How to Develop Next-Gen Project Managers

Good project managers can be a key differentiator for a business, so your company's investment in their development and training is essential. Recent studies and industry experts agree that next-generation Project Management Offices that actively engage in helping employees put the skills learned in training to work on the job result in higher levels of maturity and success.

With IT investments rebounding, it's time for companies to get it right when it comes to their project management professionals. Successful project outcomes require executive buy-in, training and a commitment to development of the organization's project managers.

The next-generation project management executive that your company invests in will likely have the strategic technology, business and leadership skills to pull together tasks, see the big picture and meet company objectives. That alone, however, won't be enough.

Related: Project Management Salaries Show Earnings Growth, Career Potential

Organizations will have to renew their focus on talent development as they look to grow and gain competitive advantage. Then, says Margo Visitacion, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, "A good project manager can be a key differentiator for the company."

Related: Six Attributes of Successful Project Managers

The Global State of the PMO

A recent study by ESI International -- "The Global State of the PMO" -- reports that next-generation Project Management Offices that actively engage in helping employees apply what they learned in training back on the job, reach higher levels of maturity in their role than organizations without active engagement. Similarly, the Project Management Institute's (PMI) recent "Pulse of the Profession" report finds that PMO managers agree that having a career path that includes nurturing the skill sets of their project and program managers is one of the most critical factors for success and a company's competitive advantage.

Companies that report higher project management maturity levels save a ton of money, according Brian Weiss, vice president practitioner markets at PMI. Companies reporting high project management maturity levels outperform low maturity organizations by 28 percentage points for on-time project delivery, 24 percentage points for on-budget delivery and 20 percentage points for meeting the original goals and business intent of projects.

Translated into project dollars at risk: More than $120,000 is at risk for every $1 million spent on projects.

Industry experts agree that a broad based development approach for project managers if fundamental. "This is about professional development -- technical skills but also business and leadership skills" says Weiss.

J. LeRoy Ward, executive vice president at ESI International notes that when it comes to the types of training Pros invest in, company-specific methodologies and tools comes in first followed by an even split in investment in hard skills training, such as scheduling, cost control, quality, etc., and professional certifications, such as PMP, Prince2 and ITIL, for example.

"About 40 percent of organizations provide PMS soft skills around diplomacy and communication," he adds.

Development of communities of practice among project managers across the organization helps to boost project management maturity via collaboration, knowledge sharing, and best practices.

Project Management Certifications Matter

On any given day on Dice.com, an online career hub for technology professionals, there are 2,200 project manager positions available that require a Project Management Professional (PMP) credential, up three percent from last year, according to Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com.

Related Why Project Management Certifications Matter

The numbers show that certifications do matter. According to Dice.com, forty percent of technology consultants said obtaining a certification helped them land a new job which is about 10 percentage points higher that their colleagues working in traditional roles.

Still, certifications aren't the be all and end all for project management professional success. "Companies today need project managers with strong organization and problem-solving skills that go beyond deadline management," says Hill.

Project management is a lucrative role with an average annual salary of about $104,000, and with PMP credentials average salaries can jump to nearly $120,000.

Getting the most out of your project management staff requires that companies invest in their project management professionals. It's a value-add that will only benefit the company.

PMI's Pulse of the Profession found that almost 70 percent of organizations have a career path for those engaged in project or program management. However, the majority of these are still informal and not clearly defined and in writing.

With capital projects and company viability at stake, the research shows that leaving the development of the project management staff at stake is not a business savvy option.

Lynn Haber is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

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