Since I’ve graduated High School, I wanted to become a developer. It was the very beginning of the development we know today. I had no idea Project Management existed as a position and was really into iOS. I planned to become an iOs developer, and I had no touch with project management.
Well, I can say that plans change really fast.
Where do I start with Project Management?
I joined the Students Union in the 1st year of my Graduate Studies and became the Students Union president. That was my first touch with some serious management.
I was responsible for the budget, time, projects, and people.
My work also included going to the meetings, holding presentations, and giving reports to the Management.
In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. But with time, I’ve gained some skills and learned how to delegate tasks, talk to people and get things successfully done within the time limit and with the predicted budget.
And the most important thing – I enjoyed it.
Then I figured out – I was some kind of a Project Manager. This pushed me to decide that I want to be the Project Manager for a living. My student days were over, and I applied to be the Project Manager in AsyncLabs. They told me the description of a job, and that was a perfect match.
I was supposed to do most of the things I did while being the Students Union president. I accepted and here we are. Of course, my responsibilities now are bigger, and I have to sharpen my hard and soft skills every day to get better and better.
What is project management in simple words?
Project Management in a nutshell – no need to panic; it all depends on you and your team
The project is a series of tasks that need to be completed to reach a specific outcome.
This involves the initiation, planning, execution, control, and closure of a project. They can be more or less complicated.
Project managers need to ensure that the whole process goes smoothly to complete the project successfully.
What are the challenges in project management?
But sometimes, that is not an easy job(s) to do. What makes it challenging are constraints, and by constraints, I mean:
- Available people
- Clients wishes
- Unexpected events
Having these constraints in mind, the Project Manager needs to have all the aspects of the project organized and synchronized. The project manager needs to have an outstanding balance between hard and soft skills to make it so.
You need to know the technical aspect of a job, understand the client’s needs, communicate them to everyone involved unambiguously, decide the course of action, schedule the tasks, and motivate people to do their best. Piece of cake, right?
What are the key roles of a project manager?
So let’s make a short brief of key roles and specific responsibilities of Project Managers.
1. Cost estimating and developing the budget
No serious project is done without money. Figuring out what the proper funding for the project is, having that accepted, and keeping the project within or under that amount is one of the breaking points for the project’s success.
Project managers are responsible for estimating the project’s cost based on the input of all involved in the project.
An experienced project manager can estimate project costs precisely. Furthermore, the project manager is responsible for keeping the project within the boundaries of the planned budget.
It’s a good practice to frequently review the budget and plan to avoid budget overruns and make sure spending is in line with the plan.
Even if the project is delivered on time and meets a client’s expectations, it will still be considered a failure if, in the end, it costs more than anticipated.
2. Manage issues and risk
Doing anything is a risk. Moreover, we can say that problems will inevitably arise in projects, even small ones. The bigger the project is, the more likely there will be hurdles and pitfalls that weren’t part of the initial plan.
The project manager’s responsibility is to be ready for them – to identify, assess and control the risk. The more you manage risk, the more likely your project is going to succeed.
A good project manager knows how to identify and evaluate potential risks before the project even begins.
Of course, it is impossible to anticipate everything that could happen, so it is necessary to have a process to handle those when they come up.
Managing risk in the right way means you have control throughout the project, and it can be an effective way of assuring clients their money is in good hands. Experienced project managers know how to avoid risks or at least minimize their impact.
3. Organizing and motivating a project team
Once the plan for the project has been made, a project manager has to implement it. The first thing is organizing the structure of a project execution based on the company’s processes and practices.
The team is provided with tools to complete their tasks. This is the responsibility of a project manager so the team can be focused on completing tasks and have to the project’s final goals, instead of being distracted with papers, opening tasks, procedures, communication with clients, etc.
Also, it is essential to keep your team motivated to do the job. If a person can’t feel the progress of a project or is frustrated with something, they won’t do the job efficiently.
To avoid these things, it is crucial to:
- set realistic goals
- be direct and clear
- conduct weekly (or some different period) reviews
- praise the small victories – make sure your team know you are contributing to the project as much as they do, even if your work isn’t visible
- find ways to build strong relationships among all members, and last but not least;
- identify if there is any frustration in your team and talk about it.
When the project begins a project manager is responsible for formulating a plan to meet the project’s objective keeping in mind the approved budget and deadline.
