Project managers tame chaos for a living. They bring structure to workflows, a rationale to expenses, and urgency to timelines. They placate office politics when needed, assign tasks to the right talent, curtail efforts when these go beyond the project scope, and act as the quality control to keep everything in line with clients’ expectations.
Project managers are well-paid, in-demand professionals who help organizations deliver products on schedule and within budget. Without them, businesses would lose millions in wasted dollars while complex projects will take forever to complete. Smart organizations have come to rely on competent project managers to plan, coordinate, and complete their pipeline of projects. Let's take a look at key project manager roles and responsibilities you need to know in 2019.
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Benefits of being a project manager
If you’re planning to become an excellent project manager, the benefits are compelling:
- Project management ranks among the most fulfilling and highest paid careers ($70,000 for entry-level professionals and $142,000 for highly experienced practitioners).
- The job outlook is faster than average at 11% - 12% depending on industry, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Businesses are also becoming more project-oriented, which increases demand for skilled project managers.
- Continuous learning and self-improvement will become your default mode.
- Core skills are easily transportable to other fields and career paths.
- You can leverage your project management experience as a stepping stone towards executive leadership, especially the COO (chief operating officer) position.
Benefits rarely come without obligations, though. As project manager, you are expected to assume a lengthy list of responsibilities and perform a number of challenging tasks. These responsibilities and tasks suggest — quite clearly — that project management is best suited for the resilient few.
Responsibilities of a project manager
A project manager assumes overall responsibility for a project and is the person ultimately accountable for its success or failure. Leading project development across all stages from inception to completion, project managers are expected to perform the following key tasks:
Initiate the project
Project managers need to make an initial assessment of a proposed project based on formal business requirements or engagement with management, stakeholders, and clients.
- Evaluate project/business requirements
- Identify required assets and resources
- Determine dependencies
- Calculate costs
- Estimate timelines
- Assess risks
Formulate a detailed project plan
A project plan is a strategic document that specifies everything everyone needs to know about a project. It also sets the bar and the criteria (time, cost, quality, benefits realization, etc.) for assessing whether a project is successful or not.
- Adopt measures that will help minimize risks
- Develop relevant policies and processes
- Define overall workflow/activity plan
- Adopt the best framework for the project
- Assign tasks and roles
- Set schedule and milestones
- Set budget
- Establish project scope, objectives, specifications, and quality benchmarks
Communicate project parameters, policies, and processes
Once a formal project plan has been formulated, the next step is to communicate the final scope, objectives, and other parameters. This is to clearly set the right expectations for everyone involved in the project.
- Set expectations for all stakeholders
- Implement comprehensive project documentation
Establish the workspace or project ecosystem
Whether the project will be managed locally on-site, or virtually across the globe, teams will need the right platforms, tools, and communication channels to get their respective tasks done properly.
- Prepare or procure necessary resources, systems, and tools
- Provide access to and ensure availability of relevant tools and resources
Build the teams needed to finish the project
People are the heart of a project. Treat people right and your project is halfway done.
- Clarify tasks and roles
- Establish communication channels and protocols
- Promote collaboration/relationship-building
Execute the project plan
As soon as everyone is on the same page and all project parameters are clear, project leaders can begin the task of executing the game plan from start to finish.
- Keep project within budget
- Keep project moving on time
- Allocate resources at optimum cost-efficiency
- Maintain quality standards
- Keep teams highly motivated
- Manage change
Using tools such as Microsoft Project, Asana, Trello, or Slack, project managers can have a top-level and a detailed view of every aspect of the project. Their task is to mitigate risks, optimize gains, and keep everyone focused on their respective goals.
- Identify and resolve conflicts
- Address roadblocks and red flags
- Reward excellence
- Initiate remedial actions/corrective measures when necessary
- Update all stakeholders with accurate progress reports
Close the project
Completing a project sounds like music to the ears of project management practitioners. But they should never rest on their laurels. There are much to learn from each project that can help them perform better on the next one.
- Congratulate team for job well done
- Conduct honest and comprehensive post-mortem
- Provide actionable insight and proactive recommendations moving forward
Qualities that make project managers awesome
Project managers are expected to possess a matrix of technical, business, and leadership skills that will help them perform their responsibilities better. However, there are baseline traits common to all successful project management practitioners. Studying these traits is a good starting point for aspiring project managers. These baseline qualities include goal-orientedness, accountability, excellent communication skills, discipline, time management, budget management, collaboration, and drive.
Project managers thrive where objectives and desired outcomes are clear and reasonable. Hardcore project managers have a mindset and behavior that keep them focused on delivering results.
Pointing fingers will never help you complete a project successfully. Practicing ownership of the project and holding yourself accountable will. Top project managers understand that the ultimate responsibility of leading the project towards a successful completion always lies at their feet.
Project managers should be able to describe a project’s goals, explain its parameters, and articulate what every team member needs to accomplish in order to move the project towards success.
Projects are always time-bound, compelling project managers to develop enviable time management skills. Good project management professionals formulate comparatively accurate schedules and timelines. They also consistently deliver on time.
Project management primarily arose as a hedge against runaway costs and unjustifiable expenses. Organizations value project managers who can deliver projects at optimum levels of cost efficiency.
Project managers are tasked to bring structure into disparate teams working together to achieve a shared goal. While they may crack the whip on occasion, elite project managers instill discipline by setting an example, using their habits and behavior as templates anyone on the team can emulate.
Without building genuine relationships and encouraging close collaboration, achieving targets as a team will require epic-grade effort. Collaboration makes it easier to get everyone on the same page, detect issues sooner, and resolve conflicts more effectively.
Call it persistence, determination, or grit, drive imbues project managers with a healthy dose of energy and motivation to keep them going even amid frustrations, disappointments, and daunting challenges. A project manager without drive will easily give up when times get rough, budgets shrink, and stakeholders lose confidence.
Path to a successful project management career
Project management is a fulfilling career path that demands a rich combination of business, technical and people skills.
There are many major benefits but this field brings a set of challenges that may not appeal to everyone. Navigating through chaos only works with a steady grip at the helm. Projects can only remain on schedule and within budget with discipline, leadership, and teamwork.
If you think you have what it takes to develop the skills needed to adequately perform a project manager’s responsibilities, a beginner's course can get you started. But if you’ve already had some experience managing projects and want to take your career to the next level, then studying for a PMP certification would surely help.
Go ahead, thrive under pressure.
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