs, and increased costs.
  • Time Management: Delegation of Tasks     
Traditionally time management focuses on developing project schedules, constructing network diagrams, and determining the critical path. Ironically, the greatest time saver for the project manager is not found in any chart, but in the ability of the project manager to successfully delegate tasks.
If you value your time then you must learn to delegate effectively. Once you have the right people on board your team, the next step is to assign tasks to individual members of the team that are meaningful. For many project managers, the art of delegation is one of the hardest project management skills to learn for many reasons. However, equally pernicious is a project manager who over delegates or only delegates the most menial tasks.
  • Risk Management: Proactive Approach to Risks    
The expression hindsight is 20/20 is apropos for a project leader who never saw a speeding train carrying the risks that derailed the project. Risk management is a critical aspect of project management and an integral part of project planning. While the whole process of identifying, assessing, and controlling and evaluating risks is important, the ability to mitigate risks is a critical project management skill for the project manager to master. Since you cannot eliminate risks completely, particularly the unknown ones, the project manager needs to know how to mitigate risks so that the situation does not escalate into a full-blown crisis.
  •  Cost Management: Monitoring the Budget     
The project manager's financial stake in a project is controlling costs to adhere to the proposed or baseline budget. Cost management is an important knowledge area of the PMBOK for the obvious reason that money is the lifeblood of any project.  The three core processes of cost management are cost estimation, cost budgeting, and cost control. Of the many technical and financial skills needed for budgeting, the relentless monitoring of the project's performance to see where actual costs have varied from estimated costs will generate the true savings. Without proper monitoring small overruns can quickly balloon into serious budget problems.
  • Procurement Management: Selection of the Best Vendors     
A natural extension of cost management is procurement management that extends to planning purchases and negotiating contracts. In order to fulfill both knowledge areas, the project manager must be proficient in the choosing the best vendor based upon price, features, time and ease. This is another great example where the project manager's needs to have a thorough understanding of the resources required to move the project forward.
  • Quality Management: Quality Control     
Meeting the expectations of stakeholders is the starting point of every project and quality management is how you get there. Quality management consists of three main aspects: quality planning, quality assurance and quality control. There is a saying that you can only change what you can control and this is certainly true with quality management. For a project manager this means having the skills to use quality control tools and techniques to ensure total quality management.
  • Project Integration: Maintaining Balance     
As a project manager, you may feel a little like a "juggler" with a lot of balls in play—managing the schedule, budget, and meeting stakeholders' expectation—while running as fast as you can to put out potential fires. The ability to balance these many responsibilities is one of the most desired skills among project managers. There are no shortcuts in project management and each PMBOK knowledge area needs its well-deserved attention for the project manager to run the project successfully from the planning phase to the execution phase.
  • Project Management and Technology     
Technology permeates each of PMBOK knowledge areas and the project manager needs to have more than a perfunctory understanding of new technologies in order to use them effectively in managing projects. Knowing where to find and how to use the latest software for project management is a valuable skill for increasing personal and team productivity in many different ways.

The Limits of the Triple Constraints
  • What are the Triple Constraints?     
For successful delivery,  project management practitioners balance three constraints: scope, cost and schedule. These constraints are often represented as a triangle and consequently the triple constraints are also known as the Iron Triangle. It has many representations, one of which is shown below:

The triple constraints were originally conceived as a framework to enable project managers to evaluate and balance the competing demands of cost, time and quality within their projects.
  • Interpreting the Triple Constraints    
The triple constraints provide an interesting approach that could be used to help keep a project on track. In simple terms, a project management practitioner needs to ensure that projects are delivered within budget and on time, meet the agreed scope and meet the 
defined quality requirements.
A simple example can be useful to explain how these constraints impact decision-making. Suppose you are releasing a product on schedule, a competitor has released their product and now you are under pressure to deliver before the planned date. In this case, the schedule needs to be pulled forward, impacting the other constraints. Most likely, the cost will go up because you will need more resources (although sometimes adding more resources can actually lead to delays).

Alternatively, you could reduce the scope of work, such as not deliver non-critical features and still deliver within budget and cost. This simplistic example shows how project stakeholders need to be aware of the triple constraints and the impact. The project manager needs to juggle these constraints as per stakeholder expectations to deliver successfully.
  •  Limitations of the Triple Constraints     
Though useful, it is rather simplistic for the complex environment in which projects are delivered. To understand the limitations of the triple constraints, let’s take another example. Suppose you have delivered a project on time, within budget, met the agreed scope and met the defined quality requirements. Is that an indication of a successful project? Going by the Iron Triangle, it is!
However, in real projects there are other factors or constraints, such as the results after deployment. The priority of constraints is also a variable that needs to be factored. This variable is sometimes dependent on the industry. For example, in NASA and military development, performance is a critical variable. Cost and schedule are not as important.