The projects tend to fail if there is no actual plan and strategy on how to achieve goals.
The first thing the project manager has to do is formulate a team of workers by creating a new team or taking a leadership role with an existing team.
Once a team is created, you assign tasks, deadlines and give your team a tool to collaborate. It is necessary to make a feasible plan that achieves the goals of the project by providing answers to the following questions:
- What needs to be completed?
- Who is going to finish that?
- By when should it be done?
After defining these three points, it is time to make a roadmap to get the job done successfully.
We need to keep in mind assigning tasks, so nobody gets overloaded or blocked in their work.
Part of the plan is defining communication inside the team and communicating with clients.
Good planning is one of the key factors to get the job done successfully, and it should be done with care because you know what they say “Planning is half of the work.” Also, it is really important to understand that planning is not happening only at the beginning of the project but goes through the project’s course.
5. Monitoring the execution of a project
The project manager will participate in and supervise the successful execution of each stage of the project.
Project managers need to be always in line with the project progress to ensure the project is on the right track.
Project managers need to collaborate with team members to ensure resources are used efficiently, and tasks are being solved on time as scheduled. Also, it is essential to track the quality of deliverables.
6. Time management
One of the key indicators of project success is if the project was delivered on time.
A project manager needs to know how to set realistic deadlines and communicate them to their teams and clients.
A good project manager can effectively define the activity and estimate the duration of it. Then a schedule is made based on estimations, and the project manager is responsible for maintaining it, which means ensuring that everyone is doing what they need to do and when they need to do it. Staying on schedule is crucial to the successful completion of any project.
7. Ensuring customer satisfaction
What I’ve learned so far about customers is – a happy customer is a customer we want.
The project manager needs to minimize uncertainty, avoid any unwanted surprises, and involve clients in the project as much as reasonably possible.
It is good practice to maintain constant communication and keep the client up-to-date with the project’s progress. Why is this important?
Because many decisions are made during the course of the project, a client can see the team’s effort, and the team can get the client’s feedback about progress in the project. This way, you can keep a good relationship with the client and expect they will get back to you for future projects or recommend you to someone.
8. Managing reports and necessary documentation
One more important role a project manager has to do is documenting the project’s progress to ensure it is being developed as planned.
Reporting is one of the ways of communication between the team and everyone involved.
While the team needs more detailed information about requirements, clients are looking for broader data to check the project’s progress. A good project manager knows how to form a final report and proper documentation.
It includes all project requirements, history, activities, what was done, what could be done better, reports, etc. This documentation needs to be archived and it can be used as a guideline for future projects.
9. Leading from the beginning to the end of a project
An essential part of project management is to lead the team.
This is a combination of all the responsibilities with a dose of a proactive and leading approach.
Leading is considered the most crucial responsibility of a project manager.
The project manager must take the lead from the very beginning of a project.
He/she must coordinate with different people to ensure that the project goes smoothly, meet the deadlines, and follow the plans.
Periodical meetings are the medium where the team does the follow-up actions. A good manager can lead the team to do its best, motivate the team members and keep their morale high.
A good project manager can make fast and correct decisions in unplanned situations, and he/she is the person the team members look up to.
Tools for fools
Project management is one active job and involves many different responsibilities. It takes time and a lot of work to gain experience to be a good project manager.
Working with people, managing resources, planning, organizing a team, documenting, communicating with the client, and your skills have to be pretty good not to get lost in all of it, and keep it all in one place.
These days it is good to have some help with it, so all projects are managed with the help of a tool. There are many different tools, but you need to choose the appropriate one for you and your team.
In Async, we use TeamWork, and it meets our requirements well. It’s an excellent tool for planning, assigning tasks, time tracking, and communicating with everyone involved in the project. You can see what someone is doing at the moment, what is done and what needs to be done, how much time is spent on specific tasks, be in touch with clients via messages, etc.
So, now we presented all the key roles and responsibilities of a project manager. Isn’t it challenging? It can be stressful, but if you have the right approach to the work, it can be an exciting and motivating job.
You need to be ambitious, proactive, and the most important thing is to love this job’s diversity from one project to another. Most of all, you have to be here for your team, and they will be here for you.
Did I miss something important? What do you think are the key responsibilities of a project manager? What are your experiences with Project Management tools? Tell us in the comments below!