How Engineers Use Project Management Expertise to Achieve Success
Project management is a simple, common-sense concept: It is a set of processes and practices used to start, execute and evaluate projects for industry or government. Project management techniques create a road map for the project team that, among other things, clarifies roles and responsibilities and establishes cost, scope, and timeline.
The project manager plays an integral role in nearly every group endeavor, including those that involve engineering of various types. Engineering project managers combine the advanced knowledge and skills of their profession with the best project management practices to lead successful projects.
Though the idea of project management is easily understood, leading a project can be a complex undertaking.
Advantages of Project Management for Engineers
Communicates technical ideas to non-technicians and vice versa
Engineering project teams are typically composed of people with disparate areas of expertise. The engineer project manager continuously facilitates interactions among technicians and business team members, directly supporting the people on the team and providing the context each needs to accomplish the task at hand. Whether a project is to implement a new manufacturing process, build a system, or develop a product, the engineer project manager assigns tasks clearly and opens channels of communication among team members in departments including finance, marketing, and technology. An engineering project manager hears, absorbs, translates and communicates information across function areas.
Sets standards for quality and timeliness
An engineer with project management training sets standards for a project from the beginning to prevent scope creep, missed timelines, and the disruption of business or government activities. Great project leaders identify waste in their project workflow and make adjustments to ensure efficiency.
To meet cost and time allotments for deliverables is essential in any environment, and particularly for engineering projects. A failure to meet specifications for engineering materials, advanced technologies, or personnel can waste time and resources and turn out inferior products. The engineer project manager monitors quality standards, establishes accountabilities, and keeps teams on task and on time. As a project leader with both technical and management skills, the engineer project manager ensures the quality and timeliness of the project’s deliverables.
Seizes opportunities for creative problem solving
Highly trained and talented engineering project managers ensure that each member of the team has the resources they need to succeed, and provide a framework that supports exploration of new ideas that may emerge. He or she understands that invention often occurs when staff members with a broad range of expertise work well together. Such an engineer manager recognizes when there is room for creativity and takes these opportunities to develop innovative solutions to difficult problems.
Knows the big picture
Engineers with expertise in project management focus on the big picture, observing processes in their larger context. They guide the evolution of all stages of a project and further the entire enterprise.
Understanding the basics of project management is easy, but applying project management principles and techniques in an engineering environment requires expert training.
To be an invaluable asset to your organization as a great project leader; to consistently deliver products or services on time and under budget; and to prepare you for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam, you would do well to pursue an advanced degree: The strongest credential is an academic one.
Academic programs that focus on both engineering and project management are the best way to expand your career prospects by teaching you up-to-date, in-demand skills. George Washington University’s online master’s in engineering management offers intensive coursework in organizational leadership for technical roles. The online program, courses and instructors are the same as the on-campus ones, just more accessible.
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