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Topics: Benefits Realization, Career Development, Information Technology
Field knowledge V.S Project management knowledge

After graduated from my university major " planning and project management " i now work as a PMO Head officer in a software organization, My obsession in project management made me thirsty to learn everything about it and i like that alot, The only obstacle i am facing right now is the lack of understanding the business environment of an IT technical background knowledge by its functional means and systematics, My query is should i gain actual knowledge in the IT Field related to software development so i can understand this particular industry that i'm working on by assuming that i would be an IT project manager in the future.If yes, what kind of certifications i can get ? and is it a requirement for the project manager (or any related positions to project management; such as project coordinator, PMO, etc) gain that knowledge ?
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Dear Zaid
Interesting your question
Thanks for sharing

I often compare Project Manager to an orchestra conductor
He doesn't need to know how to play an instrument (the fact is that the vast majority of conductors I know know how to play an instrument) but he does need to know music and to deal with the musicians in his orchestra to interpret the score.

That said, what do you think is the best certification for you and your career?

Each time you are assigned to a new initiative you must take knowledge about the domain, about the key stakeholders that perform activities inside the domain, about the business environment where the domain operates. Certifications on the domain will not give you nothing valuable. Why? Because inside the application domain you will have lot of different alternatives.

Zaid -

Skip the certifications and learn more about the specific technology domain of the IT projects you are managing by taking evening courses or even doing some "hobby" projects on the weekends to practice what you've learned.


Curious. What is your background aside from university?
1 reply by Zaid .B
Nov 18, 2019 3:51 AM
Zaid .B
my major university as project management was diversified including pure project management studying subject; such as PMBOK itself was a studying subject, risk management, schedule management, quality management, communication and procurement management were all studying subjects.
concepts from other sciences which related to projects were also included such as finance, feasibility studies, managerial economics and statistics from project management prospection.
many other concepts basically focusing on planning skills and implementation as an art and science.

So basically it is not specific or focusing in one knowledge area and also not focusing on a specific domain.


I agree with Sergio and Kiron! I’ve put together a fairly long response as this is one of the most important questions impacting our profession, and it’s also one of my favorite subjects - so, my apologies for the length.

PMI made a course correction in 2016 with the rollout of the “PMI Talent Triangle” and basically stated the following. As a profession, we need to transform if we wish to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace. This transformation requires project professionals to have a foundation (i.e., a knowledge foundation) built on the following three elements: 1) Technical, 2) Leadership, and 3) Strategic and Business Management expertise. They went further and stated that this mix is the “ideal skillset,” and is the recipe for a successful practice.

With all due respect to Luis, the orchestra conductor analogy wherein “the conductor does not need to know how to play an instrument” is ambiguous in environments where constant change is the status quo. And in today’s “fill-in-the-blank transformation” environments, constant change is about the only norm we have, so we need to find a different balance.

I’m a firm believer in project professionals having “architectural awareness,” which is an approach for navigating domains (both business and technical) through architectural knowledge. Architectural knowledge is non-engineering big-picture knowledge that focuses on the strategy and structure of domains. Having architectural awareness does NOT mean that you are a subject matter expert or have technical delivery skills; it simply means you can Understand, Interpret, and Communicate within a domain using architectural knowledge.

An architecturally aware project professional will be able to (represented as competency levels):

- COLLABORATE: Comprehend, keep-up-with, and materially participate in domain-specific discussions using audience vernacular.
- MODERATE: Moderate discussions through acumen (i.e., keen insight) level knowledge of the subject matter.
- CHALLENGE: Challenge-out resolutions through theory (i.e., principled) level knowledge of the subject matter.

I recently conducted a poll with the following question, “If you could download domain knowledge into your being (outside of the technical PM domain), which of these purposes would influence you the most.” With around 80 respondents so far, the poll ranks as follows:

- Enhanced capability to lead through influence (31%)
- Career advancement as a project professional e.g., from PM to program manager (17%)
- Improved ability to collaborate and communicate across the project team (14%)
- A path to move from one domain to another as a PM (10%)
- Higher quality outputs and outcomes (7%)
- On-boarding my “Next-Gen PM” brain (7%)
- Advancing our profession (9%)
- Increased agility when responding to change (5%)

These items represent some of the “value propositions” of Architectural Awareness. So, to answer your question: You should gain architectural knowledge (as described above) in both the IT and Business domains related to your current and future projects.
1 reply by Zaid .B
Nov 18, 2019 4:12 AM
Zaid .B
Simple and right to the point, That was absolutely and utterly amazing.However, Is there any source were i can learn more about the three points you talked about them (moderate, collaborate and challenge) like techniques to use, More insight, etc ?


