Project Management

Discussion in 'Jobs (Discussion)' started by Billy_Rubin, Jan 13, 2009.

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  1. I have heard that Project Management can be quite a lucrative and interesting career path to follow and that it also often suits the sort of skills that ex-military types have to offer.

    Does anyone have any prior on this or able to offer up any advice/enlightenment as I know practically feck all about it?

    Oh, and is Prince2 a must have (that is just a qualification name I have randomly picked up along the way)?

  2. There are plenty of PM jobs out here (I are one :))

    PRINCE2 is the accepted methodology for govt work but is by no means an industry standard, understanding the PRINCE2 methodolgy does not make you a PM! I would suggest doing the Association for Project Management APMP qualification as a starter, if you can do PRINCE2 as well all the better. APMP teaches you the fundamentals of Project Management such as planning, scheduling, earned value analysis, contract types and terms, risk management, stakeholder analysis, scoping etc etc and APM's "methodology" is generic. PRINCE2 is fairly prescriptive ie: this is what your communication plan should look like, this is what a Risk Register must look like, for that reason it is not widely used outside the public sector; the private sector prefer flexibility! although it is gaining wider recognition.

    There are plenty of PM courses offered as part of resettlement but..... if you can gain a position as a PM first your company will pay for all your training, your Logs experience may well give you a firm basis in some of the function of a PM. Companies are looking for people with good communications skills, leadership, social skills and a general drive to get things done, if you can demonstrate those things you are most of the way there. Learning how to develop a network, gantt chart etc are skills which are very easily taught it's the attitude, personality, ethos and drive which are more difficult to develop along with the ability to objectively assess risk and manage budgets.

    Big bucks can be earned by an experienced & qualified Project Manager or Project Controller who is proficient in both Primavera and MS Project.
  3. Yes, I find that some old skills come in handy when doing project and program management work — though I've found this to apply to team and practice management too. It's surprising some of the attitudes and approaches you learn in the army which you find yourself using almost unconsciously years later.

    PRINCE2 is pretty good, and ever more widely used in the private sector. It is a very comprehensive and somewhat prescriptive approach, as another poster said, but most experienced PMs find themselves picking and choosing a subset of PRINCE2 documents and processes to suit their company and the project. There are places where you'd never get a project finished if you tried to use the whole panoply of PRINCE2. In gov projects, it is used comprehensively, which would make you think gov stuff would be delivered successfully but slowly ... so it is something of a mystery why they are slow and then never actually delivered at all. Possibly it's because PRINCE2 is very scope-conscious and tends to resist (IMHO) changes in project scope once the work has started. And all gov projects constantly change in scope, budget and constraints, as we know.

    That being said, even PRINCE2 and ex-army skills won't make you into a really good PM: for that you'll need to add additional soft skills and a certain amount of political savvy (something I am personally crap at, to be honest).

    Still, it may encourage you to know that (by my count), only about 1 in 10 of self-professed project / programme managers are actually competent: the number of posturing eejits in suits out there ... never ceases to amaze.

    My happiest and most satisfying time doing any kind of management was about five years after I came out, when I worked for a couple of years with a company many of whose employees were ... ex-military. =(
  4. Hello Almost_Ex,

    PM is absolutely a role that the ex military amongst us can turn our hands to quite easily - the discipline & organisation are paramount.

    I left the mob as a humble Siggy and ended up in the PM role eventually. Before leaving to set up my own Project Management Training and Consultancy company, I was a Program Director and had managed many major projects & programs (American company) across the world.

    I can't add to more to Chieftiff's post; but I would like to correct a couple of misconceptions, if I may? PRINCE2 is not prescriptive at all. It does not purport to be a one stop solution; in fact the manual insists that the method is tailored to meet the needs of the organisation implementing it. Its use was originally for the public sector, but I can assure you it's more used nowadays in the private sector. The directions as to what a Risk log or communications plan should look like are for guidance only.

    My company teaches the method, as well as it's grown up sibling Managing Successful Programmes (MSP). We also consult on general Project Management and the implementation of the methods.

    PRINCE2 is the de facto standard for Project Management in the UK (actually on a global scale - everywhere except the US), and as such is a requirement for 90-95% of all PM vacancies. If it's not on your CV, then you won't get past the first electronic paper shuffle.

    We do offer a discount to any member or ex-member of HM forces. Our courses are in Doncaster & Lincoln, but can be at your location for 6 or more students. Our trainers are all very experienced Project Managers who have implemented PRINCE2, they are also ex HM forces - although one is ex TA 2ndLt - so obviously he doesn't count.

    Our webpage is here.

    Good luck in your new career.
  5. PRINCE2 is resistant to scope change but that's a good thing and encourages a better project definition, the problem with military projects in my opinion is often the lack of consistency on the part of the sponsor (who can and does change fairly frequently on a long military project leading to personality and preference issues) and an unwillingness to take personal responsibility for risk or change. The sponsor owns the risk register after all; although try getting them to admit it! Change management is ultimately the sponsor's responsibility as far as authorisation is concerned, when an event escalates to an issue the military organisation does not lend itself well to resolution (shit rolls down hill after all) and often the PM who brings up an issue for the sponsor to resolve later finds himself trying to resolve that issue (PM's resolve problems, issues are issues because they are beyond the control or authority of the PM!) just my opinion!

