Magoosh GRE

ROLE OF A PROJECT MANAGER

| April 2, 2015

INTRODUCTION

Project management has in the recent years received much attention and has become a highly desired competency in most organizations (Morris & Peter 2000). It is widely recognized as an efficient tool for handling complex projects. Bringing new projects on stream and into the market demands the need for efficient project management techniques to handling these projects.

A major concern and often a recurring theme on project management literature is project success. Concerns about the factors contributing to the success of a project and how project success is judged have often been cited repeatedly in project management literature. Closely tied to this concern is that of a project manager. That is, the role and responsibilities a project manager in contributing towards project success. In this paper, our focus is mainly on the role that a project manager plays in ensuring successful delivery of the project.

The project manager’s role in ensuring project success has generated a considerable rhetoric and a small literature body on the skills, knowledge and personal attributes that are needed in a project manager (Crawford 2000). A concern over the project managers’ competence has led to the development of standards that are used in assessing the project managers in terms of the key competence that they must possess (Crawford 2000).

These standards relate primarily to what project managers must have knowledge of such as the APMBoK (1996), IPMA’s Competence Baseline (1999), and the PMBOK Guide (1996; and to what they must be able to do, such as the performance based competency standards of the UK (PMI report 2008). The aim of this analysis is not to explore on these standards but rather to evaluate the role that project managers play in ensuring the successful delivery of projects.

PROJECT MANAGER

Project managers refer to those individuals that are responsible for coordinating activities of project team members towards achieving the specific project objectives (Munns & Bjeirmi 1996). Project managers are central to successful delivery of projects. Pinto (1996) describes a project manager as the heart and soul of a project in that they are involved in all aspects of the project and are expected to bring the project into fruition within the budget and time frame.

Historically, the project manager’s role has focused more on the larger and more technical projects (Ireland 2008). But nowadays, the project manager’s role is increasingly being applied to a variety of small and less technical projects. Moreover, the evolution of modern project management has expanded the role of project managers into areas such as the business development arena where new projects are initiated (Ireland 2008).

PROJECT MANAGER’S ROLE

The responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Defining the project scope

The project scope, in this respect, refers to the project work that needs to be completed within the specified time schedule (Duncan & William 1996). It defines the specific boundaries of the project. It is primarily, the responsibility of the project manager to define the project scope and communicate it to the project team, senior management and other stakeholders involved in the project (Duncan & William 1996). Defining the project scope is one most important yet challenging aspects of project management. In defining the scope, the project manager reviews the project charter, requirements and process assets. Without defining the scope of the project, there may be confusion among the staff and project team with regard to where the project ends, and thus there is a risk of being drawn into an ever-widening circle of interventions.

  • Developing full scale project plans

The success of any project largely depends upon its initial plan. It is absolutely imperative to have a project plan in place prior to commissioning a project. The plan clearly outlines the project milestones and activities necessary for implementing the project (Duncan & William 1996). It is the primary responsibility of the project manager to develop the full scale project plan.

In information technology projects, for example, the project manager is responsible for developing the overall project plan. However, this must be coordinated with all the project personnel. It is therefore important to ensure that all the project personnel have both planning and executing skills and experience in the particular field.

For example, Programmers with experience in writing detailed specifications and creating a code from these specifications can be very useful in the planning of information technology projects (Schwalbe 2009). Similarly, system analysts have a better understanding of the type of documentation and analysis that they may need in writing good codes, hence may work together with the project manager in drafting the overall project management plan (Schwalbe 2009). Project managers can thus solicit input from these personnel who can then help develop the full scale project plan.

  •  Directing and managing project execution

The project manager is expected to lead the project team and manage stakeholder relationships in order to ensure that the project plan is executed successfully (Schwalbe 2009). Directing and managing execution of the project require the use of specialized tools and techniques. Some of the specific tools and techniques that project managers use in directing and managing project execution include: expert judgment and project management information systems.

Expert judgment involves consulting experts prior to making decisions concerning the project. For example, in Information technology projects, the project manager may consult experts with regard to the methodology approach to follow and the programming language to use (Schwalbe 2009). The project manager may as well use project management softwares such as Microsoft project, which enables him/her to organize tasks and the workforce (Schwalbe 2009). The use of software packages enables the project manager to produce fast and accurate reports and charts that guide in the execution of the project.

  • Coordination of activities, resources and information.

There is often the need for coordination of activities, equipment, information and resources for any project. In this regard, the project manager works alongside with the project coordinator on such coordination issues. Although this is a primary responsibility of the project coordinator, some coordination issues may be difficult to resolve and are elevated to the project manager (Lewis 2004). This ensures the smooth running of the project and all related processes.

  •  Procurement and risk management

The project manager is also involved in project procurement and risk management. He/she must be involved in the creation of contracts, identifying risks likely to emerge in the project cycle, and in preparing a mitigation plan to counter such risks (Duncan & William 1996).

  • Time and Cost management

The success of any project hinges on the ability to balance the core project components of scope, cost and time (Duncan & William 1996). Managing the cost and time is equally crucial as defining the scope of the project. Project managers have the primary responsibility of managing the cost of the project and the time needed for the project to be delivered. He/she is responsible for evaluating the total cost of the project including the cost of materials, machinery and equipment as well as the labour cost.

