Project managers are the backbone of a project. They are the anchor around which the entire project revolves. In some organizations, a project manager may be involved in evaluation and analysis activities prior to project initiation. The role of a project manager, in short, is a leader. He or she directs the team towards a common vision throughout the project life cycle. He is the one who facilitates them with resources and frameworks to collaborate and work effectively. Ultimately, the buck stops at the project manager’s desk. There are a lot of responsibilities that go into defining the role of a project manager – what are they? Let’s drill down and take a look.
Know the Stakeholders
Once the project is awarded or approved, a project manager should begin with thorough research on the stakeholders of the project. Who are they? What are their hangups and successes? Why are they involved with this project? What will they like to see? What are deal breakers for them? Keeping stakeholders happy is a key performance indicator for a project manager, and part and parcel of their role. He is the bridge between the team and the stakeholders. Without a PM there will be a gap between the team and the stakeholders, which can be fatal for the success of the project.
Understand the Project at Hand
The project manager should know and understand everything about the project. He or she needs to explain the project to the team, and break it down to their roles and responsibilities. The project manager will be the connector between the client and the team. If there is no clear scope, then what the team delivers will not align with what the client is expecting. And if a project manager doesn’t know enough about the field to recognize an impossible project scope, the project is doomed before it even starts! Part of the role of a project manager is becoming an expert on whatever the project is working on. Building a new hospital wing? Designing a parking space app? Opening a new retail location? Whatever it is, the project manager needs to get up to speed and learn it all, quickly.
Project Planning and Operation
The project manager, as we know, prepares the project plan. He or she schedules the team’s tasks according to the plan. A plan must be thorough, robust, and most importantly able to withstand setbacks without causing delays or cost overruns. Project managers create the timeline of the project, monitor progress, and delegate tasks to team members across the life of the project. They create updates for management and stakeholders, and manage the budget. This organizational role is perhaps the most well known of a project manager’s role and responsibilities.
Team Coordination and Communication
The main aspect of the role of a project manager is acting as a communication and coordination channel. Messages need to flow across the entire project, and key information must end up at the right person’s desk. The nerve center of a project is the project manager – assigning and monitoring who does what when is the one sentence definition of a role of a project manager.
Control and Implementation (Cost, Money & Quality)
The role of a project manager is to be the interface between the team and stakeholders. This includes being responsible for meeting deadlines by delivering with good quality and within the budget. Time, cost, and quality, as is known, create the “iron triangle” of project management – and they are the crucial key performance indicators of a project.
Of course, as a project progresses, there is always the chance of “scope creep,” where the targets or goals of a project begin to change – and this affects all three elements of the iron triangle. It is part of the role of a project manager to prevent or manage scope creep. If the project manager fails at this vital role, the project will begin to run over budget, or with delays, or deliver a substandard product. Constant checks of time, cost, and the quality is needed for him or her to be able to identify something is going off track. This is essential for the success of the project.
The last phase of a project is also a very important element in the role of a project manager. Once the project is finished, the project manager will collect feedback from the clients or stakeholders, the team, and the organization. The feedback helps determine if the project was a success or a failure. In this phase it’s the responsibility of the project manager to analyze the project as a whole, especially mistakes committed. This assures all future projects will be managed better, avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Summary: The Role of a Project Manager
- Interface between stakeholders, organization, and project team
- Project planning and execution
- Analysis and reporting
- Controlling the iron triangle of cost, quality, and time
- Winding down the project