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, and it has a huge role of a project manager. 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?
Project manager – a designation that communicates importance, responsibility, and success. It is a job role that can be found across industries – such as manufacturing, construction, Information Technology (IT), oil and gas, energy, utilities, and others. Attaining the level of a project manager is a goal post for many professionals and the ambition usually begins from their early days on a project team.
A project team needs to be shown direction, supervised, and provided with solutions for problems to ensure there is a minimum hindrance in the completion of their tasks. This is where a project manager comes into the picture.
Not everyone can handle the responsibility of being a project manager. Apart from having a strong sense of organization and ownership, he or she should be ready to take accountability for the success and failure of the project. It is the project manager who plays a key role in the planning of the project as well as its implementation, including cost budgeting, resource allocation, risk management, client or external stakeholder management, and so on.
So, What Do Project Managers Do?
The project manager deals with the enterprise in a holistic manner on an everyday basis. They keep a track of the task for the benefit of the project board within the requirements and coordinates all through the venture with the project board and project assurance.
The project manager is responsible for pitching ideas for projects that are assigned, plan the budget, monitor, and report on the project with Project Management tools. Project managers are the bridge between the management and the team entrusted with the execution of the project. They ensure that the scope of the project is comprehensive and regular reporting on the advancement of the task is updated and also provide that the project is right on schedule.
Responsible for all of the PRINCE2 processes except for the “Directing a Project” process, project managers need to plan the sequence of activities to achieve control over the track of implementing the right strategies and complete the project on time.
Key Roles & Responsibilities of a Project Manager
In order to become a project manager, it’s mandatory for them to possess various organizational strategies that could be used for various projects. These skills are considered to be important skills to have a booming career in Project Management.
1. Cost Estimation, and 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’s 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 a project manager is that of a juggler.
2. 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 the project manager as a Problem Solver comes to the fore here.
3. Activity, and Resource Planning
A project manager not only outlines the structure of work but also provides a breakdown of tasks that go to make up activity in the project. It is considered part of the project manager’s responsibility to map the various activities of a project to the 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.
4. 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 the project manager as an Augmenter of capabilities is crucial.
5. 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, and 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’s responsibilities to see that all tasks and everyone’s contributions are recorded for reference during and after the gestation of a project.
Thus, the role of the 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 an effective communication, it is another of the project manager’s responsibilities to put in place a proper mode (telephone, fax, encrypted, messenger) multiple channels (emails, memos, reports, press releases) and message structure – five W’s, i.e, Why, What, Where, When, Who, and one How.
So steering all aspects of a project shapes the role of the project manager as a communicator.
7. Strategic Influence
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.
Role of Project Managers while Working with Stakeholders
As project managers, it is essential to understand and identify the stakeholders who are part of the project. The role of project managers keenly involves the engagement of stakeholders throughout the project. Few partners will be significant to the venture, giving bunches of data, recommendations, and support to the project.
For instance, consider that the project was to assemble a new furnace on the outskirts of a city. The stakeholders could be an environmental group, city planning commission, contractors, equipment suppliers, and resident groups. There are chances for a few stakeholders to oppose specific ideas of the project and the rest might support it as they would profit from the venture.
With the help of the executives, the project manager will choose to decide the way to communicate and engage with these stakeholders.
Factors a Project Manager Should Consider Defining a Successful Project
Apart from understanding the methodology, it is also important for project managers to understand the other characteristics that lead to successful Project Management. Experienced project managers believe there are two critical factors in determining the success of a project:
- Recruitment of qualified project team members is essential to work on relevant projects that are assigned to the organization or the team.
- A well-documented approach that is kept simple and effectively versatile to various sizes of projects is an essential establishment for ensuring project success.
7 Practical Tips to Become a Successful Project Manager
The project manager’s role is essential to the success of any project and it requires attention to minute details. Not every project manager knows how to handle hurdles that might come up during any project. Time and experience will always work in your favor and so will the few expert tips too.
There is no specific way to ensure the success of a project, but there are a few tips that help you come out with notable results.
So, let’s take a look at 7 practical tips for project managers to succeed. Let’s get started:
1. Find Yourself a Mentor
Look for a mentor who is a seasoned project manager. Just by watching them work, you will learn a lot. See how they tackle issues, how they interact with shareholders, team members, and in all other aspects related to the project. On many occasions, companies do provide a mentor when you first start as a project manager, but if they do not, then your first step to success in becoming a better project manager lies in finding a good mentor and learning as much as possible.
2. Effective Use of Teamwork
Your project will be successful only if your team succeeds. A project manager’s job is not just to serve as a leader, but also to serve as an effective team player. Take some time and understand your team and its members, know their strengths and skills. It is your job to get the team to work together and deliver the service or product which ultimately provides value to the customer.
3. Know Your Customer
It is better to know who your customers are as individuals and as an organization. Understand the customer’s goals, vision, and mission and identify what they really care about and how they are communicating the same. Learn how they deal with change and when there is confusion. If you can react to your customers during a change in an appropriate and meaningful manner, then there is a higher percentage of guarantee that your project will be a success.
4. Be Prepared for Change
Changes happen all the time in a project. Ask any experienced project manager out there, when a project has happened exactly as planned. 9 out of 10 will always say there were changes in the project as it progressed. So, do not fret when changes occur. The key is to have a change management plan in place which describes how a request for change is made and how you as a project manager manages the change request. If this plan is well documented and shared with all the stakeholders of the project, you will be able to manage change in project deliverables.
5. Ask for Help
Nobody expects you to know everything when you are new to the project manager’s role. Just because you asked for help, does not mean you are not a good project manager. If you are unsure of something, ask the proper questions to seek better guidance than taking decisions that set back the project.
6. Continuous Learning is Key to Success
Every day on a project will provide new learning. Be it with human resource management, technology, communication with stakeholders, quality management, or any other aspect. Keep learning on the job and ensure you incorporate what you learn in the next project assigned to you.
7. Become a Certified Professional
Certifications can be an asset to any individual’s career. Project Management certifications like PRINCE2, MSP, P3O, CAPM, and PMP, are globally recognized credentials that impart knowledge of best practices in Project Management. With these skills, Project Management is streamlined, instead of being a practice area full of unknown variables.
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 stakeholders 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, and industry-relevant certification goes a long way to handle all job roles and responsibilities. So give yourself a chance to enhance your Project Management skills, and excel in your career with PMP certification training.