Project Management is getting more trendy than ever. We’ve been witnessing a boom in demand for project-based organizational cultures, project managers and project management skills. A lot of the job requirements for roles in areas like Operations, Strategy, or HR, include skills in project management as preferred qualifications, if not mandatory. Furthermore, at least in Portugal, Universities are following the market with new training initiatives on project management, ranging from specialized intensive courses to post-graduations and even master degrees.
This is the reality that leads us to attest that the PM discipline is gaining awareness and traction among a wider audience, with different professional areas increasingly accepting the importance of these skills and embracing the power of a project manager to achieve high performances, especially nowadays in these fast-paced environments where change is a constant rather than an option.
So there’s an opportunity altogether for project managers to make their way out of the shadows and show their real value to organizations and society. An important step ahead to consolidate the importance of project management, everywhere. Truth is we don’t need to put it in a pedestal but only open people’s minds to understanding and learning how project management can benefit other industries.
Let’s take a look at key project management challenges in finance and how honing the right skills can benefit
People Overpursuing Efficiency
In support roles like finance or accounting, you can find a lot of ostriches. I’m not trying to be offensive or funny (OK, maybe a little bit of the latter), it’s just the way things work better there. Ostriches are well known for burying their heads under the sand and that’s pretty much what people do for the sake of efficiency in finance-related areas. Forget multitasking, it’s the specialization and the focus that gets you productivity. The beauty of standards is that you can pick up a bunch of boring, repetitive, and less complex tasks and still extract value from them by strictly following a process that has all the guidelines.
Companies Shifting the Optimum to Cost Reduction
Cost reduction has become one of the main priorities for organizations and efficiency turned out to be good for business as eating or sleeping for a human being. For this, employees are told how to do their work and are expected to literally function as machines. If not careful, an almost inevitable response will be to lose track of the end goal. You no longer work to keep your clients satisfied in the long-term since you are more concerned with immediate results. You easily ignore your surroundings and start to protect your own work above that of other colleagues. And you lose sight of the harm you might be delivering.
Now, imagine you can take a step back whenever necessary and fly over your tasks to identify flaws and correct them right away. Thus being able to assess your impact in other teams or departments will make you play for the whole instead of only yourself. Everyone wins, right? This is what project managers are tailored to do – snapshot from a distance to anticipate problems faster and slaloming through obstacles to make sure solutions are implemented in time to save budget, quality or (again) time. In the case, you may be saving yourself some time and the organization some money, while ensuring value is added to the client.
Obscurities in Idea Management
Have you been in a situation where you found it difficult to explain your idea or to turn your thoughts into reality? I guess we all did at some point. Sometimes it starts revealing early in the process of ideation where you can’t mix knowledge and experience to produce a stable idea or you just can’t organize thoughts and exteriorize them in an intelligible way. But the majority of us can do this and even with some compelling arguments, what we miss the most is a structured approach to help grow our “baby.”
An idea is nothing more than a newborn that needs to be educated (shaped) into a grown-up, only to then be able to influence society in a positive manner (be successful). Everybody knows it’s a hell of a “mission impossible” to raise a child and so is shifting from ideas to action. What project managers bring to the table is the ability to see the bigger picture, envision an idea/project from every possible angle and put its distinct pieces all together into a perfect puzzle. They organize everything, develop the plan, elaborate a budget, assess risks, ensure communications, manage resources, monitor implementation, and connect all dots. Ultimately, they enable innovation by allowing the correct use of new ideas.
Processes Lacking Structure and Planning
This was another thing I noticed throughout my experience in this kind of culture – people often lack structure. It’s not because they are dumber than in other cultures but the type of work they perform on a daily basis is failing to stimulate this. They are inclined to focus so much on execution than on designing or planning that they end up neglecting the framework behind what they’re doing. Eventually, it will lead to stagnation and bigger repercussions than just reduced improvements.
The Role of Project Management Skills in Finance
The bottom line is not about everyone having to be project managers to be successful, or project management being a higher entity for us to worship. This article is all about pointing out (not pointing fingers) the main features inside finance-related areas and shed some light on how to overcome them and be a better professional, obviously using the lens of the project manages. Remember that
- It’s possible to chase efficiency and take care of your clients at the same time.
- Even though you should follow guidelines and methodologies, there’s always a bigger purpose to pursue.
- An idea is nothing until you make it happen and structure is great to power that.
Does my experience resonate with you? Let’s start a conversation below.
Illustration: Copyright © Oksana Drachkovska