Who Is A Project Manager? – Definition, Roles and Responsibilities

Every new development results from an extensive project; be it government, corporate, or social, every project is complex and involves various bodies functioning together. For instance, consider the development of a new mobile phone feature. It involves the approval and execution of a large-scale project wherein the company’s tech team has to collaborate with finance, marketing, and business development teams. Furthermore, the company has to collaborate with third-party vendors and advertising firms for effective results.

Since projects are this complex, there is a high probability of their failure. A whopping 70% of the projects fail.

Then, how do businesses and government organisations get the confidence to invest in projects? How do a few enterprises see many successful projects when others don’t?

The answer lies in project management. Its implementation reduces the project failure rate to less than 20%, which is why there is an increased demand for project managers.

However, this domain is still relatively new, and not enough is known. So, talk about who a project manager exactly is and what are their roles and responsibilities.

Who Is A Project Manager?

A project manager is a professional who leads the team working on a project and applies innovative processes and principles to ensure its completion within the constraints of budget, time, and scope.

In simple terms, a project manager is a person specialising in managing projects.

Projects are complex temporary endeavours undertaken to achieve the desired result; the result may be a change, a development, a new product, or anything else. These projects have to produce quality outcomes within a limited time and budget to be successful. This needs extensive planning, real-time communication, supervision, quality checks, and risk control. In other words, these projects need a leader, and the project manager is that person.

They ensure that the right thing is done at the right time in the right way to give the right outcome.

What Are The Duties And Responsibilities Of A Project Manager?

As mentioned before, project managers are responsible for leading the projects from start to end. They plan the whole process and make sure that the plan is executed to produce quality results. They also communicate and deliberate with stakeholders about the project expectations, deliverables, progress, and outcomes.

Usually, project managers work in five phases or stages:

Initiating

This is the phase before a project has officially begun. Here, the organisation (corporate enterprise, government body, NGO, etc.) approves the project and assigns a project manager to it. After this, the project manager’s job starts.

They take charge, discuss with their seniors (the ones who have assigned them the project), and identify the stakeholders. Stakeholders are the people who have vested interests in the project. Project managers communicate with them, keep them in the loop, and ensure their satisfaction.

In other words, the project manager gets complete details of the project and a rough idea of the work. They understand the objectives, expectations, scope, and resources surrounding the project. They also check if such a project has been executed before and go through its reports. That way, they can learn from the experience of their organisation.

Planning

Now, the project managers have to finalise on principles, procedures, and methodologies to follow in the project. So, they work with key stakeholders and develop an integrated project plan focused on achieving goals within the constraints of time, budget, and scope. So, the project manager:

  • Defines the project’s scope, identifies the exact deliverables (in quantifiable formats like KPIs), and creates a work breakdown structure (WBS). They set milestones for the team.
  • Plans and develops work schedules keeping the time constraint in mind
  • Sees to the availability of resources (physical capital, budget, and human resources) and allots them accordingly
  • Creates the project team and decides on their medium of communication
  • Partners with third-party vendors, contractors, and others for the duration of the project.
  • Identifies quality check requirements and decide how and when to assess those metrics
  • Identifies risks and prepares strategies to mitigate them.

Executing

The execution phase is where the team starts working on the project. Now, the project manager has to let the team drive things forward while they lead and mentor them.

  • They communicate the project’s objectives, deliverables, and tasks with everyone and ensure clarity at every stage.
  • They get all the necessary inputs like agreements, capital, and money.
  • They ensure effective real-time communication and query resolution
  • They try to create a healthy work environment where each one is motivated and dedicated to the project
  • They manage the stakeholders’ expectations by keeping them in the loop and frequently deliberating with them.

 Supervising

The supervision or the controlling and monitoring phase goes hand in hand with the execution phase.

A project doesn’t usually proceed smoothly. There are doubts, mishaps, delays, and differences coming up. So, the project manager has to lead the work, monitor the events, and control the wayward factors.

Thus, they create progress reports frequently and make sure that everything is being done on time. They ensure that all the parties are collaborating and communicating, and achieving milestones. They track metrics after each stage and see that there are the least differences between actual and expected results.

