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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Importance of Domain Knowledge for Project Manager Excellence

So, what is necessary for a PM to excel or prepare for career change? Take a look at the various job requirements for project manager. Can you see a job posting for a Healthcare Software Developer post, a Retail Database Administrator, or a Financial Services QA analyst? No.

But, you can see job posts asking for a specialized experience in the application or technical domain areas knowledge. See examples such as the recent job requirements - a Java Programmer, a SQL Server Administrator, or a  SAP Quality Engineer  - that have surfaced recently.
Similarly, a number of jobs in the project management have begun asking for the industry specific domain knowledge. The postings like a Healthcare Project Manager, Pharmaceutical Project Manager with IT experience, IT Project Manager, Infrastructure Project Manager, Construction Project Manager, etc. speak for the increasing attention to specific domain knowledge skills that team members and stakeholders are seeking in a project manager. 

But, how prepared are the project managers in specific domain knowledge areas? Let us be clear. I am not talking about technology skills, such as understanding programming or IP address configuration. But, shouldn’t an IT Project Manger understand to differentiate whether an IP address is internal or external facing? Before answering that question, think if NASA can hire a project manager who doesn’t understand the various contracting requirements to work with federal agencies and contractors?  A recent job requirements for a project manager asked for knowledge of image processing and remote sensing requirements. Requirements for another chemical project manager asked for chemical manufacturing process and drafting requirements. What are the signals from the market then?
Specifically in the growing agile projects where projects are not fully defined, isn’t having this domain knowledge really helpful to identify risks early, facilitate negotiating for what stories are going to add value to the customer, and establish trust in a self-organized team?

In light of these market conditions, are the accidental project managers or the graduates with a focus on project management adequately prepared to manage projects or for career change?

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