Internaut: Want to be a project manager? Take these courses

Shawn P. McCarthy

Installing any new database or network in a government office means that someone must be assigned to oversee the schedule, deliverables and budget.

That person is usually called a project manager'a title that has been around for years. But today's project managers need significantly broader skill sets. Many agencies now hire only certified managers when they initiate a project.

One of the main certification authorities is the Project Management Institute of Philadelphia, at pmi.org, which grants the certified project professional and certified associate credentials. Some agencies also have their own types of credentials.

The rise of Web services has been a major driver because Web services raise IT complexity to the point that it takes special training to manage the distributed resources and complex sets of deliverables.

Until now, a conventional project manager's main duty has been to direct cross-functional teams of designers, coders, systems architects and operations people. Add Web services to the mix, and suddenly there are lots more functions to oversee.

A project might involve, say, building an application that interacts with several other applications over the Internet. Instead of a database and staff down the hall, the Web services project manager must interact with systems, people and data at multiple locations. Critical-path tracking, risk management and mitigation, task leveling and other duties become far more complex.

Even the most experienced project managers should consider getting certified if they want to continue on their career path.

A good starting point is the human resources office where you work. The Energy Department, for example, offers occasional project management certification courses through its employee training program.

PMI has a handful of government initiatives under way. Visit its government special-interest group at pmi.org/prod/groups/public/documents/info/gmc_governmentsig.asp.

Look for training courses on General Services Administration schedule contracts, too. In most cases, however, students have to take a separate test to receive the PMI certificate.

The Agriculture Department Graduate School offers project management training as part of a group of courses leading to a program management certificate.

There are other avenues for training, including local technical colleges. If you are a hiring manager or interested in becoming a project manager yourself, it's worth looking into these courses as a recognized way to improve management performance.

Shawn P. McCarthy is president of an information services development company. You can e-mail him at internaut@diagonalmediagroup.com.

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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