Project managers also enforce risk management plans and deal hands-on with unplanned risks. They understand that the planning doesn’t actually stop, and restructure and realign the plan frequently.

Closing

This is the final phase of project management. Since projects are temporary, work has to come to an end officially. Now, the project manager sees that the work is completed in time, and presents the reports to stakeholders. They hand over the deliverables and make sure the stakeholders are satisfied. They review the work of contract workers and other partners, pay them, and close all the contracts.

Now, the whole team reviews the project so managers again take charge, analyse their work, understand the areas of improvement, and document their learnings for future use. They also reward the deserving team members for their contribution.

What are Some Project Manager Skills?

A project manager’s job isn’t easy. Even if they don’t go hands-on into a project, they know the most about it. So, they need to have the technical know-how, required management expertise, and interpersonal skills.

Three major skills of a project manager are:

Entrepreneurial Skills

Project managers handle the work of a whole complex venture. They plan it out, arrange for inputs, assemble the team, and look into the implementation while ensuring that the project fulfils its objectives, and the stakeholders are satisfied. For this, they have to take charge and be the leader. This requires entrepreneurial skills like:

  • Leadership
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Organisation and management
  • Team and time management
  • Risk management
  • Adaptability and quick problem solving
  • Budgeting
  • Planning and forecasting
  • Monitoring
  • Meeting facilitation

Since project managers get almost complete authority over a project and they are free to exercise their creativity and authority, they are rightly called intrapreneurs.

Subject Matter Expertise

Project managers supervise the functioning of every limb of a project team. So, although subject matter expertise isn’t a prerequisite for project management, it would aid task and team management.

The project managers can delegate work and schedule better if they have the required technical know-how. Such expertise would also earn them the respect of their team members.

Project Management Skills

Projects management comes with its own specific skill set. It is a well-developed discipline with a list of technicalities. Therefore, no matter what industry a project manager is working in, they should know about:

  • Different project management methodologies like Scrum, Agile, etc.
  • Project management software like PaymoTM, Wrike, Basecamp, etc.
  • Project management tools and techniques
  • Other processes, principles, especially the organisation specific ones.

How Much Does a Project Manager Earn?

The salary of a project manager depends on various factors, including the level of education, experience, location, and industry.

According to a 2020 Project Management Institute (PMI) survey, most of the project managers in the United States earn $116,000. On the other hand, a 2019 US Bureau of Labour Statistics survey indicates a median salary of $73,570, with most of the top ten percent earning $128,420.

Difference Between Project Manager And Product Manager

A project is different from a product. A project is any temporary endeavour by a business organisation to bring about a specific result. The result might be a product, a service, a change, or anything else for that matter. On the other hand, a product is any physical object, software, or service that satisfies the needs of a market segment. It goes through a life cycle wherein it is developed, introduced to the market, grown, and retired. However, it is not usually a temporary venture.

Similarly, project and product managers are also completely different. Although most of their work lies around management and intrapreneurship, their jobs vary in their essence.

While a project manager leads a project from start to end, a product manager supervises a product’s complete lifecycle. They see the development, introduction, improvement, and retirement of a product and are rightly called the ‘CEO of the product line’.

They ensure the need of the product and see that it is launched at the right time. Their product sense helps them understand what features to add or not add to a product, when to remove the product from the market, etc. Also, while a project is complete on its own, a product’s lifecycle includes the execution of various projects. So, here the project manager has to see the product manager as a project stakeholder and keep them satisfied.

Moreover, the product manager is also responsible for the profitability of a product. So, they collaborate with various departments (engineering, sales, marketing, customer service) and make the best out of the situation.

Project Manager
Product manager
Key role
Leads the work of a project
Supervises the whole product lifecycle
Work duration
From initiation to completion of a project
From when the product is not thought of to its retirement
Authority over
Supervises a temporary project team
Coordinates among people (from various departments) going about their regular job

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Who Is A Project Manager? - Definition, Roles and Responsibilities

by Kavvya Kishan