For Project Manager, how imp is Industry exp. to Project Management experience?

I am a PMP, and one of the continuing certification requirements for PMP is to get atleast 60 PDUs every 3 years. Although there are many sources on web for obtaining PDUs, I like the PM Podcast by Cornelius Fitchner. One question which Cornelius asks his guests at the end of every interview is about the Industry vs. Project Management experience, and his guests have differing opinion.

Here’s my take: For someone to be called Project Manager, he/she should have some basic qualification like –

  • atleast 10-12 yrs overall IT experience
  • should have worked in all IT roles from System Analyst, Developer, Designer, Architect, Tester to Implementer
  • should have PMP and should be rock-solid in all PM processes
  • should be in PM role for atleast 5 yrs
  • should have managed atleast 2-3 large implementation
  • should have managed atleast a team size of 10 or more atleast in a few engagements
  • should have some industry experience [doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert on business processes]
  • must have soft skills like team-work, interpersonal communication
  • should be able to work through and navigate organizational politics

Project Manager is not just about managing a team and fiddling with MS-Project or MS-Powerpoint. It’s much much more! Atleast, a good understanding about the industry business process is imperative in leading the team. That way PM can bring in value to business. For a few industries like Financial Services, HealthCare, Chemical, this is a must. Rarely, one can see anyone being hired in these industries w/o sufficient industry background.

Industry experience is important for following reasons:

  1. Industry experience means less time is wasted knowing the industry environment – the general models the business follows, what regulatory and competitive arena it is part of and some common terminology
  2. Business process flows are easier to understand, say, if one was documenting business process flows for a financial transaction, if that person had already worked in a financial services firm in a financial transaction environment (e.g., Front office, where the deals were made, or the middle office, where financial and regulatory processes were checked or filtered, and the back office, where the transactions were processed and settled – and where exceptions were followed up for closure)
  3. Solutions are designed/architected differently for different industries [industry-specific solutions]
  4. Understanding the business processes and organization value drivers aids one in creating a strategy aligning IT with Business [IT Strategy creation]
  5. Easier to have conversation with Senior Management [C-level executives only speak business language]

What is PMI‘s view on this? Read on – it might surprise you!

What do you think? How important is industry experience?

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