Applying Business Knowledge to Your Projects

Understanding the internal and external business environment surrounding your projects is an essential business skill for project managers, business analysts and project team members. It is impossible to work with the business and the technology stakeholders on your projects if you have no understanding of the business. This knowledge helps you make good decisions and recommendations about what should be done to define, develop and deliver projects that build solutions for business needs or problems. Taking a closer look at these skills points us to the BABOK® Guide, which breaks your business knowledge into four key areas:

  • Business principles and practices
  • Industry knowledge
  • Organization knowledge
  • Solution knowledge

While we are looking at each area, take a moment to assess your level of knowledge and competence with respect to that area.  This should help you paint a picture of your business knowledge strengths and areas for improvement within your organization and the business you are in.

Business Principles and Practices

You need to incorporate and support business principles and practices in your projects and their resulting solutions.  The BABOK® Guide defines business principles as the characteristics common to organizations of similar purpose and structure, such as human resources, finance and information technology functions. In contrast, business practices or processes vary based upon what your organization does and the size and complexity of your organization.

For example, the business principles for a large biotechnology firm are very different from the principles found at a small software start-up company. However, there may be many similarities in how their business practices work for hiring their people and getting those folks on a regular basis.

Industry knowledge

Do you have good knowledge and understanding of the industry that your organization is a part of? If not, you probably should. Understanding what is taking place in your industry can have positive impacts on your projects and their resulting solutions. You should be aware of your major competitors, partners and customer segments.

Your knowledge should also encompass your organization’s common products and product types. While you don’t have to be a project manager and a marketing wizard, some basic knowledge of the industry where you do business adds great context to your efforts.

Organization knowledge

Your organization provides the primary context for your work efforts, so understanding your organization and how things get done enables you to get your own work done and make good decisions. According to the BABOK® Guide, your organization includes its entire business architecture: business models, organizational structure, business unit relationships and key project stakeholders.

Interestingly enough, organization knowledge also includes recognizing the informal lines of communication, authority, and internal politics that are in play relative to your projects. It is very important that you speak the organizational language and use the right terminology or jargon.

Solution knowledge

Make sure you are familiar with existing systems, processes and solutions and their capabilities. This allows you to effectively identify, assess and implement changes to those solutions, ranging simple alterations to complex replacement projects. Your solution knowledge can reduce the amount of time you spend developing project requirements or assisting with solution design activities on your project. This can ultimately lead to reduced implementation time and/or cost on your completed projects.

Well, this list is a great starting point for the key business knowledge that you should be aware of and use as part of your project efforts.  You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but a little knowledge in each of these areas can be of great assistance on your projects.

Here’s to using our business knowledge and targeting project success!

Susan Weese

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