Will Kelly examines what it takes to build yourself into the project manager of choice for Big Data projects.
Big Data is breaking new ground in many businesses right now, which is driving the need for a new class of project manager. To get ready, project managers may have to gain new skills, refresh some others, and learn how to adapt to the needs of Big Data projects. Here are some foundational skills and experience you need to become an effective Big Data Project Manager.
Graduate and continuing education
A Masters or PhD in Operations Research, Science, or Engineering was a prerequisite in many of the Big Data Project Manager job postings I came across in my research for this post. If graduate education is not feasible right now because of project timelines and budgets, then it is time to look into one of the growing number of graduate certificate programs about Big Data and vendor education.
Training and professional development management experience
Graduate and continuing education programs about Big Data might not be able to keep up with the demand in some metropolitan areas, so project managers with a background in training can play a major role in establishing Big Data in-house training programs for their organizations. Project managers will also need to manage the continuing education and professional development of their Big Data team; this ensures the success of the employees and the overall effort. This may include representing training needs when budget time comes around and becoming an overall champion for why Big Data training makes good business sense.
Cross-functional team management experience
The Big Data project team may not be exactly like the traditional software development or engineering teams that you are used to leading. Big Data project teams can draw on multidisciplinary talents from engineering, operations, business analysis, and even power users from the business side of the house. The team's core mission is to make sense of all that data; if you're at the helm of a Big Data project, you will have to lead a diverse group of talented professionals to make that happen.
Process development experience
Big Data will require a change to existing Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and other related processes such as implementation. Project managers with experience in process development will play an important role in adapting an organization's existing processes to Big Data. This process work needs leadership, starting when Big Data efforts are in the prototyping phase to ensure that the Big Data project can make the transition into production.
Further process development and project management skills will be required to design risk mitigation processes around Big Data development, not to mention project delivery processes.
Marketing and sales skillsWith all the potential changes and new business offerings that come with Big Data, you will need marketing and sales skills to compete for the Big Data Project Manager jobs. It's easy to get lost in the analytics side of Big Data, but a project manager in a customer-facing role will have to help with proposal efforts, sales presentations, and customer briefings. There is also the classic consultative sales call, when a project manager can accompany a company sales rep and speak to the prospective customer about their technical solution for Big Data. In addition, Big Data teams will still have to sell their services and justify the startup investment behind them to corporate management and departments that could benefit from Big Data.
Project managers with a background and experience in advising internal and external customers about solutions will find a home in the Big Data world. With Big Data being so wide open right now, project managers need to monitor trends in the emerging fields of enterprise data management, data warehousing, and business intelligence, and then be able to advise customers and upper management about the direction Big Data is heading and how the business and project can take advantage of the Big Data advancements.
You can also play a role in recommending alternative data management solutions and strategies for internal projects and external customers.
Technology skills and aptitude
Everybody on the team needs to be hands-on at least in the startup phase of entering Big Data as a business. The current state of Big Data also lends itself to a fair amount of experimentation, which is another reason why there is a need for a project manager with at least some technical skills. These technical skills can come from prior experience (a Big Data project manager could be drawn from the business or technology side of the company) and built upon through in-house and vendor training.
Become a Big Data Project Manager
Big Data offers many opportunities for experienced project managers to play an instrumental role in establishing the foundation of Big Data, and nurturing a team working on the cusp of new and emerging technologies and business practices.