Commercial Awareness for Project Managers

How many of us would take on the management of an IT project without a basic understanding of technology?  I am guessing not many, yet we are quite happy to take responsibility for often quite commercially complex projects without even a basic awareness of the issues involved.

This was the premise behind the Commercial Awareness for Project Managers seminar organized by the Contract & Procurement SIG of the APM last week. Over 60 project professionals came together for a hald day session.

The opening quiz using questions based on the APM competency model showed how extensive, or not, our knowledge of commercial issues was.  One of the key learning points here was that the answer to questions often depended on your viewpoint.

One of the key roles of a project manager, irrespective of the project, is as a translator between the technical experts and the rest of the business.  The commercial arena has its own language and terminology, which to be effective you need to understand.  This does not mean that project managers need to be commercial and legal experts.  Rather this was about recognizing who should be included and at what stage.

In keeping with other areas of project management maintaining good relationships and dealing with potential issues early on prevents problems later on.  However, having good evidence does mean that in the case of legal proceedings you are better prepared.  Remember as well that any of the project paperwork can be used as evidence so be careful what you scribble about your suppliers and clients.

Overall this was a good event that is an important part of the project manager’s armoury.

Interestingly, last week also saw the release of the “Commercial skills for complex government projects” publication from the National Audit Office. The report focuses on the commercial skills required to manage the £200 billion portfolio of projects running in government today, specifically:

To achieve value for money the Government needs to ensure that these and other complex projects are being:

– delivered by project teams with the required commercial skills. We define commercial skills as the ability to interact on equal and professional terms with the private sector; and

– approved, led and governed by commercially aware senior civil servants and departmental boards.

The government is aware that improvements are needed in the commercial skills of its project delivery staff as well as its Senior Responsible Owners (only 10 out of 18 SROs have substantial commercial experience). The question is, do you have the commercial skills required to operate as a project manager regardless of the sector you operate in?

Share your thoughts on commercial awareness for project managers by leaving a comment.

*Monday Morning Links will be back with us next week*

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Image © Mike Willis and used with permission.

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