What Is Project Management | Thinkful


The  development of a new face cream, the construction of a bridge, rescue  efforts after an earthquake, or expanding a business into a different  country—these are all examples of projects. Unlike usual business operations and tasks, a project has a limited and defined timeframe, scope, and resources for its completion. Project management, therefore, is the application of knowledge, tools and skills to a designated project in order to meet the defined objectives.

This article looks at the objectives and definitions of project management, as well as the  key skills and traits needed to become a professional in this field. If  you’re keen to find out more about how you can build a career out of  successfully managing business, government or social projects, then read on.

The Key Objectives of a Project Manager

The main objective of project management is to develop and manage a project that conforms with the objectives of the client. For a project to be delivered on time and within the agreed budget, expert management is crucial. The  major challenge in project management is to deliver quality results and  accomplish all the goals within the given time, budget, and scope  constraints.  A project team is often comprised of people from across organizations, and sometimes across countries. In some cases, the project might also include advising the client on more feasible objectives or project structure. On clear establishment of the client’s objectives, it’s then necessary to ensure that these objectives guide all decision-making processes involved in the project.  

Project Management Vs Program Management

To better understand what project management is and isn’t, it’s useful to look at the difference between project management and program management. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably within a business, however from a definitive standpoint, there are clear distinctions to be made.  

A project is structured to develop a specific deliverable within given constraints, whereas programs are generally a series of different but related projects to collectively deliver profit or other benefits to a company. Program management encompasses charting out and outlining a list of related projects that have to be completed to accomplish one major goal. A program manager is  expected to formulate the objectives and goals of the program and its  probable impact on the business. They need to be capable of organizing  projects, developing strategies, and implementing them appropriately.

Project  management is the management of an individual project within a program.  The project manager is tasked with the timely delivery of results while  staying within the scope and budget constraint. A company will often employ an independent contractor to take care of a project. For example, a business looking to establish a shopping complex can easily hire a contractor for the building’s construction. However, it’s almost impossible to hire a third-party independent contractor for program management. The program manager must be an integral part of the organization.  While  the main endeavor of program management is to reap maximum benefits for  the company, project management focuses on delivering results as  competently as possible.

To summarize:

Projects look to deliver a service or product to meet the demands and expectations of stakeholders, with minimal unexpected or unwarranted changes. Efficiency is a key component of project management.
Programs involve delivering profits to the company in line with its aims and objectives. The primary element of program management is delivering value, working in cooperation with other facets of the organization.  

Careers in Project Management  

Two decades ago, businesses rarely bothered with a dedicated project management team. Supervisors or managers would lead their respective teams, and manage day-to-day operations ensuring that everything within their respective departments ran smoothly. It wasn’t until the end of the last  decade that businesses started pondering the necessity of a dedicated  person whose to manage projects from initiation to delivery. That  position, with time, evolved into something that we know today as a ‘project manager’. As more and more businesses began to realize the value of project managers, demand for professionals specializing in this capability began to grow. Fast forward to now, and project managers remain in hot demand. The Project Management Institute predicts demand to grow by 33 percent by 2027, creating over 22 million new jobs. Project managers are important contributors to productivity, to the  point where talent shortages in the profession now represent a  significant risk to the global economy.  

Project Management Salaries

If you’re considering a career in project management, you’ll be happy to hear that they can be very rewarding financially. According to the PMI, project management-oriented professionals in  projectized industries earn up to 82% more than non-project-oriented  employees. Among all the sectors in analyzed in the report, the  healthcare sector noticed the biggest increase in project-related job  roles, with 17% growth. Below is a list of some of the top industries employing project managers, along with the average salaries on offer. Construction – $91,000  Engineering – $88,000 Software development – $90,000 Healthcare – $66,000 Marketing – $63,000  

What Does a Project Manager Do?

Project managers ensure the timely delivery of products or services, thereby bringing value to the client or organization. They play a key role in managing expectations from all stakeholders and controlling all correspondence between the client and the project management team. When  unforeseen incidents arise, or the goals of the project suddenly shift,  it’s the project manager who renegotiates expectations and timeframes to ensure the project remains on track for successful completion.  A common stumbling block encountered in projects is known as ‘scope creep’. Scope creep refers to the tendency for project objectives to expand as the project proceeds. It’s up to efficient project managers to ensure that scope creep doesn’t disrupt the course of a project or result in the failure to meet deadlines or deliver tangible results.  

How to Become a Project Manager

While demand for the role is high, becoming a project manager is no cakewalk. You’ll be expected to have the right mix of qualifications, soft skills and practical experience—which can be challenging to acquire when you’re just starting out. Unlike other fields, the role of project  management doesn’t require you to have any specific set of hard skills. You’re expected to know a little of everything, including general business operations and strong understanding of technical aspects. Coding knowledge isn’t a requirement, however the ability to instruct developers correctly and in detail is important.

To be a successful project manager, it’s also essential to have the right soft  skills to complement your understanding of project management. Good  communication skills and leadership qualities are essential, but they’re not enough. Life as a project manager comes with many challenges and tackling them will require you to think strategically, be analytical, adaptable, and accountable. You’ll need to be decisive, persistent, and resilient. Below is a list of qualities that a hiring manager may seek in you:

  • Good communication  
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to allocate resources efficiently
  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to take decisions under pressure
  • Creativity
  • Accountability and adaptability
  • Time management skills
  • An eye for detail and perfection
  • Self-motivation
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Problem-solving skills  

Many successful project managers have previously worked as accountants, designers, software developers, or other types of management roles. Knowing how to allocate resources is an important skill for the role. You should have a keen eye for detail and ample knowledge to draw on as you identify areas for improvement and recommend solutions.

Project Management Degrees and Certifications

Though a bachelor’s degree in business management is preferred, a bachelor’s degree in any field will be a good start, depending upon the industry you want to be a project manager in. There are also many online project management certification programs that can give you a boost in the right direction. Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from Project Management Institute is one popular choice.

Learn Project Management with Thinkful

Our Technical Project Management course equips you with the necessary knowledge and skills for a successful career. You’ll learn about various features of project planning and development  processes such as budgeting, resource allocation, scheduling, and  troubleshooting. The program also covers the soft skills required to  make it as a successful project manager, like problem solving and  interpersonal skills. The last module of the program covers the software  and tools required to be a successful technical project manager.  

The course comes in two formats: full-time for those who want a career change fast, and part-time, which offers a more flexible schedule. In both programs, you’ll work with a personal mentor who can help you break into the industry. Tuition payment options include upfront, monthly, loan options, or you can choose to enroll for  free and pay once employed by signing an Income Share Agreement.

We hope this article has provided plenty of food for thought as you weigh up your career options. Head over to our blog for more inspiration, or get in touch with our team today to discuss your goals.


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