Project Manager – what do they do?

17.01.2022 Kornel Kosoń
project manager for project analysis and planning

Regardless of the field in which the project is created – whether it is, for example, in IT, finance, construction or marketing; it is necessary to establish the sequence of activities performed in the project and make sure that they all proceed in an appropriate manner. Especially if several teams are involved in the project, performing independent work. In order to prevent chaos from creeping into the organisation of such an undertaking, a person is needed who will take control over it. This is the role of the Project Manager who makes every effort to bring the project to completion in the shape assumed at the beginning. How do they do it and what exactly does their job consist in?

Who is a Project Manager?

tablica pokazująca planowanie projektu stworzona przez project managera

As we briefly mentioned, a Project Manager is a person who manages a project. They are involved in every phase of the development process: from planning through the production of the solution and its implementation. They develop the project plan, implement it, then make sure that the various stages are carried out in accordance with the established guidelines. At the end of the project, they close the project ensuring that all its objectives have been met. 

What tasks does the Project Manager perform?

The Project Manager deals with all the organisational aspects of the project – they create the general outline of the project, set the standards and rules to be observed by the contractors. They also develop specific objectives to be achieved and define the requirements of the project. Then, proceeding to the implementation of activities, they set deadlines for the execution of individual stages. 

A Project Manager defines the steps necessary to achieve the milestones and contacts all the people involved in the task. They cooperate with the client, representing their needs and expectations on an ongoing basis. If the project requires it, contact external companies e.g. the suppliers and collaborators. Taking into account the time and budget available for implementation, they are responsible for the high quality of implementation and the final shape of the project.

Responsibility for the budget

A Project Manager is particularly responsible for the budget that has been allocated for the development of a given implementation. During the planning process he has to ensure that an accurate estimate of the total project is prepared, which will realistically reflect the needs of the developer and ensure the quality expected by the client.

The Project Manager must balance between maximising profit, providing the financial resources to meet the staffing requirements that correspond to good business practice and the agreed time and quality requirements that they have committed to the client. 

The budgeting methodology obviously varies depending on the company, the client and the type of implementation. Other requirements are set by the fixed price billing model, others by time and materials and others by subscription. The only constant in this equation is the great responsibility that rests on the Project Manager.

Depending on the nature of a given industry and company structure the management methodologies adopted by a Project Manager may differ and be modified for a specific project. However, the main task of the PM is the same everywhere – responsibility for the result, and therefore activity during all stages and keeping an eye on the level of activities performed in the project.

Three categories of Project Manager responsibilities

In addition to these specific tasks of the Project Manager, their responsibilities can be divided into three categories. The first relates to the obligations towards the project team.  The second relates to the project itself. The third one refers to the relations with stakeholders. Why is this division important? Thanks to it one can understand in a tangible way the role of a PM in a task because it turns out that he is the glue that allows the whole project to be created and held in check.

Responsibilities towards the team

The Project Manager’s responsibilities towards the team refer primarily to the fact that they are responsible for building the team in the first place. Thus, they assemble a team which will work on achieving a common goal. Then they delegate tasks to individual departments or persons, thus building their responsibility for individual stages.

They set priority tasks with specific deadlines. Continuously support the team and provide direction. If problems or difficulties arise, they help to solve them or to prevent them in advance. They also evaluate the performance of the whole team and its results. When necessary, introduce restructuring.

Responsibilities towards the client

PM’s responsibilities to stakeholders, i.e. clients interested in the outcome of the project, primarily revolve around maintaining the relationship between the client and the provider. Project Manager ensures proper communication so that each party receives the most important information for themselves. 

The client should be informed about the progress of work (receive relevant raports) and the project team should be informed about the client’s acceptance or any new requests. The Project Manager also provides the client with all the necessary suggestions of the specialists on the project. Moreover, they themselves recommend solutions thay may increase the quality of the final version of the project or be a more efficient option of operation. It often happens that they build his awareness and knowledge related to the project topic.

So we can say that the role of a Project Manager is very complex and interdisciplinary. They have to know not only the organisational aspects of the project, but also often delve into technical details, translate them into understandable language for the client and make sure that the client feels fully taken care of. 

praca w biznesie wymaga zatrudnienia project managera

Project Manager in IT

It is said that the IT industry is governed by its own laws. However, just like in any other industry, IT projects have common features – they have a precise goal, beginning and end. They must therefore meet the requirements within a certain timeframe.

Hard and soft skills

However, the IT projects also have their specifics which distinguish them from other industries. The biggest challenge from PMs in this field is first of all the need to combine soft skills with hard skills, which consist in knowledge of technical issues. In the case of such projects, the person responsible for the management should be well acquainted with the product, the entire process of software development, the tools needed for this and the issues related to product engineering. So that it is easy to understand specialists, and the knowledge gained should be clearly conveyed to the client.

Personal development of a Project Manager

The IT industry is known for its dynamic development. The same is true when it comes to optimising business processes. Today most IT companies cannot imagine working without a project coordinator. In order to further systematise and increase the effectiveness of work, several project management methods have been developed.

Among them we can distinguish agile methodologies – Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean Software Development (LSD), cascade methodologies like Waterfall, hybrid (Waterfall and Agile), classic ones, e.g. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), Critical Path Method (CPM) or PRINCE2. 

A professional Project Manager is expected to be familiar with the individual methodologies and to be able to implement them in the project covered. In addition, the ability to use project management software such as IC Project, Jira, Basecamp, Asana, Trello or others is often required.

What competencies should a Project Manager have?

Due to a wide range of responsibilities, a PM should have both business, technical and interpersonal skills. A person in this position, especially in the IT industry, must therefore demonstrate knowledge of management principles – from general to more specific methodologies. One must have a good understanding of the industry in which he or she works. A Project Manager must be familiar with product-related issues and have an active desire to constantly develop and update their knowledge. They should also have analytical skills and the ability to draw conclusions.

On the behavioural side, a PM must excel at managing people and know how to motivate the team to do their best, how to formulate assertive messages and how to give feedback. It is necessary to be open in contact with others and be able to formulate thoughts clearly. It is nice to have good ability to solve conflicts, diplomacy and the ability to be perceptive in order to catch possible problems that may delay the smooth implementation of tasks.

The Project Manager should also be courageous and not be afraid of new challenges. They need to be independent and able to manage their own time and that of the other project creators. Creativity is desirable as it allows for an out-of-the-box approach and makes all tasks easier as there are no insoluble problems for such people.

The work of a Project Manager is not always easy. However, one certainly cannot count on its repetitiveness. Why? Each project is different and even if you use the same methodology with the same co-contractors, it concerns a different product, which in itself ensures its uniqueness.

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