The Role of a Project Manager
The primary role of a project manager is to manage the project on a daily basis through to a successful conclusion which has stuck to pre-determined targets such as time frame or cost. The quality of the finished project is also taken into account, and, depending upon the nature of the project, the project may still be considered a success even if some targets are not met, although the whole point of having a project manager in the first place is to try and stop the project getting out of control and missing these targets/objectives.
A project manager will often need to co-ordinate tasks between different people or groups who will often never have spoken before, or may never even meet. For example, a project manager on a construction site may need to arrange for electricians to come and do all the wiring after the builders have finished putting in interior walls. Not only will the project manager have to arrange and supervise their progress, but they will also have to get the timings right between them. If the electricians come too long after the builders, the project may overrun and be finished behind schedule. If they come too soon, they will be sat around waiting for the builders to finish but still wanting to be paid, which leads to additional costs. The project manager may also need to facilitate team working and interaction between various people, departments or groups that would otherwise not speak to each other or never met before. Going back to the building example again, the electricians may need the builders to do something specific such as put in gaps of a certain dimension for lights to be installed. The project manager will need to ensure that the electricians and the builders are communicating to ensure that these gaps are built into the wall correctly, otherwise the whole wall may need to be demolished and re-done, which leads to delays and additional expense.
The project manager may also call on specialist people within the business to do a certain task. These people may normally outrank the project manager in the company hierarchy, but it is important that as far as the project is concerned, the project manager has ultimate authority, otherwise arguments and questioning of decisions may ensue, which causes confusion and delays as workers do not know who to listen to and take instructions from.
Some project managers, particularly in those projects that are only utilising a handful of people, may also do some of the work themselves, particularly if they are a specialist in a certain area. When this happens, the project manager needs to remember that they are responsible for overseeing the entire project, and not to get too engrossed with the specific work that they are personally carrying out.
The above text only details a small selection of the numerous tasks and challenges that a person who has the role of a project manager will need to overcome, but it highlights the fact that not only does the project manager need to understand the technical aspects of project management, but it is crucial that they possess good people skills to promote team working and communication between those working on the project, as well as between the project manager themselves and workers so that regular and honest progress reports are made that allow the project manager to keep up-to-speed with exactly what is going on and the problems/issues that need to be addressed.