“Project success” has been the “status quo” to see if project managers are successful or not. It has been the measure to see if the project manager is experienced, responsible, and capable person. But it is the other way, project manager’s management skills determine the project success or failure. Nowadays, company has an integrated checklist of criteria that they search in an individual who is going to lead the project. The best project manager is selected based on the core competencies they possess and check to see if it aligns with project requirements.
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Project success factors varies in accordance to project goals. The most common project success factors are delivering on time, have a satisfied stakeholder, effective scheduling, meet the project objectives, and requirements. This paper revolves around the research question, what are the impact of project management skills on project success factors which in turn determine project success or failure?
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS AND IT’S IMPACT ON PROJECT SUCCESS FACTORS
Project can reach to its success if it is led by experienced, responsible, and capable person. It depends on project manager on how project can be directed on right direction. Project success and effective project management can be ensured by professionals who possess competencies, expertise, and skills to manage project (PMI, 2017). Karrbom Gustavsson and Hallin (2014) provided, the dichotomy between the “hard” and “soft” dimensions of projects used for project management and project. The authors point out that hard skills are associated to technical side of project management such as project planning, scheduling, controlling, monitoring, and risk analysis. While soft skills are associated to human side of project management such as negotiating, leadership, team building, decision-making capability, communication and coordination with the team, peers, and customers.
The project management roles should not only include technical expertise but also include competencies such as interpersonal and cognitive skills to manage people. As per Zuo et. al. (2018), “it might be more crucial to align the internal and external stakeholders than how the project is technically executed in order to achieve project success” (para. 6).
Recent PMI studies (PMI, 2015) applied the Project Manager Competency Development (PMCD) Framework to the skills needed by project managers using the ‘PMI Triangle’. The talent triangle focuses on three key skill sets. The PMI Talent Triangle provides the ideal skill set required in project manager, which is the combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management.
Figure 1. The PMI Talent Triangle (PMI, 2015)
According to PMI (2015), the three key skill sets required in project manager are:
- Technical Project Management:
Project manager should have the knowledge of the processes and tools used in project management as well as should know how to use it for planning, monitoring, and controlling projects. Some of the main technical skills that project manager should possess as outlined by PMI are:
• Data gathering and modeling
• Agile practice
• Earned value management
• Requirement management and traceability
• Schedule, scope, risk, and performance management
• Time, budget, and cost estimation
Not only this skill, but it is suggested for project managers to have a strong industry-specific knowledge they practice on.
Another core competency of project manager is leadership, that is the skill to lead the team through all the phases of project. Leadership skill is utmost as this helps project manager to seamlessly build the team, communicate effectively, and guild the team to success. PMI outlines different key leadership skills such as brainstorming, emotional intelligence, coaching and mentoring, influencing, negotiating, problem solving, team building, interpersonal skills, listening, and conflict management. Project manager can practice different leadership skills within a project team to motivate the team to successfully execute the project.
- Strategic and Business Management:
The third core competencies that project manager should have in PMI Talent Triangle is strategic and business management. Along with the technical expertise, project management is focused on business structure and operational functions. Project managers should be able to align project with organization’s goals along with exhibition of technical knowledge and leadership skills. The skills and competencies associated to strategic and business management are:
• Benefits management and realization
• Competitive analysis
• Market awareness and conditions
• Operational functions (e.g. finance, marketing)
• Business acumen
• Customer relationship and satisfaction
• Legal and regulatory compliance
• Strategic planning, analysis, and alignment
Project success can be measured using the “iron triangle”, which is the standard measures of time, cost, and quality, at the end of the project (Davis, 2014). Project success factors are the project element that determine the project success or failure. Critical success factors are focused on soft skills, that is, the behavioral skill of project team including project manager and customer/stakeholders’ satisfactions.
