The Role of a Project Manager

Overview of Project Management

We hear the phrase “project management” on a daily basis, but few of us know what the term entails and what the role of a Project Manager actually is. There is a misconception that Project Managers are constantly inundated with paperwork and that they mostly run around arranging meetings.

Quite the opposite is, in fact, true. Paperwork can be a large part of the job, but many organisations have moved their operations to the cloud, significantly cutting down on time spent doing physical paperwork. Although a Project Manager spends around 90% of their time communicating, meetings are held to a minimum and are kept as short as possible to ensure only the most relevant information is discussed and to ensure productivity is not affected by long meetings.

What exactly is a project?

To determine what a Project Manager actually does, it is necessary to first understand what a project is. Think of a project as a temporary goal. To achieve this goal, a set of operations need to be put into place and executed correctly for the outcome to be successful. It has a predetermined start and end, and a definable size with a certain amount of resources available to complete the goal.

The “goal” may be a physical product that needs to be produced to a certain quality standard, a bridge that needs to be erected by a certain time or even an IT solution that needs to be implemented by a certain date.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager

The Project Manager is the individual that is held responsible for the outcome of the project. They will need to initiate, plan, design, monitor control and, ultimately, close the project, whether it ends successfully or in a failure.

Common Project Manager Duties

Seeing as the Project Manager is held accountable for the project’s status at any point, they will have various duties to perform during the lifecycle of a project. They need to ensure that any products (or parts of a product) that are completed, are delivered within the time scale that had been agreed upon while ensuring that the costs involved in completing that product are within budget.

Quality is a major factor in projects. If the product is not of a desirable quality, it will be rejected by the client and the project will either have to be restarted or scrapped altogether. The Project Manger needs to ensure that this does not happen.

Project Manager will also ensure that the progress being made by the project team is sufficient to justify the cost of that phase the project, ensuring that the project remains viable.

A Project needs to adhere to and achieve the expectations of any stakeholders or sponsors that are invested in it’s outcome. The Project Manager will supply regular reports as far as progress and set guidelines are concerned.

There is always the chance of unforeseen risks cropping up in any project and this needs to be monitored by the Project Manager. Risks need to be identified in a timeous manner and suggested remedies reported to the project board. The approved fixes will then be implemented to ensure the project stays on track.

Change in the project needs to be monitored and addressed while ensuring that the objectives of the project remain within the agreed upon constraints.

The above mentioned are but a few of the tasks and responsibilities that a Project Manager will face on a daily basis. In short, they need to monitor and manage the project and project staff in such a way that it stays within the boundaries that were set during the initiation of a project.

Skills Required by a Project Manager

The skills required to be a competent Project Manager are to do with leadership and management, for example:

Team-Building Skills: Creating a common purpose for a team to work towards creates a sense of comradery between team members as they are all working toward a common goal that will, ultimately, benefit each member of the team.

Ability to Delegate Tasks: Delegating tasks to your team members will enhance the sense that they are trusted in their skills and that the Project Manager has faith that the task will be completed as is expected. Project Managers that check up on their fellow workers are seen as micro-managers, breaking the trust that has been instilled in their team.

Scheduling: Working according to a plan is essential if a project is to have the desired outcome. Ensuring the right tasks are carried out by the right person at the right time will see those targets being met more often than not.

Resource allocation: The right resources need to be allocated to the right departments when they are needed. The individuals that the resources are allocated may need to be coached or trained according to their skillset to ensure that resources are not wasted or used incorrectly.

Risk management: When an issue arises during a project, there needs to be a plan in place and it needs to be followed calmly and according to a risk management strategy. This will also be created by the Project Manager.

Budgeting: There are serious boundaries and constraints attached to every project. One of the most regular reasons for project failure is breaching the limit of budgeting. This could arise not only from overspending on resources, but from bad time management of staff or hiring of contractors to provide specialised work that cannot be sourced from inside the organisation.

Issue management: Akin to risk management, issues that arise could seriously hinder the progress and ultimate conclusion of a project. These also need to be identified and dealt with swiftly to keep the project on it’s intended path.

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Soft skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that can make a very big difference, especially since Project Managers work with people. Some examples are:

Communication: As with delegation, project staff need to be aware of their duties as well as responsibilities and the progress of the overall project at all times. It is up to the Project Manager to ensure that everyone is on the same wave length, especially when not everyone is working on the same site.

Integrity: Best practise is not only applicable to the processes used by an organisation, but also to the way a Project Manager attends to their duties. A Project Manager cannot expect project staff to work ethically when they are not doing the same.

Empathy: Project Managers will do well to remember that each individual working on the project has a life outside the project and that each of those individuals may have their own ideas and feelings about the work being done. Retaining a human element to the work being done binds teams together.

Staying calm under pressure: We’ve all been in a situation where we feel that we are in over our heads. When this happens, the worst possible thing to do is to lose control and start pointing fingers. A good Project Manager will collect themselves and face the problem head-on in a calm and collected manner.

With the right mindset and a trust in the training that has been undertaken, project management can be a long and fulfilling career. The schedule of a Project Manager is often a hectic one, but once a project has been completed successfully, there is a real sense of achievement and the dividends can be enjoyed.

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