The Evolution from Project to Business Manager



By Joseph A. Lukas, PMP, CSM, PE, CCP

Florida and North Carolina, USA


Project success is no longer just delivering the scope on time and within budget. What clients want from project managers and teams is delivery of the expected business benefits. Project managers who also have business skills greatly increase their value since they can assist the client in defining and delivering the project benefits. This paper will review key strategic planning concepts, including goals and objectives and how the project manager can support the client in selecting the projects that provide optimum value. A major focus of this paper is the importance of establishing a business case based on quantitative benefits, along with key performance indicators for defining project success. In addition, value achievement—that is, ensuring the project benefits are realized post-implementation—will be discussed. This paper provides a roadmap for project managers to evolve into business managers by describing the skills needed to help define and deliver the project benefits.

types of project organizations

Project managers work for one of three types of project organizations:

  1. Owner Businesses: These are public or private companies and educational entities that produce consumer products and services and do projects to support business objectives. Examples include IBM, Wells Fargo, DuPont, Pfizer, Marriott, Disney, and the University of Maryland. Project managers have a vested interest in delivering project benefits since they help both the business and their careers to flourish. They should therefore be fully aware of the project business case and should ideally be involved in building the business case.
  2. Government Agencies: These are federal, state, or local agencies that provide services to citizens and do projects to support new or existing services. Examples include the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Parks & Recreation. Projects in this environment can be influenced by politics, but project managers with financial analysis skills can still influence the cost effectiveness of the solution approach.
  3. Project Suppliers: These are public or private companies that exist solely to provide project services to owner businesses and/or government agencies. Examples include engineering, construction, software development, and data management companies. Project managers who work for project suppliers often have profit/loss responsibility for projects, and their career progress is tied to delivering successful projects for clients. In addition, these project managers may be asked by clients to evaluate solution alternatives to determine the approach that is most cost-effective, which requires financial analysis skills.

Regardless of the type of project organization that employs the project manager, having business skills makes the project manager more valuable. In all types of project organizations, the project manager should be involved in the pre-project phase, assisting in the solution approach and the business case, and involved in the post-project phase to ensure that the project benefits are achieved.

strategic planning and Portfolio Management

Organizations typically develop a strategy to move from the current state toward a desired future state (vision). A good strategy contains goals, which are general statements of desired achievement. For each goal there are one or more specific objectives, which are the steps to move toward the future state. Objectives lead to the identification of problems and opportunities, and from this potential projects are identified.

An example of how a goal and objectives lead to projects is shown in Figure 1:


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the University of Maryland 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium in April.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Lukas, J.A. (2020). The Evolution from Project to Business Manager; presented at the University of Maryland 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium, College Park, Maryland, USA in April 2021; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/pmwj106-Jun2021-Lukas-the-evolution-from-project-to-business-manager.pdf

About the Author

Joseph Lukas

Florida & North Carolina, USA


 Joe Lukas, PMP, CCP, CSM, PE, has over 35 years’ experience in project management and business analysis spanning numerous industries including manufacturing, product development, information technology and construction. Joe also has program and portfolio management, and international projects experience. His areas of expertise include scheduling, earned value, risk management and interpersonal skills such as leadership, negotiations and personality styles.

Joe has been a member of the Project Management Institute since 1985 and earned his PMP in 1992. While living in Rochester, NY, Joe was active with the PMI Chapter, serving in various board positions including two terms as Chapter President. His efforts in growing the Rochester Chapter were recognized in 2001 when Joe received the Chapter award for outstanding contributions.

Joe has also been a member of AACE International since 1989 and earned his Certified Cost Engineer (CCE) in 1994. He served on the Genesee Valley Section Board in various positions including Vice-President, President, Nominations and Membership.

Joe has over 50 published articles on project management topics; he has conducted over 300 talks and workshops for companies and organizations across the country. In 2008 Joe received the Jan Korevaar Outstanding Paper Award at the combined 6th World Congress on Cost Engineering and AACE International 52nd Annual Meeting. In 2017, Joe received the Technical Excellence award from AACE in recognition of his many publications and talks.

Joe has also been a guest instructor on project management for many universities including the University of Pittsburgh, Stevens Institute, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport, St. John Fisher College and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  Joe is a graduate of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and earned his Professional Engineer license in 1979. He can be contacted at joelukas199@gmail.com.