  • Effectively communicate project expectations to team members, senior management and other stakeholders.
  • Liaise with management and project stakeholders on ongoing basis.
  • The project manager also defines the success criteria for the project and disseminates the criteria to the project team, management and other involved parties throughout the project cycle.
  • Drafts and submits budget proposals and request for approval from the stakeholders.
  • Mentor and develop the team members as well as supervising them and holding them accountable for their actions.
  • The project manager also manages a portfolio of design projects for clients.
  • It is his primary responsibility to ensure the delivery of design outputs which must be in line with contractual obligations and within the time schedule.

The list of responsibilities is endless. Indeed, the project manager is the heart and soul of a project with his/her involvement right from planning to stage of completion vital for successful delivery of the project. The project manager defines the scope of a project, provides description of the project potential, conducts an investigation on other companies to ascertain whether they have implemented similar projects, conducts a rough cost and time estimates, and assesses the risks and potential payoff (Duncan & William 1996).

Besides meeting the specific scope, cost, time and project goals, the project manager also strives to ensure that the entire process meets the expectations and needs of stakeholders (Duncan & William 1996). Project stakeholders, in this regard, refer to the parties involved and those that are directly or indirectly affected by project activities. These include the support staff, project sponsor, customers, team members, users and suppliers (Duncan & William 1996). With that said, selecting an efficient project manager is key to ensuring successful project delivery.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES USED BY PROJECT MANAGERS

The table below shows some of the project management tools and techniques that project managers use in executing their core functions

Category/knowledge area Project management Tools and techniques
Integration management Project charters, project management software, project plans, stakeholder analyses, project management methodologies, project review meetings, change requests and lessons-learned reports.
Time management Project network diagrams, Gantt charts, critical path analysis, fast tracking, crashing and schedule performance measurements.
Scope management Scope statements, scope management plans, scope change controls, scope verification techniques, statements of work, and work breakdown structures
Cost management Cost estimates, Return on investment, Net present value, earned value management, payback analysis, cost management plan, cost baselines and project portfolio management
Quality management Quality control charts, Quality metrics, checklists, fishbone diagram, statistical methods, pareto diagrams, and maturity models
Communication management Kick-off meetings, communications management plans, templates, virtual communications, project websites and conflict management.
Risk management Risk rankings, risk management plans, Impact matrices, and risk registers.
Procurement management Make or buy analyses, supplier evaluation matrices, contracts, source selections and request for proposals

 

COMPETENCE

Given the crucial role that project managers play in project management, it is imperative for them to possess key competence in order to effectively execute their duties. These include leadership skills, planning skills, and team building skills, problem solving skills and communication skills among many others (Crawford 2000). Strong leadership is crucial for effective execution of the project plan. Project managers are expected to lead by example by demonstrating importance of having good project management plans in place and following up to ensure their successful execution.

Communication skills are equally important. For example, in information technology projects, there may be the need to use nonstandard software; the project manager must thus use his communication and negotiation skills to convince stakeholders of the need to break the rules with the nonstandard software (Schwalbe 2009).

In addition to strong leadership and negotiation skills, project managers are expected to be knowledgeable in the particular project field. For example, in Information technology projects, project managers are expected to possess product, business and application area knowledge that will help them in executing the project successfully. If, for instance, the project manager was leading a project team on Joint Application Design (JAD), it will be helpful if he/she has an understanding of the language of the business (Schwalbe 2009).

 

CONCLUSION

Project managers indeed play a central role in project management. They are the heart and soul of any project. Without their input, the success of the project is in jeopardy. The list of the roles of a project manager as we have identified above is indeed endless, right from defining the project scope, developing full scale project plans, directing and managing project execution, coordination management, procurement management, risk management, time and cost management, communication management, and so on. Given the critical role that project managers play, it is important for them to have the right skill mix, experience and competence in the particular field so as to ensure the successful delivery of the project.

REFERENCE

Crawford, L., 2000. “Profiling the competent project manager”. In: Project Management Research at the turn of the millenium: proceedings of PMI research conference. Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute.

Duncan. A and R. William, 1996. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Upper Darby, PA: PMI Publications

Ireland, l., 2008. Business development: the expanding role of the project manager.

Lewis, J.P., 2004. Team-based project management. Beard Books.

Morris, W. and G. Peter, 2000. “Benchmarking project management bodies of knowledge”. In: Crawford, Lynn and Clarke (Eds.) IRNOP IV Conference – Paradoxes of Project Collaboration in the Global Economy: Interdependence, Complexity and Ambiguity. Sydney, Australia: University of Technology.

Munns, A.K. and B.F. Bjeirmi, 1996. “The role of project management in achieving project success”. International Journal of Project Management. Vol 14 (2), pp. 81-87

Pinto, J.K., 1996. Power and Politics in Project Management. Sylva: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute report, 2008. A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). 4th edition

Schwalbe, K., 2009. Information technology project management. 6th edition. Course technology

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