We hear about new products and services all the time. Have you ever wondered what goes into the creation of these? Of course, a lot of hard work is done and sweat is shed before the world hears about a brand new offering. So it stands to reason that behind every product or service, there is a project undertaken and completed successfully by a team under the direction of an able project manager.
In simple terms, a project is an activity to meet the creation of a unique product or service. Now, you may make a project out of dental hygiene- cleaning your teeth, flossing, and gargling-spending hours in front of the mirror in the mornings. That is, however, a daily routine. It is not a project.
In management circles, indeed in Project Management parlance, a project is further defined as a temporary endeavor with a beginning and an end, used to create a unique product or service. It means that while the effort or journey to create a product or service cannot go on interminably, the end result by itself may have a lasting impact on the markets or society.
Naturally, such an exercise should have a clearly stated purpose, method, and timeline that may be refined periodically during the project gestation for an overall superior outcome. Who will steer these objectives? A project manager.
Who is a Project Manager?
A project manager is a leader who manages a project from start to finish. Role of project manager includes:
- Managing resources –human, financial, production, inventory, IT and natural.
The project manager is entrusted with complete authority and responsibility for completion of a project and will need to provide great clarity on the deliverables. Project manager responsibilities include listing the goals and these goals, needless to add should be realistic and attainable in the timeframe specified.
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager
When a client approaches an organization with a project in mind, the only focus may be on the main “achievables.”
Project Plan: It is the role of a project manager to define the plan to work towards the end result. It means understanding and documenting the why, what, where, who, how, and when of the project as explained below:
- Why the project is being executed, including who is the client, the client’s objective and the nature of work it involves.
- What are the tasks involved in accomplishing the work being undertaken? Once completed, what will these tasks produce in terms of deliverables to the client?
- Who are the team members chosen, what are their competencies and hence, what are the responsibilities they can handle?
- How should they be organized to facilitate a clear and transparent reporting structure?
- When should the project be completed? If so, what are the individual deadlines for team members and the completion dates for each phase of the project?
The role of project manager in defining a project plan may be called visionary.
Project Scope: In addition to the plan, project manager responsibilities include defining the scope of the project in detail. Simply put, the scope of a project not only lists what is included in product and process requirements but also what is not required or outside the ambit of the stated objective.
One of the critical project manager responsibilities is to also put in place a change management clause, in the event the project scope is altered.
Hence, the role of project manager in defining the scope of a project may be termed Validator.
Arising out of these two initial roles, are a set of project manager responsibilities on which reams are written about by management experts but is greatly simplified here. They include:
Organizing: A good project manager will be able to delegate work not just equitably but in a judicious manner so as to extract the best value from each team member, based on their skills and commitment levels in that particular area of work. A good part of organizing a project pertains to the nitty-gritty such as file-naming, use of technology tools, designing templates, and deploying software suites that mesh all elements together.
In addition, project manager responsibilities include breaking up large tasks into manageable chunks with separate deadlines to ensure the larger project objective is achieved in a stage-by-stage manner.
In other words, the role of project manager in organizing a project may be called that of an Arranger.
Assembling & Leading: Assembling a team to carry out a project involves pooling resources, be it human, financial or physical from across the organization or the discipline relevant to the project mission. Optimization of internal resources should gain preference, but fresh procurement and hiring are not ruled out.
Among the project manager responsibilities are sharing project goal and end-benefits with the team. Doing this through “before and after” scenarios will bring to the assembly a common cause which helps in leading a project.
Leading a project involves encouraging collaboration, problem management and recognizing each contribution, in addition to rewarding outstanding work.
At this stage, the role of project manager slowly evolves into that of a Leader.
Monitoring Progress & Time Management
Being a leader in a project does not mean leaving it to the team to do all the work. An intelligent project manager will always keep tabs on the progress being made by tracking milestones achieved against an outline of work agreed upon.
If there are hiccups, a project manager should immediately step in to see how things can be put back on track. Being in control of the project is thus top on the list of project manager responsibilities, and this includes knowing what is important and what is urgent and that the two are not necessarily one and the same.
Such activities will make the role of project manager that of a Controller.
