Date: October 1st, 2010
Hi Bruce, thank you for agreeing to sit down with us and answer some questions about project management role in operations management. We hope you can shed some light for us and our readers at the nature of project manager in operations management.
We have get a lot of emails from people who are interested in going into OM industry but are confused about the value of operations manager in the company, in fact, a lot of people are completely unaware of operations manager role in the company.
With your experience in project management can you tell us how you got into the management field?
I started out life as a software engineer and while I was working at Texas Instruments in Dallas on a project they found out that I knew how to talk with “clients”. So they made me the team lead an, well the rest is typical in that I enjoyed the managing of the project so I continued to take on more project management work. Later in my career I went back and got a Master Degree in Technology Management which included a lot of PMI training.
How important is project manager in the company? What do you see as main similarity between project manager and operations manager? What is main difference?
First, I have been both a project manager and a product manager in my career. I see them both as key roles in any company. As more and more work becomes “projectized” in today’s workplace, the skills of managing to a schedule, budget and requirements is critical to the organization. Traditionally the operations manager is tasked with managing the “normal” work that is not projectized and is part of the core company. Examples are manufacturing, call center, production line, truck operations, etc. A good product or project manager values the operations manager as a key resource to making their product or project successful. Many products and projects fail during the implementation because the project team did not plan or work with the operations staff prior to the final delivery of the project. The Ops Manager knows what key elements are needed to put the project, system, or product into operations and insure its successful deployment. Elements like operational processes, training, maintenance, safety, compliance, etc can all become failure points to a project if not addressed during the project.
The main difference between the PM and the Ops manager is the time frame and planning horizon that they work in. A PM has a specific time frame for the project – it has a start and an end. Operations (Assuming the company is growing!) does not have a true end for their work. Oh, there might be phases where new types of processes and work replace old ones, but the core operations must continue for the organization to remain viable and profitable.
How do you see operations management profession developing in the future? Any specific fields that you think will be affected by the change more than others?
Today I am seeing a trend that some company operations are performing some of their activities as projects. This will begin to blur the line between project manager and operations manager as the Ops team is required to perform typical project activities and roles. This trend really requires operations managers to go back and obtain training in project management skills so that they are equipped to handle these projects in their own shop. Some operations are actually hiring a PM to assist the Ops manager with these new responsibilities.
Do you see any change in being operations manager now, compared to 10, 20 years ago? And is there any additional skill that manager has to bring to the table today?
As I have already pointed out, the world of repetitive, ongoing work in operations and the area of projectized work is blurring. The operations staff and the manager must be prepared to switch gears and work in both environments. The synergy of having operational minded staff working on a new project to build something can be in-valuable in the final effectiveness of the project, system, or product. The operations manager will need to understand the basic principles of managing projects (including schedule, cost, and scope) and participate in their management if the organization hopes to achieve the synergies I have alluded to.
What is your best advice to people who are looking to get into project management field?
Start small – get a good book and read it. Or if there is an introductory course (1-2 day classroom or online) try that first. Also volunteer to assist with a current project that needs some operations help. Unfortunately many times the PM and technology staff forget to reach out to the operations management for assistance in performing the project.
What are some traits that a person needs to have to be a successful project or operations manager?
Well – I think the characteristics are the same! I actually wrote a paper on the subject of hiring good staff and it boils down to some basic skills/characteristics that a good PM or Ops manager must have:
- Business/ Common sense
- Quality minded / desire to do a good job
- Communication skills – listening, speaking, writing
- Learning aptitude – you have to learn continuously
- Leadership – this goes beyond being a manager
OperationsManager.com : Thank you Bruce for such a great input and insights into operations management and project management in the field. We were glad to have you with us.
About Bruce McGraw:
Bruce A. McGraw is COO for Cognitive Technologies, a WBE/DBE consulting firm delivering project management, collaborative processes, and organizational effectiveness consulting to commercial and government clients.
Mr. McGraw is a program manager with over 20 years of experience across multiple industries. His ability to craft pragmatic solutions to meet project goals, coupled with experience in all aspects of management, enables him to meet customer expectations with on-time, within-budget deliveries. He has a successful track record leading mixed teams, consisting of client and vendor resources, to accomplish project and business goals.
Previously, Mr. McGraw was a Director for Cap Gemini, where he led successful multi-vendor client project teams in strategy, requirements, assessments, and implementations. Prior to Cap Gemini, he served as a Staff Director for Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), where he was the chief architect and program manager for the implementation of a web-enabled enterprise solution, and the program manager for a $200M program requiring management of a cross-functional team and external vendors.
Mr. McGraw holds an MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BS in Business from the University of South Carolina. Mr. McGraw is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is an active member in the technology community as an author and speaker. As a thought leader he has authored numerous articles and presented workshops in a variety of topics, including PMOs, predictive schedules, and managing virtual teams. He currently authors a blog at http://FearNoProject.com