According to the Project Management Institute, the number of positions that require project management oriented skills is rising and will continue to do so, resulting in an additional 25 million new project management roles created globally by 2030.  If you want to be an in-demand, well-versed project or programme lead, this is where you need to start. 

In your career as a project lead, you will come across two main project management frameworks, namely Waterfall and Agile. Most environments you find yourself in will be a hybrid of the two, so it is imperative that you have a good knowledge base of both as you will often have to make the call on which aspects of each to utilise.

There are two approaches you can follow to ensure you have a comprehensive yet diverse skillset:

  1. You can obtain a Waterfall project management certification and inform yourself on Agile principles and the roles within Agile teams
  2. You can become a certified Scrum Master or Product Owner and inform yourself on Waterfall principles and artefacts

Both Scrum Masters and Product Owners are specialised careers in themselves which you could very well choose to pursue. However, in many complex organisations, it is not uncommon to see multiple Agile teams with a dedicated Scrum Master and Product Owner, still falling under a traditional project manager in a larger structure. 

Whichever approach you choose, it is still highly recommended to upskill yourself on the basic principles of the Agile framework, its core values and the high-level responsibilities of different team members in order to best support and guide them, as the use of this framework is on the rise. It is also recommended that you research the earning potential of the above options if that is something that would influence your chosen path.

Waterfall Frameworks

The two most commonly used Waterfall project management frameworks are PMBOK and Prince2.

PMBOK stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge and was developed by the Project Management Institute in the USA. It is a descriptive framework that specifies process inputs and outputs as well as knowledge domains, but not how they should be applied.

Prince2 stands for Projects In Controlled Environments and was developed by Axelos. It is a prescriptive framework that specifies responsibilities and hierarchical structures. Some Prince2 certifications include references to the Agile frameworks as well.

Both frameworks provide organisations with guidance on the best practices to manage projects efficiently from start to finish. Both cover similar enough knowledge areas and carry enough weight in industry that you only need to obtain a certification or knowledge base on one of them.

Agile Frameworks

When it comes to Agile, your starting off point will depend on the type of project lead you wish to be and the type of involvement you would find professionally rewarding.

Scrum Master is mostly people and principle focused and acts as a coach, leader, liaison and support to the team. Scrum Masters facilitate meetings, resolve impediments and provide regular feedback to upper management.

Product Owner is mostly product or deliverable focused and acts almost as a delivery manager. A Product Owner is often required to have the technical skills or domain proficiency relevant to the type of product they are working on. They engage with the customer on a regular basis and are responsible for the success of the product.

Scrum Masters and Product Owners work closely together but as explained above, have two very distinct sets of responsibilities and career paths.

A Few General Tips for Continued Growth and Development

Keep yourself informed on any updates to the relevant project management frameworks. Project management bodies often update these frameworks to reflect changing times and ways of work. Continuously expand your knowledge by joining community forums, regularly reading articles, attending conferences or taking part in discussions.

The industry you operate in will often determine the additional competencies you need to obtain. However, it is always a good idea to do a quick short course and stay informed on any or multiple of the below:

  •        Budgeting
  •        Change management
  •        Innovation management
  •        Risk management
  •        Project management in the digital era
  •        Various project management software applications

Also remember that the following soft skills will enable you to thrive in any leadership position:

  •        Adaptability
  •        Collaboration
  •        Coaching and mentoring
  •        Conflict resolution
  •        Negotiation
  •        Organisation

These lists are in no way exhaustive and you should continuously strive to improve your interpersonal and industry related skills.

Always remember that before moving into project management, you should allow yourself time to work with and in a few different teams and environments. This will help you identify common patterns and problems and encourage you to apply servant leadership principles to become the project lead everyone will wish they had.


All the best on your journey. 

Elsje Nothnagel is a Manager of Business Engineering at Convergenc3. She helps clients across multiple industries to navigate the ever-innovating landscape of business and technology.

All opinions expressed are the author’s own.