Build Business Acumen for Project Success

As project managers, our primary focus should be on our expertise in project management. However, developing a foundational understanding of the industry or business areas we support is essential. By enhancing our business acumen, we can make well-informed decisions that align with the organization’s overarching goals.


The Importance of Business Acumen

In today’s business landscape, project managers are increasingly seen as business leaders rather than solely project leaders. While expertise in project management remains crucial, it is optional to be an industry expert. Instead, we should:

  • Have a Foundational Understanding

    Gain a strong understanding of the business areas we support and the context of each project. This enables us to engage credibly with stakeholders.

  • Build Relationships

    Establish connections with industry and business area experts, including customers and sponsors. These relationships provide valuable insights and support project success.

  • Recognize Our Limits

    Be honest about our knowledge and understanding, ensuring that we know when to leverage the expertise of others across the business.

Balancing Expertise and Awareness

While project managers need to understand the basics of their industry and business areas, trying to know everything can be detrimental. Finding a balance between business acumen and recognizing when to seek assistance is crucial.

To strengthen our business acumen, we should collaborate with our line managers and stakeholders to develop a plan. This plan should include:

Understanding key industry elements: Identify industry leaders, the company’s position, strengths, opportunities, and long-term strategies.

Recognizing market factors: Understand what influences the market, whether price sensitivity, functionality focus, or time-to-market importance. Identify key differentiators and factors that impact the business area.

Continual learning: Establish a program for maintaining understanding as market conditions and business priorities evolve. This ensures ongoing evolution and adaptability.

Elevate Project Success with Business Understanding

By committing to building strong business acumen, project managers can make informed decisions that align with business objectives. We must recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength and ensures project success. Work with managers and stakeholders to develop plans that strengthen business understanding and seize the opportunities available to us.

Key Takeaways

Understand the basics of the industry and business areas you serve without needing to be an expert.
Leverage existing business experts within the organization to support decision-making.
Collaborate with managers to develop plans for building and maintaining business acumen.
Continually evolve understanding as market conditions and business priorities change.