It helps to better understand the domain in which you are working and there are several online courses, platforms like edX to help you get that overall knowledge, a kind off bird's eye view. Also, it is always a great idea to experiment in the early years of your career. All the best!

1 reply by Zaid .B
Nov 18, 2019 3:52 AM
Zaid .B
Good point, Thank you.

You will learn more about the domain by simply working in it than any course or certification can provide.
1 reply by Zaid .B
Nov 18, 2019 3:39 AM
Zaid .B
I agree 100% But that is the challenge itself.

I know a lot of people will feel offended by what I am about to say and I do appologies but a PM that does not have good domain (field) knowledge is seen by the project team members as a glorified secretary. That's a fact and you can't do anything about it.

The fact that the PM learns about the domain would help a little in communication but still such a PM would be seen as a glorified secretary and not a leader.

Still what project team members think about the PM does not matter that much. A PM that does not have domain knowledge is still valuable for the project it is just that the value is not in leading the team. Some companies in IT projects designate so called project technical managers to lead the team so the PMs only have to deal with these technical managers and not with the other team members.

If you are a PM without domain knowledge you should forget about leading, mentoring, coaching, inspiring, etc the team as you can't do that. You should focus more on the pure project management activities and try to bring value in this field.

Many companies hire project management interns from fresh college graduates meaning that domain knowledge is not considered important for the project manager role. These PMs however should forget about leading or managing the project team members. In time they may end up managing, as line managers, other project managers.
1 reply by Zaid .B
Nov 18, 2019 3:36 AM
Zaid .B
you clarified the problem accurately but you did not present the solution, because a project manager with no control over a team member (not managers) is not project management at all.

Most of my roles as a PM have been in a domain new to me. I would agree it's more difficult to "lead" teams who already have extensive domain knowledge when the PM is a newbie. But as I have said before in relation to similar conversations, that is what experts are for. You get expert knowledge from either inside the business or outsourced. While domain knowledge is always an advantage, more than often it is not necessary for managing projects especially when domain experts are within reach.
1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Nov 17, 2019 7:19 PM
Adrian Carlogea
Yes but those experts are going to make critical decisions that impact the success of the project and you as a PM have absolutely no control over them.

In the above circumstances you can still manage projects but you will have a lot of critical issues beyond your control. From my experience a lot of projects went overbudget because the experts have either made decisions that proved not to be good or they were unable to finish the work on time. The PMs were unable to do anything about this.

If the PM does have domain knowledge, will he be able to make better technical decisions than the other experts? Maybe yes, maybe no but at least he would be in more control over the project.

This subject always gets passionate responses, and points of view differ widely. My own background is aerospace and systems engineering, both of which involve many disciplines which must all blend together to achieve successful outcomes. Many of them require experts in specialties that are very rare in the job market, and it would be impossible for me to become highly knowledgeable in even half of them.

I am often given assignments where I have little to no background in the underlying technology, or some experience in a related field which I must apply to a new domain. Rather than seek many certifications, or take classes, I often do a lot of independent research into a subject to figure out what are the key attributes necessary to manage the project successfully, knowing that I will never be a SME in that field. I once briefly became an expert into transporting live animals on aircraft ranging from race horses to bulk ducklings, and I am certain there is no certification for live animal carriage.

Since I have fairly broad experience spanning a variety of engineering, business management, and organizational subjects, you could say that I already bring a lot of domain knowledge with me. What that really does for me however is allows me to speak intelligently with people from different knowledge areas, and look at the projects from many different perspectives to develop the right strategy.

Many times, the underlying technical discipline is not the difficult part of a project, but rather a balanced solution integrating multiple specialties. The programming may be routine but late stage customization is the project challenge. The chemistry of materials might be way over my head, but the project may focus on fitting it into a manufacturing environment. The technology going into a test program might be simple, but getting changes approved by several business divisions might be the challenge.

Expertise in one knowledge domain will be helpful when projects are deeply involved in that domain. Developing wide ranging problem solving skills will be more helpful when projects involve several domains, and you don't know going in which one is going to be the most problematic.
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