Some Responsibilities of a Project Manager
Cost Estimation & Quality Satisfaction
Any product or service innovation can be pursued to successful completion only with a precise cost estimation done using either a bottom-up or a top-down approach. The bottom-up approach allows a project manager to break the project down into units, and calculate the cost of a unit based on cycle time, resources used, cost per person and other metrics. This is then applied to each unit to arrive at a project budget. The top-down estimation technique is more general in approach, taking into account major expenditure heads, recurring and non-recurring expenditure, and such other parameters. Cost estimation is not complete unless there are optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic forecasts.
One of the primary project manager responsibilities is to consider cost-benefit trade-offs to meet quality requirements and ensure customer satisfaction. So the expense on quality management–which implies higher productivity at lower costs to fulfill stakeholder expectations– should not be neglected.
To achieve this balance, it is truly said that the role of project manager is that of a Juggler.
Managing Risks & Containing Issues
Any project manager worth his salt will know that a risk is anything that occurs during the lifecycle of a project that is “not as per plan.” This unforeseen development may either be a positive or a negative for the success of the project. Being prepared to tackle it is what managing risk is all about.
Unless project manager responsibilities stress the need to list the risks as potentialities that could turn into realities, they will become major issues. If threats are not identified, categorized, prioritized and planned for, the project will suffer from problems that cannot be addressed adequately.
Obviously, the role of project manager as Problem Solver comes to fore here.
Activity & Resource Planning
A project manager not only outlines the structure of work but also provides a breakdown of tasks that go to make up an activity in the project.
It is considered part of project manager responsibilities to map the various activities of a project to resources available.
When planning is done meticulously and the progress of groups of tasks is followed closely, a smart project manager can identify wastage of resources and redeploy them for better purpose or utilization. This applies to human, physical, technical and natural resources.
So the role of project manager turns into that of a Tracker at some point in the project.
Scalability, Interoperability and Portability
First, a project manager should be quick to identify if a system or process being deployed to execute a project is capable of being “sufficiently” scaled to meet customer demands.
Secondly, project manager responsibilities include the ability to assess if the software and hardware components may be configured differently to enable different capabilities in an organization. Also important is to check if a program or process can be transferred to work on another operating system without significant reworking.
In other words, the role of project manager as an Augmenter of capabilities is crucial.
Roles of a Project Manager
Reporting and Documentation
With so many people working to make an idea come true, the only way to ensure order and a sense of single-minded purpose is to ensure there is a process to report each and every minute detail. Time records, schedules, correspondence, photos are some components of documentation, all of which when recorded, provide evidence, summarize efforts and showcase the project.
It is one of the project manager responsibilities to see that all tasks and everyone’s contribution is recorded for reference during and after the gestation of a project.
Thus, the role of project manager as a Chronicler of a project lifecycle is clear.
It is not enough for a project manager to record and document project details, but it should be done in such a way that stakeholders and anyone interested in the project understand every nuance.
For effective communication, it is another of the project manager responsibilities to put in place a proper mode (telephone, fax, encrypted, messenger) multiple channels (emails, memos, reports, press releases) and message structure –five Ws why, what, where, when who and one H-how.
So steering all aspects of a project shapes the role of project manager as a Communicator
The different project manager responsibilities extend the sphere of influence wielded by a project manager to stakeholders, suppliers, customers, end-users; sponsors, governing bodies, steering committees; project team members, resource managers and industry peers.
Anyone who is wholly assigned all these responsibilities will enjoy considerable clout not only within the organization where the project is initiated but across the industry, academic, government and society. A project manager should know that it is crucial for any influencer to pick up the right negotiation and integration skills too.
Importantly, the role of project manager is that of a Strategic Influencer beyond stake-holders.
The project manager is a versatile professional who uses a combination of knowledge, skills, processes and methodologies to communicate both with internal teams and external stake-holders to help create a process or product that brings benefits to society. Not only are the responsibilities many, so are the roles assumed to bring a project to successful completion.
While traditional knowledge and experience do add to a project manager’s management skills, an industry relevant certification goes a long way to handle all job roles and responsibilities.