Monday, April 22, 2013

What do you do anyway?

Project managers are a pretty varied bunch. I fell into Project Management, which really isn't unique because most PMs are those who either got training as engineers, took a new job in a new field (like advertising), or had a job that transformed (like consultants) into Project Management.

So since there are a lot of us that didn't necessarily "learn" PM formally, our jobs are more or less defined by how we first performed them, or followed others at the company. In advertising, this is a mixed bag. Some agencies or design "shops" have hands on PM where everything is run by PMs. Others have setups where the PMs do little more than act as organizer and expediter (although that is shifting).

One pervasive opinion about project management in advertising is that it is at odds with the creative process. Oddly enough, *true* or *pure* project management leverages the project manager's ingenuity, experience, mastery of process and techniques, and people skills to achieve results. The PM's role is almost exclusively to make sure that the best creative or technical process wins out. Therefore, the PM does not perform any function in a project on her/his own. Technically, the only thing a PM is supposed to do more or less on her own is monitor and control the project as it chugs along.

Monitor and control the coordination between phases, the scope, the schedule, the costs, integration, the people, the quality, the vendor partners, the communications, and the risk.

Oh, by the way, those areas (if you didn't already notice) are the 9 Knowledge Areas (Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Human Resources, Quality, Procurement, Communications, Risk).

That monitoring and controlling role is one of the most crucial to any project. It's broad-reaching and ever-changing presence provides the leadership that is necessary for success.

But PMs don't know this. Why?

Because we fell into project management. And chances are, when we fell in, we found ourselves at agencies and companies where the companies had either no idea about project management as a discipline, or what they did know about it, was not as detailed as it could be.

In other words, the definition that the organization gives to a PM defines what the PMs role will be, which gets us to the subject of today's post: What kind of work do YOU do at your company?

PMI says that the level of control and authority a PM holds depends on the organizational structure that exists at the company.

Following are some of the types of organizations in which you could find yourself:

Functional - Disciplines (Functions) are in silos and there are no cross-mix among teams. Projects are likely within each vertical, with no real cooperation or communication between disciplines. In this example, there are probably few (if any) PMs and they have little to no authority, availability for projects and they don't control the project budget. PMs in this case are used as coordinators, so obviously the worst scenario for you.

Matrixed - This is the most common form you'll encounter. There are 3 types of matrix organizations, Weak, Balanced and Strong. Each is defined by the level of authority of a PM, the availability of resources for the project, the role the PM plays in the project, and the level of control the PM has over the budget. It ranges from weak matrix, where the PM is nothing more than an expediter and resources are scarce, to strong matrix where the project manager controls the budget and there are full-time resources available to the project.

Projectized - This is the world where EVERYTHING is project based, and PM is the almighty being in charge of ALL. There are a couple of places this setup exists. I have never heard of one in advertising. Send me a link if you have seen this rainbow-colored magical unicorn.

Most traditional (read print, TV & radio) agencies and shops either started as purely functional or weak matrixed and the role of PM evolved. Producers (as in broadcast/radio/video) have existed longer in the traditional setup.

Most digital (read interactive, web, mobile) agencies and shops started as balanced or strong matrixed. In the case of digital, the inclusion of coding development teams means the higher likelihood of projects that employ the Software (or Systems) Development Life Cycle (SDLC) which was developed back in the 60's along with the original tools and methodologies of project management.

But at this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with YOU.

A lot actually. It matters a lot to your sanity. If you are thinking of getting your PMP (which of course I'm advocating), you ought to understand what that extra knowledge and expertise will get you in your current gig, or in a future one.

If you are at a functional company, a PMP or CAPM may be overkill. Your colleagues may not care, you won't have a manager who has familiarity with what you are trying to achieve, and you certainly won't have opportunity to use what you know. Plus, from a practical application standpoint, you might have difficulty meeting the eligibility requirements to even take the test. If you find yourself in that situation, join PMI, and make use of the seminars and other learning opportunities they offer. And try and make a project in your current situation... not only will your peers and managers likely appreciate the initiative, you can totally count it towards your project work.

If you are at a matrixed agency, a PMP is likely a good fit. Of course you will need to determine just how much you can effectively introduce the more beneficial elements of PMI processes (if they aren't already in use), but it will provide more of a help than a hindrance in most cases.

If you are at a projectized agency, this whole conversation is old hat, and you likely have your PMP already, if not on your way to getting one.

Whatever your situation may be, you should make sure to consider one thing when you are looking into getting your PMP as it relates to your workplace:

Regardless of where your company places on the spectrum of organizations, senior management and the employees have to be open and ready to adopt a shift in the PM's role. Whether you or your peers are ready for the processes, tools and techniques that the PMP certification might bring or not, if the organization is not ready or "mature" enough to make that change, you might find that having your PMP may be more hassle than help.

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