This is one I’ve long debated, thought about, commented on, and asked for comments on.  Are all projects created equal?  Of course I truly don’t mean equal….some are $10 million projects and some are $2,000 projects.  Certainly they aren’t actually equal.  But in general, are the business processes the same to get from point A to a successful point B?  And what about from industry to industry?  Do you run a construction project that much differently than a data migration project in IT?  Yes and no is what I’m guessing most are answering.  But really, are they that much different?  And from a project manager standpoint, do we care?

Let’s look at some major differences that projects can have and discuss if they should be treated the same and if basic PM rules apply, or if there’s no way that a PM outside of that industry can run a project in that industry.

Magnitude ($$ budget)

First, let’s consider budget.  Can a project manager who has been running very small projects jump in and manage a multi-million dollar project with no big-budget experience?  I say definitely yes.  The only two things holding this individual back is his own confidence level and the willingness of his senior management to hand him such a project to manage.  That’s a big hurdle to jump, but we all have to get there somehow and we show our organizational leaders that we are up to the task usually by first cutting our teeth on the smaller projects.  So, the bottom line here is…if the project manager is showing success – something we all have to do anyway – then I say yes…any project manager should be able to manage any size budget as long as they’re a good project manager and follow best practices and a good methodology.

Industry

This one is a little tougher.  My earlier statement on industry vs. IT is very relevant to my own Las Vegas area as there are often many posts for construction project managers.  Is it really that different?  I’ve never managed a construction project – the closest I’ve managed was probably a business unit sell off which involved ensuring that many “I’s” were dotted and “T’s” were crossed and the proprietary data got to where it needed to go.  So, for something as drastic as construction to IT or vice-versa, I’d say some experience would need to be gained in knowledge transfer and likely a few small construction projects in a learning-mentoring role.  But I think it can be done.

As for various types of IT projects – it always humors me when someone says, “you’ve mainly done this type of project and we need PMs who have done this other type of project.”  Once you’re basically in the industry and only the technology is different, then I think the crossover is a no-brainer.

I would really like to hear from other PMs regarding their opinions and possibly their own experiences with some of these crossover scenarios.  Where you successful?  Was it hard?  What type of mentoring or support did you require – or possibly need to give if you were helping someone else make the jump?

Timeframe

Finally, to me the long project vs. short project is another that should have no affect on what the PM has previously done.  If they’ve successfully managed 2-month projects then they can successfully manage a 2-year project as well.  Knowing how to manage people, motivate the team, use the proper tools – that’s all the same no matter how long or short the project is…other than possibly ensuring your team remains engaged and doesn’t get bored or too distracted on the long-term project.

Summary

In general – with the possible exception of a major industry change – I think that a project is a project is a project.  Reliance on PM best practices is critical.  Identify how you’re going to manage the project, properly set customer and team expectations, and stick to those plans.  That’s the best way to keep the team properly engaged and the customer satisfied…and these are key ingredients to a successful project.

Please feel free to comment – especially if you’ve made one or more significant changes that gives you an unique perspective on this question.  Thank you!

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