So you’re combing through a job search engine, or maybe you’re browsing the position listings for a company you’re interested in working for, and you keep seeing the same listing over and over. “Project manager.” Sometimes there might be one or two of these, but occasionally there might be 20 – or even 50 or more – of these types of listings. What in the world is project management?
Clicking on the link might help get you some idea of what the listing is for, but often it just looks like a cut-and-paste of a vague job description from one of the other listings. That’s not very much help. The trouble is, project management positions are valuable employment opportunities, but often they get little attention from job seekers because what they are is not well known.
Projects, first of all, are different from day-to-day operations. In a company, it is the day-to-day that keeps the company going. Projects, however, depart from these normal operations in several ways including time, scope, and cost. While the objectives for day-to-day operations remain constant and ever-present, with minimal changes over the course of the year or lifetime of the company, objectives for projects are specific and can be given a deadline to completion.
How “the Thing that Needs Doing” Gets Done
There are two methods for project management in general use today. The first is the traditional, or “waterfall” method. It is so named because the process cascades from one step in the project plan to the next. In most projects, the objective has something to do with a specific output – usually a product or an innovation to a company – that requires tending from inception to deployment. According to seguetech.com, the steps involved are ordered thus:
- Conception – and idea for a product or innovation is born
- Initiation – initial meetings are had about the concept
- Analysis – cost-effectiveness of the project is determined
- Design – the project is patterned for implementation
- Construction – prototypes are built or systems are implemented
- Testing – Product is put out to test markets, or system is tested within the company
- Deployment – product is released to entire target market or system is adopted company-wide
As you can see, the process follows a logical progression with easily definable steps. However, the problem with this method is that it tends to gain risk as each step is completed. Think about it. If you implement a software change to your company and get to the testing stage and for some reason your analysis wasn’t complete enough, you went through a lot of cost and hours and you’re basically stuck. Now, companies have been doing project management this way for years. It works, it just increases in risk as you progress.
The agile method, while costlier initially, decreases in risk as it heads toward completion. This method delivers smaller chunks of results in shorter spurts, which are designed and tested during each phase. Feedback is given, and the implementation takes place at the end of each phase instead of at the end of the project, resulting in a hardier, well-tested final product at the end of the project.
Waterfall Method: Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantage of this traditional method is that is really is methodical. It places a lot of emphasis on being thorough and documenting everything. This allows changes to be made earlier in the process if necessary.
The main disadvantage is that it’s very rare to be able to foresee every possible complication that may come out of the implementation of the project, and changes can be more difficult to make at that point.
Agile Method: Advantages and Disadvantages
The best thing about agile project management is that changes can be made at any time, and it’s transparent – clients have full control over the process.
As for the downside, it can be inefficient to incorporate major changes into existing systems, especially in a large organization. Care must be taken to make sure the implementation is as thorough as possible, especially when overhauling major existing systems.
Both methods are sound, both have their uses, but that doesn’t help us know necessarily how to choose which one is best. When the project requires adaptability and constant update, agile is the way to go. This project management methodology is usually best for products related to technology and technological advances, according to Manifesto.
Project Management: Who Does It?
Projects can be assigned within the company or contracted out to external sources. That’s where these lists of project management positions come from. Companies can outsource project management more cheaply and usually with greater expertise than by assigning the project to a current employee or group of employees, and the market exists for project managers, so why not? Also, because many of these projects can be completed using only an internet connection, the pool of potential project managers is much wider.
So what does that mean for those seeking project management positions? Essentially, you need to look for listings related to a field in which you have some experience. Software installation? Writing academic reports? Research and development of products? Look at your experiences and focus on listings for companies that do that type of work.
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