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Project success across different large-scale projects can not only be determined using the criteria such as project completion within time, budget, and with good quality. It is determined by answering, if the products that has been delivered satisfies project stakeholders’ and if the products or services meets client’s requirements. Along with these commonly shared success criteria, there are additional success measuring criteria that differs according the projects. For instance, in defense projects, problem- solving capability, mission clarity, and defense capabilities are used as project success measure. While, in information technology (IT) projects, project success measures are IT support capability, achieving organizational goals, selection of software and hardware tools, and team participation. As per study by Gingnell et al. (2014), for any IT projects specifically software development projects, skilled project manager falls on the top five factors criteria for any of the success criteria time, budget, and quality. The project manager’s ability to categorize the project types with their success factors and their impact on project success can help manage the project efficiently. It helps them to determine improvement measure to reduce the chances of any setbacks in their projects (Rezvani and Khosravi, 2018).
As per the study carried out by Raafat et. al. (2015), they initially identified nineteen different project managers critical success factors (CSFs) from literature review, namely, ability to communicate at multiple levels, ability to deal with ambiguity and change, ability to escalate, working attitude, cultural fit, education, effective leadership, length of prior engagements, past team size engaged, PMP or PRINCE2 certification credential, PMP or PRINCE2 trained, technical knowledge and hands-on experience, work history, effective verbal communication, written skills, communicate to the project, ability to coordinate, situational management, and competence. Then, these CSFs were reduced to twelve items describing three constructs for successful project managers which are engagement traits, education, and experience using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), that is, the use of mathematical factor criteria to group together observed factors that are inter-correlated under one “common” construct. The twelve items are enlisted in table below:
Table 1. Final Factor Solution (Raafat et. al., 2015)
The results above infer that educational training do not guarantee good project managers. It is other two factors engagement traits and experience that matters which contributes to good project managers. The engagement traits entail the project manger to undergo reflective practices by paying attention to organization values, to take the role of leadership when required with right attitude, and to maintain relationship with project stakeholders by learning to control emotions and paying attention to critical elements of a project. While the experience traits entail two dimensions, namely, time engaged to manage the projects and size and scale of projects managed. It is recommended that project team should pay utmost attention to five factors, namely, company’s technical capacities, control system, scope and work definition, project manager’s commitment and capabilities for a better project success (Gunduz and Yahya, 2018).
According to Cacamis and El Asmar (2014), partnering and emotional intelligence can be used to improve project performance, to bring the skills to project-focused team, and to avoid and resolve conflict. Partnering helps to bring all project participants to work on the common objectives through collaborative relationships, sharing resources, and improved interactions. While emotional intelligence, through improved interpersonal skills and human behavior, can maintain efficient and responsive professionalism. The author tested Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project managers who successfully completed projects. The study shows that the leaders and managers of the successful projects exhibited higher emotional intelligence. It suggests that developing emotional intelligence and partnering processes can help mitigate the negative performance impacts on projects.
Project managers are required to have certain leadership styles and characteristics that are critical to successful project management. How the project manager leads the team determines how the team responds to project demand. They influence people towards achieving project goals through continuous encouragement and communication with the team. So, the leadership style of the project manager determines the success or failure of project (Maseko & Cecile, 2013). There are different leadership approaches, styles, and theory that have been identified including trait approach, skills approach, behavioral approach, situational approach, psychodynamic approach, path-goal theory, lead-member exchange theory, strategic leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership, servant leadership, authentic leadership, charismatic leadership, and laissez-faire. All these terms are incorporated in ‘shared leadership’ and considered it as the metadata theory of leadership (Pearce and Wassenaar, 2014).
Traditionally, in the project management, a person-centered approach, in which project manager act as the emphasis or leader, was adopted. This is referred as vertical or solo appointed- leadership approach in which one person influence all the other team members. But, current studies indicate that the leadership is dependent on different aspects such as constant change in the team as the situation and changing environment demands. This requires shared leadership approach, in which leadership role emerges from individuals in the team not only from single appointed person and this best suit to team-based structures kind of project management. Many projects fail due to the problem of leadership as they tend to employ project mangers for their technical expertise rather than leadership capabilities. Currently, this trend has changed to adopting shared leadership and the project teams have project managers who are highly skilled and capable of leadership functions (Pretorius, 2018).