    I agree and that probably equates to the number of PM's I've met who think that showing a nice shiney and up to date Gantt chart at a meeting is all project management involves.
  6. Not that you're trying to sell it :D

    My industry (Engineering Construction) don't use it at all other than in the nuclear sector where I believe it is prescribed under public sector rules (because all of our companies are US owned and want IPMA via APM recognition, membership and accreditation) I only have it because I needed it in the service - oh and it was free :wink:
  7. That obvious huh? :)

    I think you may be surprised at who does use it - KBR in your sector for one - gaining a lot of momentum in Dubai and with the forthcoming projects in Abu Dhabi.

    As a US company, do they not insist on PMP?
  8. maguire

    maguire LE Book Reviewer

    er, I would beg to differ. A friend is APM qualified and he is indeed working in the nuclear industry at the minute, where certainly his company at the very least prefer APM (as did a certain defence contractor who originally paid for him to do the course.)
    I myself hold the Practitioner's Prince 2 certification and I can definitely say it's transformed my (what I used to laughingly refer to as a) career, and worth every penny (I paid to do it privately off my own back) - however, it's not going to mean very much in any sector without applicable experience (eg, I'd spent a decade in various IT and telecoms roles prior to doing P2 - without that, I'd get nowhere). So IMHO these qualifications *are* very much worth doing and worth making a lot of on your cv, *but* only if you already know the field you work in. feel free to PM me if you like.
  9. It is undoubtedly gaining momentum as companies like KBR; who are involved in civil as well as engineering construction move their staff around and take on public projects as well as private, a common company policy will no doubt prevail at some point. Not sure about PMP to be honest, I think the tendency toward APM is partly due to the fact that ECITB (to whom the companies pay a levy in exchange for training and other services) offer the APM suite of courses:

    I did my APMP with guys from the nuclear industry, some of them also did (or had) PRINCE2 and I believe the requirement was contractual or bid dependent, the nuclear industry is fairly vast from submarines and construction through to decommissioning, I suspect it's specified in some contracts or bids/tenders and not in others
  10. Agreed, a certain amount of resistance to scope creep is good — and although someone said that PRINCE2 is not prescriptive, I would argue that in some respects it is, and constructively so: the insistence on "ownership" that you mention is the perfect example. It is all about making sure that specific individuals take responsibility for specific tasks, risks, issues etc, and are required to sign up for their role. Where scope is concerned, PRINCE2 generally discourages trivial change requests while providing a mechanism for inclusion of genuinely important ones. It mitigates the very dangerous ad hoc element.

    PRINCE2 is still a bit like a loaded gun, though: very effective in experienced hands, but ....

    Almost-Ex, you won't be sorry if you do the course, but you'll need an entry into PM work so be prepared to do anything, to start with, to get your CV running (including relevant examples from your army career).

    If I may offer just one piece of advice, make absolutely sure that your instructor has a lot of PMing years under his belt, i.e. real experience with a variety of projects. The last thing you want is someone who can recite the PRINCE2 manuals backwards but never used it in the field. Sound familiar?
  11. Prince2 may help but I think that more profession specific qualifications, chartered membership of a relevent body and experience will count for more. Say, for example, you were applying to be a project manager for a costruction company, a BSc (Hons) in construction management, building surveying, civil engineering etc and MCIOB/MRICS or CEng MICE would be more advantageous than Prince2 and a few years using that qualification in a totally different field.
  12. Crikey blimey. I didn't expect this much of a response so soon! Thanks very much all of you - I have now officially quadrupled by knowledge on PM (aaahhh the use of a good old acronym; it feels much more comfortable now!) since last night.

    I will certainly get myself the PRINCE2 qual on my resettlement, it seems it certainly won't do me any harm and probable more useful than the inevitable basket weaving course I would have ended up on.

    Next bone question: How much background knowledge is required to manage a project? Bearing in mind my background is entirely loggie based, would I be out of turn to apply for a job in other areas? I realise this is a rather sweeping question but it would certainly focus my research if I knew not to bother looking at engineering, IT, communications or other such fields.

  13. Some people would argue that project management is project management full stop. The CMI magazine had an article about it a while back. I think if you start at a slightly lower level than project manager to get used to how things work then move onto the full project manager role that would probably work best.
  14. If you understand the fundamentals of managing projects and work within agreed processes and frrameworks and if you can use a laptop and phone, speak to people at all levels and most importantly aren't afraid to give them bad news and offer solutions then you can turn your hand to any industry.

    I've been doing it in construction for 5 years now and only did APM last year, it fleshed out the bones of what I'd picked up on the job but the most important thing is to be an effective communicator, the rest of it is just nice tools to have in the box.

    PRINCE2 Certainly isn't a must have not in my industry anyway with most PM's coming from other backgrounds be it quantity or building surveying, or as I did from being "on the tools" but wont do you any harm. I found it to be a little inflexible and it didn't encourage free thinking but horses for courses.

    APM was very good and taught by people with vast project managment experience in various industries. One of the lecturers on mine was a bona fide rocket scientist with various bits of kit orbiting the earth as we speak it's a full on course but well worthwhile doing.

    If you get into the right industry you'll be pretty automonous and judged on results not if your face fits and you kiss the right arses but the big thing to remember is you're only as good as your last job.
  15. Please don't forget MSP...if you have MSP AND PRINCE2 then public sector contracting could be your lobster, oyster - whatever!