Since I’ve graduated High School I wanted to become a developer. It was the very beginning of development we know today. I had no idea Project Management existed as a position and was really into iOS. My plans were to become an iOs developer and I had no touch with project management.
Well, I can say that plans change really fast.
My beginning with Project Management
I joined the Students Union in the 1st year of my Graduate Studies and became the President of the Students Union. 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, how to talk to people and how to get things successfully done within 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 president of the Students Union. 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.
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 in order to reach a specific outcome.
This involves initiation, planning, execution, control and closure of a project. They can be more or less complex.
Project managers need to ensure that the whole process goes smoothly in order to complete the project successfully.
Challenging constraints 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. To make it so, the Project Manager needs to have a really good balance between hard and soft skills.
You need to know the technical aspect of a job, understand the client’s needs and 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?
Key roles and specific responsibilities of PM
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 made 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 success of the project.
Project managers are responsible for estimating the cost of the project 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 ahead to avoid budget overruns and to 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 it ends up costing 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 are going to 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’re having control over the course of 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 a clear path to the final goals of the project instead of being distracted with papers, opening tasks, procedures, communication with clients, etc.
Also, it is very important 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 stop that it is important to set realistic goals, be direct and clear, conduct weekly (or some different period of time) reviews, praise the small victories, make sure your team knows 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, you need to 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 objective of the project keeping in mind the approved budget and deadline.
The projects have the tendency 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 to formulate a team of workers by creating a new team or take a leadership role with an existing team.
Once a team is created you assign tasks, deadlines and give your team tool to collaborate. It is necessary to make a feasible plan that achieves the goals of the project by giving answers to the following questions:
- What needs to be completed?
- Who is going to complete 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 course of the project.
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 constantly in line with the project progress so they can ensure the project is on the right track.
Project managers need to collaborate with team members to be sure resources are used efficiently and tasks are being solved on time as scheduled. Also, it is really important 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 how to 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.
What project manager needs to do is 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 a lot of decisions are made during the course of the project and this way a client can see the effort of a team, 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 are going to 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 progress of a project 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 progress of the project. 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 as the most important responsibility of a project manager.
It is important that the project manager takes the lead since the very beginning of a project.
He/she must coordinate with different people to ensure that the project goes on in a smooth manner, that the team is meeting the deadlines and following 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 is also capable of making fast and correct decisions in unplanned situations and he/she is the person who the team members look up to.
Tools for fools
Project management is one dynamic job and involves a lot of 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 team, documenting, communicating with the client and your skills have to be pretty good not to get lost in all of it and to 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 a lot of 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 a great tool for planning, assigning tasks, time tracking and communication 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 certain tasks, be in touch with clients via messages, etc.
So, now we presented all the key roles and responsibilities of a project manager. Challenging isn’t it? It can be stressful but if you have the right approach to the work it can be a really interesting and motivating job to do.
You need to be ambitious, proactive and the most important thing is that you need to love the diversity of this job from one project to another. Most of all, you need 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?