Bonner (2010) points out, project managers of agile projects should demonstrate leadership trait with the capability to influence the team than just focusing on project scheduling, resource estimates, and planning because of “Agile’s focus on people and collaboration combined with the need to embrace change” (page. 83). The project managers soft skills outweigh the hard skills. Among different soft skills, leadership skills play important role as it forms a central element in management of team as well as project. Aria et al. (2018), points out the significant roles of leadership capability of research project managers in carrying out public research. The authors highlight the leadership role of research project manager facilitating conflict management and having positive influences towards the effectiveness of project management and communication skills.
Project management critical success factors highlight the development of soft skills and cooperation with stakeholders. The research carried out by Wanivenhaus et.al. (2018), on Vienna construction project’s project managers state that the systematic use of project management tools and techniques increases project effectiveness and efficiency. The study shows that public sector recognizes basic project management methods and measures such as work breakdown structure, project control planning, and periodic project control, as dominant critical success factors. It further elaborates that the development of soft project management skills and cooperation with stakeholders as the most important elements for development of the project management environment. It states that the sustainable success in a management position require both management and leadership competence.
After reading all the research paper regarding project management skills and their impact on project, it can be concluded that project success factors vary depending on the projects objectives, goals, and scope. Even the need of different project management skills varies with the project success factors that is required for project success.
For the successful execution of the projects, the traditional project management skills focused on the tools and techniques for the project planning, scheduling, monitoring, and controlling. Nowadays, the technical skills of project managers can not be the sole factors for success of the project. Soft skills as mentioned earlier such as leadership, decision making capability, communication, and coordination plays significant role.
Project execution requires the team effort. The team should be continuously encouraged and motivated to achieve the organization goals. Project team is the vital part of the project who helps to execute the project. Teamwork and strong open communications among the team members are crucial part of project success. Team collaborative effort and their skillset utilization leads to final deliverables of the project. The key objectives of developing a project team is to bring together the member with high competencies who can successfully execute the project as planned within the time and cost constraints, to coordinate individual effort and work with collaborative effort to tackle complex tasks, to encourage synergy of ideas to resolve the problems and to bring innovative ideas, and to achieve high performance. The team with high trust relationships lead to higher quality information exchange and communication within the team which leads to effective team decision making which in turn results to more effective project execution. Project team need the leader who can influence and coordinate them.
In recent years, agile projects are in trend due to its success stories as it focuses on team effort and coordination. Project managers or the leaders of the project with different project management skills plays important role to lead the project in the direction of success. Overall, this research shows that project managers can be viewed as evolving dynamic entities who need to be proactive and be ready to change and adapt according to the project and the changing environment.
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- Pearce, C. L., & Wassenaar, C. L. (2014). Leadership is like fine wine: It is meant to be shared, globally. Organizational Dynamics, 43(1), 9–16. https://doi-org.ezproxy.umuc.edu/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2013.10.002
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- Project Management Institute (PMI). (2015). The PMI Talent Triangle: Your angle on success. Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/talent-triangle-flyer.pdf
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- Raafat George Saadé, James Wan, & Heliu Dong. (2015). Factors of Project Manager Success. Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management, Vol 10, Pp 063-080 (2015), 063. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.umuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsdoj&AN=edsdoj.f6834c0811f4c3a8a03709bc1c0e488&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Rezvani, A., & Khosravi, P. (2018). A Comprehensive Assessment of Project Success Within Various Large Projects. Journal of Modern Project Management, 114. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.umuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=130038447&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Wanivenhaus, H., Kovač, J., Žnidaršič, A., & Vrečko, I. (2018). Vienna Construction Projects: Redirection of Project Management Critical Success Factors–More Focus on Stakeholders and Soft Skills Development. Lex Localis – Journal of Local Self-Government, 16(2), 337–359. https://doi-org.ezproxy.umuc.edu/10.4335/16.2.337-359(2018)
- Zuo, J., Zhao, X., Nguyen, B. M. Q., Ma, T., & Gao, S. (2018). Soft Skills of Construction Project Management Professionals and Project Success Factors: A structural equation model. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 25(3),425-442, https://doi-org.ezproxy.umuc.edu/10.1108/ECAM-01-2016-0016
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