Project management – Structure of needed competences

Für die Deutsche Version lesen Sie bitte diesen Artikel.

When starting to learn or read about the project management, a lot of information is provided by different literature. This article is about a possible structure which helps to get an overview about the needed competencies, methods and tools.

As I wrote in my blog article from 27.03.12, I’m within the preparations for the project management certification according to IPMA level C. My company has chosen the National Competence Baseline (NCB) for Scandinavia, which is assigned to the ICB 3.0 from IPMA. I accomplished level D in Germany on the basis of ICB 3.0 under the certification rules by GPM Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V.

The candidates, who want to certify level C according to the NCB of Scandinavia, have to fill-out a self-assessment document. The aim is to document the own competence as project manager. I want to give a rough overview, how the project manager competences are structured there. I feel, that structure might be helpful when applying all competences, approaches and methods for the own work. Whereas the books from GPM (Kompetenzbasiertes Projektmanagement -PM3) give a complete overview about all these topic areas, the NCB Scandinavia focuses on levels and processes of the project management.

The approach from NCB Scandinavia gives an interrelated view on the work of the project manager. More details about each element can then be retrieved by the books from GPM or similar literature.

Structure of the project management competencies

The NCB Scandinavia structures the competencies based on the project level and the organisational level. The project level is divided into the two processes “project management” and “project execution”. The organisational level

refers to the “corporate project process”. The main work for the project manager is within the areas “project management” and “corporate project process”. The “project execution” is related to the activities on the project result itself and therefore is the main part of the experts within the project team.

Below I will give a rough overview about each competence area and their meaning. In the future I will give some more details about each area with separate blog articles.

1 Project level

1.1 Lead the project management

Leading the project management is meant in the sense that those conditions are created that the practical project management activities can be performed optimally.

1.1.1 Plan and evaluate the project management

These competence elements are about the knowledge of the project management approach itself. With new project ideas or specific tasks, it should be checked whether they can be done as project or are part of regular routine processes (line organization). The general question is “Is this task a project or not?” This decision is based on some characteristics like

  • uniqueness of task / result,
  • constraints about time & budget,
  • need for a specific timely limited organisation,
  • corporation between organisations
  • etc.

When it is decided to accomplish a task with the help of the project management, the next decision is to think about the appropriate project management model. Examples are

  • Prince2,
  • XLPM stage gate approach,
  • IPMA phase model,
  • Agile project management,
  • Critical Chain Project Management,
  • etc.

Additionally branch specific project management and corporate rules have to be considered. Please note that we are talking at this level NOT about the project execution model (like agile software development, waterfall model etc.).

Within the chosen project management model, the project manager has to decide about the effort of PM, he has to plan. Complex projects have most likely more challenges, which have to be handled by the project manager as simpler projects.

1.1.2 Organise the project management

Independent of the chosen project management model, IPMA (and NCB Scandinavia) assumes that every project has certain phases. Those phases build a kind of meta level about the chosen project management model.

IPMA / NCB Scandinavia define the following project management phases:

  • Preparation phase: this phase is about the first project idea and the next step to justify and describe this idea in more detail. We are talking here for example about the business case for the project. Also the roles from the project owner (sponsor) and the project manager is cleared here. Please note, that the project manager might not be assigned during the main period of this phase. The master plan with key milestones, project context, objectives, scope and project organisation is defined here.
  • Start-up phase: the start-up phase is about the detailed planning of the project. As a result, the activities, resources, quality control and communication is planned as well as the final project organisation with the role description. The project start-up workshop with all participants is situated in this phase, too.
  • Project execution phase: during this management phase, the work for the project manager is about to coordinate the project execution and to support the result building. Monitoring the compliance of the plans as well as handling changes is now the main part of the project management effort.
  • Project close-out phase: the main purpose of this management phase is to end the cooperation between the active participants and to extract the experience gained during the project. Additionally the project manager has to coordinate the commissioning of the project deliverables.

1.2 Perform the project management

Performing the project management is meant in the sense that all relevant and planned project management processes are executed. The project management processes are activities from the project manager, which support the development of the project result. But they have nothing to do with the work on the project result itself. One example for a project management process is the creation of the detailed activity plan with schedule, which is represented e.g. by a Gantt-chart or network-chart.

1.2.1 Perform overall project management

This competence area contains project management processes, which evaluate the project environment (incl. stakeholder analysis), the project purpose, project objectives and project scope. Based on this, the project is structured (work breakdown structure) and planned on a rough level. This includes key phases and key milestones, the project economy, the procurement. This overall plan has to be supervised during the project execution. Also the management of changes (e.g. scope change) is assigned to this competence area.

1.2.2 Perform ongoing project management

This competence area is about the detailed project planning and all project management processes during the project execution and close-out. The detailed planning bases on the project structure (work breakdown structure) and defines the activities, their dependencies and the resulting detailed schedule. Also the resources are assigned to that detailed plan. The management processes during the project execution include the monitoring of quality, time and resources as well as the establishment of the communication infrastructure, the team development, the development of personnel competencies, the management of meetings and correspondences and the support of the project task execution.

1.3 Project execution

1.3.1 Execute the project work

Here we are talking about the work, which is needed to create the project result. These are the project processes. They separate from the project management processes. One example for a project processes is the creation of software for controlling the energy creation of power plants.

The project model for the project execution might be the agile approach or the waterfall model.

The project execution itself does not belong to the competence areas for the project manager. In other words, it is not necessary, that the project manager knows how to build houses or to develop software.

2 Organisational level

2.1 Manage corporate project process

This competence area is about the knowledge, how the project are embedded into the corporate processes. This includes the portfolio management and the related strategic processes for prioritizing, initiating and cancelling projects. Additionally the program management is assigned to this competence area. Last but not least, the development of project management professionalism is important.

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