Whether you’re looking for a career change or you’ve been tasked with hiring a competent PM, project managers are an integral part of the modern-day office. Indeed, having the right one (or several) in place can mean the difference between completing projects on time, under budget, and with purpose as opposed to aimlessly playing whack-a-mole as problems arise.
Furthermore, if your projects are complicated with many dependencies and pain points, the lack of a holistic view your project manager provides can easily cost you significant time, dollars, and resources as you walk into one blunder after the other. But spinning up a new department or slotting in a new project manager amongst your existing team or workforce isn’t a panacea, and it’s important to know what to expect from your new hire.
So what does a project manager do? Let’s jump in and find out!
Background and Importance
First and foremost, a project manager is tasked with keeping various projects and initiatives on track. This requires them to interact with both the client and resources in house, soliciting input, as well as designing and iterating a comprehensive project plan that outlines the goals, milestones and important dates relevant to the project at hand. Unlike a designer or developer that may jump in and participate on a limited basis as their specific skills are needed, the project manager acts as a liaison between the client and your organization’s resources. He or she balances the interest of completing the project with the actual feasibility of doing so in a timely and efficient manner.
Today, as our projects get more and more complicated, the role of project manager has been elevated, commensurate with their value, and trying to assign ownership responsibility to a reluctant team member with an existing workload is likely to undermine both their work and the larger project. It’s also why project management has started to bleed over into strategy and leadership. Decisions made at the project management level have implications across entire departments and organizations. Poor project management can jeopardize output and strain relationships both inside the company and out.
Role and Responsibilities
Because project managers exist in every industry and across different project types, it can be misleading to evaluate a project manager with a one-size-fits-all approach. Never mind tackling differences across industries or even companies, as a project manager’s responsibilities can change wildly from project to project, even if many of the same people are involved. This is because each project is unique, and different pressures and interests govern the resources available, the time allotted, and the ability of a team to get it all done. After all, projects are completed by people, not workflows.
That said, there are commonalities shared by project managers regardless of the project.
Primarily, a project manager is responsible for planning and defining the overall scope of a project — and getting the project done. While the overall budget and deliverable may be constrained by separate agreements or interests outside their purview, the project manager is tasked with turning that budget and due date into an actual plan with allocated resources, milestones, and goals. During the lifecycle of the project, they’re also responsible for absorbing new information, shifting gears, and otherwise making changes that enable the existing budget and timeline to be met. In certain circumstances, they may even be the one to sound the alarm of a budget or time squeeze, and adjusting expectations of all stakeholders during the lifecycle of a project.
While a project manager’s specific day-to-day activities may differ wildly from one project and day to the next, there is a general level of consistency regarding their stewardship of multi-faceted projects. As mentioned, much of it has to do with balancing specific interests, like resources that all have multiple projects vying for their attention, or a client that wants to participate in prototyping heavily, or leadership that has no stomach for expanding budgets, no matter the need.
For the most part, a project manager spends the day fielding all input relevant to a project, which usually means a generous amount of time on the phone, in email, or on other communication platforms such as Slack. If there’s any hiccup in the process and the risk of a deadline going unmet — like work that was discovered to take twice as long as planned or a newer, higher-profile project that usurps needed resources — the project manager should be the first to know. This way, they can make the necessary changes to keep the project on track, or to adjust the project plan.
Generally, this means keeping a running tab of the cost and projected milestones associated with a project, and ensuring that feature creep hasn’t hijacked the original project scope and goals, or to revise those goals if needed. As tasks are completed, the project manager is also responsible for checking the progress against the overall project timeline and goals, ensuring that all activities are in service of a successful project completion.
In some instances, project managers may also be responsible for managing conflicts between stakeholders, supporting and motivating resources when anxieties run high or lending an empathetic ear when concerns are raised.
How LiquidPlanner Can Help
If that all sounds like a lot, it is and even accomplished, project managers can easily succumb to the torrent of information they’re subjected to daily. It’s why we created the LiquidPlanner suite of project management tools, which helps your team stay organized in the face of countless projects, stakeholders, and initiatives, all with genuine consequences to the bottom line. Our software uses intelligent, resource-driven scheduling technology to help you and your team do its best work, even as projects change all around you — because you know they will. Call or click today to see how we can help you!