It is because of such limitations that project practitioners question the validity of the triple constraints as the de-facto framework to manage and evaluate projects. That’s probably the reason for the PMBOK version 4 to state that managing a project involves managing constraints, such as Scope, Quality, Schedule, Budget, Resources and Risks. It is also the reason for the triple constraints to evolve into the Project Management Diamond and the Project Management Star.

The Project Management Triangle

The amount of time it takes to complete a project is the time (schedule) leg of the triangle. The overall budget is the cost leg. The scope constraint is all of the work that must be completed to satisfy the project requirements.  When working with the triangle, it is initially drawn as an equilateral triangle where all sides are the same length. When using the graphic to communicate things that impact the project, one can show that anything that increases one constraint leg will impact the length of the other sides of the triangle.
Ideally, the equilateral triangle represents a project at its initial baseline state. Often, the word “quality” is written in the middle of the triangle. The initial triangle represents the concept that when all of the known cost, time and scope constraints are working together, the desired project quality will be achieved.

As the project moves forward, and sometimes before it even gets started, changes in the three constraints will occur, impacting the other two constraints. The customer increases the scope, which generally means an increase in cost and time. An acceleration of the schedule (time) may result in an increase in costs and a reduction in scope. A reduction in the budget (cost) may require reducing the scope and extending the schedule (time).

Each of these impacts is easily communicated by redrawing the triangle to reflect the changes.  The value of using a graphic such as the project management triangle is in communicating the complexity of a project and the impact of various changes. While the concepts remain the same, the graphic has changed to meet the needs of the project manager to present the project status and facilitate discussions.  Variations of the classic project management triangle have been created to focus on unique projects and their challenges.
  • Changing the Constraints As Needed
Another way to structure the triangle is by using finance, time and human resources. This may be an appropriate way to discuss a project that has a fixed scope, such as in manufacturing or construction.  Here the PM can show that if a project needs to be completed sooner, adding more resources will increase the cost of the project. Or if the budget and resources must be reduced, the time/schedule must be extended.  Another way the constraint names have been changed is to use time, resources and technical objective. This can be effective in an engineering setting.
  • Changing the Diagram As Needed
Creating the triangle as an Euler diagram can have an informal discussion. An Euler diagram uses intersecting circles and ovals to represent the state of each constraint  In this example, the constraints show up as Fast (time), Good (quality) and Cheap (cost). 
When using this diagram, the audience is told to pick two. This diagram displays that all three elements of the project are interconnected. Only two elements may change at the expense of the third:
  • We can do the project quickly with high quality, but it will be costly     
  • We can do the project quickly at a reduced cost, but quality will suffer    
  • We can do a high quality project at a reduced cost, but it will take much longer
  • The Model Evolves 
The difficulty in discussing projects in terms of the three constraints, cost, time and Scope, without considering quality resulted in the creation of the “project management diamond.”  The diamond model adds quality as a fourth constraint. While the diagram now includes quality in the discussion, some of the ease of demonstrating how the various constraints are impacted by changes in other constraints begins to get lost The Star model includes Scope, Cost, Time, Risk, Quality and Resources.  
The purpose of this model was to make a distinction between project inputs on one triangle and project processes on the other triangle.  While incorporating more elements that reflect the real world of project management, the graphic becomes very challenging to use as a discussion tool
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The Author: Ala'a Elbeheri
                                         Ala'a Elbeheri
A versatile and highly accomplished senior certified IT risk management Advisor and Senior IT Lead Auditor with over 20 years of progressive experience in all domains of ICT.  
• Program and portfolio management, complex project management, and service delivery, and client relationship management.      
• Capable of providing invaluable information while making key strategic decisions and spearheading customer-centric projects in IT/ICT in diverse sectors.    
• Displays strong business and commercial acumen and delivers cost-effective solutions contributing to financial and operational business growth in international working environments.      
• Fluent in oral and written English, German, and Arabic with an Professional knowledge of French.  
• Energetic and dynamic relishes challenges and demonstrates in-depth analytical and strategic ability o facilitate operational and procedural planning.  
• Fully conversant with industry standards, with a consistent track record in delivering cost-effective strategic solutions.    
• Strong people skills, with proven ability to build successful, cohesive teams and interact well with individuals across all levels of the business. Committed to promoting the ongoing development of IT skills  throughout an organization.

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