What Is the Role of a Project Manager?
Welcome to the sixth lesson of the course. Hurray, you’ve made it halfway! I hope you’re learning a lot!
The concept of a Project Manager seems pretty cut and dry: they manage the project. While technically true, the reality can be a bit esoteric. Being a Project Manager means different things depending on the structure and philosophies of individual businesses. It also has unique requirements in terms of work based on the type of project, the customer, and the industry in which it is operating. There are many different versions of Project Management and what the actual role of a Project Manager is from a work-requirement point of view. However, the underlying philosophy remains true for all examples: the Project Manager is responsible for the success of the project.
Project Manager’s Scope of Responsibility
A Project Manager’s role in any project can be defined in scope by what portion of a project’s life cycle—initiation, planning, execution, closure—is their responsibility. In a personal or small business project, these might all be undertaken by one person. In these types of holistic projects, the project life cycle follows the model very closely. The Project Manager is responsible for making sure the scope of the project is completed while also keeping other considerations like quality, schedule, and budget at the forefront.
In other businesses, especially larger businesses, the Project Manager’s role can be limited to encompassing only a portion of the project’s life cycle. These companies also tend to have Project Managers managing many projects simultaneously. It can even vary between departments, depending on many factors such as project origin (sales, internal, etc.), process automation, and project value.
At my engineering firm, we are organized according to our product specialties, with each product group containing a mixed bag of employees whose functions relate to that product. An engineering applications group works with sales to facilitate project initiation and begin the planning phase. At that point, projects are created and apportioned to the appropriate product groups, where Project Managers manage their deliverables portion as a standalone project or subproject, with one Project Manager designated as the lead to ensure all deliverables coalesce into what is needed to meet the customers’ needs.
In most cases, the Project Manager is the owner of the project schedule. They create the schedule, are responsible for keeping it on track, and are the only one who can change it. In some businesses, however, Project Management is only applied to the customer-experience portion of the work, which further limits the scope of the Project Manager’s responsibilities. A company that sells highly standardized but quite expensive equipment may use Project Management to ensure that each customer receives a high level of communication and personal attention, while the Project Manager themselves merely track but do not actually oversee production.
One of the Project Manager’s primary purposes is to facilitate and engage a high level of communication with all parties. This is universal across industries and countries, and it cannot be understated how vital communication is to the success of a project. Project communication can often be convoluted, and a breakdown in communication can lead to a breakdown in quality, schedule, morale, etc. It can be the downfall of an entire project!
Communication is also vital to expediting, another primary function of any Project Manager. Expediting is the effort made to get something done in the shortest time possible. When an activity is performed by someone other than the Project Manager themselves, communication is the primary form of expediting. This is important for a project at all phases to keep it moving and on schedule, especially when team members have other things to do. It also helps the Project Manager predict and solve problems.
The Project Manager’s role is to manage the project, but what this looks like can vary based on the project, the business structure, etc. A Project Manager must facilitate communication and expedite the project. In our next lesson, we will learn about planning a project.
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