The strategic role of a project manager involves planning and organizing the resources and time necessary for successful completion of projects.
“A project manager is like a doctor who leads the trauma team and decides the course of action for a patient - both at the same time. Without the right kind of authority to efficiently handle all the project management issues, development teams can easily get into trouble.” - Scott Berkun, the author of “Making Things Happen”
How did it all start? In the late 1980’s, Microsoft encountered a problem: the team didn’t know how to coordinate engineering efforts, marketing, and business department. They came up with a solution to involve an individual who will be given significant authority to be a leader and coordinator of the project that was later to become Excel.
Once Microsoft appointed a dedicated project manager, processes ran more smoothly and teams were more satisfied with work dynamics. Eventually, Microsoft adopted this new role and they named it “project manager”.
8 key roles and job responsibilities of a project manager
A good project manager has an excellent entrepreneurial mindset which allows him to think about the project at large and beyond the basics of project management. Ultimately, they shepherd the overall effort and are responsible for the success and failure of the project.
A project manager has a critical role in making knowledge and information flow through the team seamlessly. They should be technical enough and have first-hand knowledge about the tasks he is assigning to others.
Technical understanding doesn’t only enable them to communicate ideas effectively at all levels, but it also helps them gain team’s respect. Since a project manager influences more decisions than anyone else in the company, earning employees’ respect is the first thing they should do on.
There are eight key project manager roles and responsibilities:
1. Activity and resource planning
Many projects fail because of poor time estimates and weak assumptions. Planning is instrumental for completing the project on-time. The first thing a project manager needs to do is define the project’s scope and determine available resources.
He should create a clear and concise document which he will use to guide both project execution and project control. Naturally, projects are not entirely predictable by nature and may need to be updated several times before they reach their final stages.
2. Organizing and motivating a project team
Instead of focusing their efforts on elaborate spreadsheets, long checklists and whiteboards project managers should be focusing on their teams. He is in charge of developing a plan that will support the team in reaching the goal and not hinder their performance. It is his job to steer the team clear of bureaucracy and stimulate them to show their full potential.
3. Controlling time management
Clients usually judge whether the project has succeeded or failed depending on whether it has been delivered on time - so on-time completion of the project is the prerequisite for success. A project manager needs to be able to negotiate achievable deadlines and communicate them consistently to his team.
He needs to develop a project schedule which consists of:
- Activity definition
- Activity sequencing
- Activity duration estimating
- Schedule development
- Schedule control
4. Cost estimating and developing the budget
A project manager should ensure that the project is completed within the approved budget. Even if a project meets client’s expectations and is delivered within the predicted time scope, it may go wildly over-budget and still be considered a failure. A good project manager will frequently review the budget plan and forecast to avoid massive budget overruns.
5. Ensuring customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is undoubtedly the most important criteria when it comes to measuring project’s success. One of the key responsibilities of every project manager is to minimize uncertainty, avoid any unwanted surprises and involve their clients in the project up to a reasonable extent. The easiest way to achieve this is to maintain effective communication and keep the clients regularly informed.
6. Analyzing and managing project risk
The bigger the project is, the more likely the project manager is to encounter many hurdles and aspects that don’t fit into the initial plan. In this scenario, a project manager should meticulously identify and evaluate the potential risks. Also, he should develop appropriate strategies how to either avoid the risks or minimize their impact on the entire project
7. Monitoring progress
In the initial stage of the project, a project manager and his team have a clear vision and high hopes that they will be able to produce the desired results. However, the road to success is usually bumpy and fraught with challenges. When things don’t go according to a plan, a project manager needs to control and analyze both the team performance and expenditures and take necessary corrective measures.
8. Managing reports and necessary documentation
Finally, an experienced project manager will provide appropriate documentation where he will present final reports and identify areas for future development. It’s the essential part of any project development and it has two core functions:
- To lay out the history of what has been done in the project, who has been involved in it and the time of its development
- To ensure that the project satisfies all the project requirements
Do you need a project manager?
No matter how big and demanding projects are, you need someone who will be in charge of efficiency and productivity on them. Research shows that 89% of high performing organizations have a project manager, and the profession ranks year after year as one of the most demanded profession in the 21st century.
Project management is indispensable to successful business and business owners should focus on finding a leader who will have the vision, the right skills, and knowledge to face the biggest challenges and ensure on-time completion of the project.
Project managers are integral parts of almost every kind of organization - from small agencies that have one project manager looking after a few projects to multinational IT companies which hire highly defined full-time project managers who are in charge of ambitious projects. (Read more about what is project management.)
Want to know more?
Read about project management methodologies and how they can help you better manage your projects.
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