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Insights What is project management and how can you do it?

Unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change have caused delays and constraints on the construction of infrastructure projects all over the world. However, by being agile, managing expectations and identifying viable solutions to challenges, strategic project managers have set themselves apart from the rest to lead the delivery of complex projects.

At AtkinsRéalis and within our brands Atkins and Faithful+Gould, we design, deliver and operate some of the most complex projects across the world for clients in transportation, water, power & renewables, nuclear, defense, industrial & mining, and more. Our people provide strategic project management, dedicated to engineering a better future for our planet and its people, creating sustainable project management solutions that connect people, data and technology.

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What does strategic project management involve?

Project managers are vital members of multidisciplinary teams, and their objective is to strategically plan and manage projects, from design to construction, to ensure they are completed on time, on budget and of the highest quality. To do this, they are expected to have experience with contracts (such as NEC and/or JCT) and established knowledge and understanding of component parts of a project and overall management techniques. This enables them to provide effective reviews of contract documents and familiarity with contractual obligations, breaches, and remedies.

By liaising with a variety of stakeholders including engineers, project coordinators, procurement professionals, clients, and subcontractors, project managers learn how to communicate with parties, both on straightforward projects and more challenging ones. It is essential for project managers to have a comprehensive understanding of a client’s objectives, the project scope, details and application of governance structure and processes. In this respect, strategic project managers will achieve success and win repeat business.

Experienced project managers add value and carry a great deal of responsibility for the team, but an essential aspect is recognizing everyone’s contributions and encouraging them to collaborate to deliver the best possible results. Being successful in this role, therefore, involves being an ambassador for your profession and mentoring those in their early careers, so it’s important to have the ability to form effective working relationships with colleagues and clients.

What does it take to be a strategic project manager?

Project management involves the ability to make difficult decisions, sometimes under time limitations and within complicated circumstances - one of the essential skills in today's business landscape. However, to be viewed as a strategic thinker, Harvard Business Review suggests demonstrating your knowledge to execute new ideas which will show that your understanding exceeds the base level requirements. To be a strategic project manager, you must therefore work to improve efficiencies on projects, implementing new initiatives to save time, money, and prevent waste.

To be successful, particularly in an engineering project management job, you will need a comprehensive understanding of and competence in making decisions in various areas. This includes, but is not limited to, commercial accountability, quality assurance, environmental management, technical and legal matters, and health and safety, applicable to the business and wider construction industry. Stakeholder engagement is also a key skill that you will develop throughout your career in project management.

What does career development look like?

Strategic project management is a rewarding career choice for those who enjoy being organized, planning for the future and making industry-defining decisions. With no two projects or teams the same, you’ll always be learning something new, expanding your skillset and working with different stakeholders to discover the best possible outcomes.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to gain an entry-level project management job and following this, you could start as a project coordinator, for example. In this role, you would be responsible for the coordination of engineering and construction work, constantly communicating with all project team members and identifying, planning, and implementing various scopes of work. This will enable you to develop the experience that can lead you to become a junior project manager and then on to a project manager.

Career development in project management is fulfilling and you can navigate which direction you want to go in. Andrew, for example, was keen on taking on a more active, challenging and engaging role, so he made a career change from quantity surveying to project management to upskill and stay sharp.

Start climbing the career ladder and find your next opportunity with us

If you’re interested in pursuing a career with a varied workload, plenty of progression opportunities and where you actively use your strategic thinking skills, project management could be for you.

We create opportunities for the most innovative and bright minds. Our track record puts us in a strong position to be involved in some of the most exciting and challenging projects, which provides great opportunities for our people to learn on the job. Surround yourself with recognized experts, never stop learning and drive your career forward at AtkinsRéalis . If you are looking for the next step in your career, browse our available project management roles today.