A Day In the Life of a Project Manager
In this article, we'll cover:
Project manager jobs are expected to increase by over 12% by 2020. This rapid growth in the project management field also means higher salaries and advancement in sectors like finance, healthcare, oil and gas, construction, manufacturing and information technology.
But to be successful, you need to know all the ins and outs of the project management profession and what a project manager does. It’s a huge responsibility and involves a lot of processes–from initiation to completion.
What is a project manager?
A project manager is the one who leads the team responsible for achieving the project objectives.
Often, project manager roles get confused with the functional manager and operations manager.
Functional managers focus on providing management oversight for a functional or business unit. They manage and own specific resources in the department and direct the technical work of individuals from that area working on the project.
Operations managers, on the other hand, ensure that business operations are efficient. They are the key part of the management team, overseeing HR duties like attracting prospective employees and setting training standards.
A project manager plays an important role in initiating, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Ultimately, the project manager roles may vary from organization to organization.
What does a project manager do?
The project manager plays a critical role in the leadership of a project team in order to meet the project’s objectives.
Project manager jobs vary. Sometimes they get involved in a project from its initiation to closing. In this case, a project manager is fully responsible for managing the team in all phases of the project management lifecycle.
In some organizations, they may be involved in evaluation and activities prior to project initiation. This may include providing ideas on how to improve organizational performance, how to meet customer needs, and how to get things done within the budget.
They may also be involved in follow-on related activities related to realizing business benefits from the project.
Here are the key aspects of the project manager role revolves in:
- Project. The project manager leads the project team to meet the objectives and stakeholders’ expectations. They work on identifying the problem and planning possible solutions doable for a specific time and budget.
- Organization. Other projects in the organization may impact your own project. Because of this, you might need to interact with other project managers within the organization. This is possible if both of your projects may demand the same resources or other projects may have priorities of funding. The project manager needs to develop relationships with the other project managers so they can work out possible conflicts.
- Industry. The project manager stays informed about current industry trends. They take this information and see how it may impact or how they can apply it to their current projects. Changes like new standards, tools, process improvements, and strategic developments should be monitored by project managers to keep their team on the loop.
- Professional Development. Ongoing professional development is very important for project managers. They continuously participate in training, continuing education, and development in the project management profession and in other areas where they are considered as ‘subject matter experts’. It also includes taking different project management certifications to further their knowledge and skills to their field.
The role of a project manager doesn’t just end in the four aspects mentioned above. Let’s get through the other responsibilities of a project manager.
1 - the Project
Initiation is the first phase of the project management life cycle, which involves starting a new project. Project managers start with defining a project’s scope, purpose and expected outcome. In this phase, they also identify internal and external stakeholders and obtain the necessary authorization to move forward towards the project.
Under this phase, a project team is built to deliver the project to the client. A business case is also developed to define the problem or opportunity and identify a specific solution to be implemented. The business case must include:
- A detailed description of the problem
- A list of possible solutions
- Analysis of the business benefits, costs, risks and issues
- Description of the preferred solution
- Project requirements
- Summarized plan for implementation
After defining the project and a project team has been assigned, it’s now time to start with the next phase of the project management life cycle.
Project planning is the heart of the whole project life cycle. It refers to everything you do to set up a project. This tells everyone where you’re heading, and the steps you’ll make to get there successfully.
In this phase, you define the project objectives, clarify what needs to be done and develop a task list to do it. Project managers document project plans, define project deliverables and requirements and create project schedules. They also create a clear plan to execute and monitor each phase of the project. They know how to make adjustments along the way.
The plan established helps project managers oversee the project scope, cost, timeline, risks, issues and communication throughout the project. It is also essential for meeting deadlines.
Execution is usually the longest part of the project management lifecycle. This phase is about deliverables and outputs and where the project plan is put into motion and the work is being performed. In this part, project managers must control and communicate with the team members to make sure everything is implemented properly.
The primary objective in this phase is to construct deliverables based on the project plan and evaluate the processes to deliver the output within the agreed specifications.
During the project implementation, team members and project managers perform the tasks needed and the progress information is being reported during regular meetings.
Project managers lead the team, stimulate their team members to reach their full potential and meet project objectives. They also ensure tasks are completed as scheduled.
4 - and Controlling
Monitoring and controlling phase involves the actual tracking of a project performance with the planned activities and tasks to successfully deliver the project. This phase takes place at all stages of project management–from initiation to closing.
For small projects, this can be an easy task. But for large scale projects, monitoring and controlling can be a daunting task. Oftentimes, project management is required for large projects where the project manager must make an effort to monitor and control how the project is going.
The monitoring and controlling phase involves three factors:
a. Time Management
Deadlines are always present in every project. A project manager knows how to manage time effectively. He/she delegates each task with his/her team members and makes sure everything will be done on time.
Time management is essential in project management to organize your team’s tasks on a daily basis. This is also to maintain the level of effectiveness and productivity when working for a specific project.
Complying with the given deadline can sometimes be pressuring. But as a project manager, you must also make sure you submit the output on time without compromising the quality of work. In this way, you can also build trust with your clients.
The goal of budget management is to control project expenses within the approved project budget and deliver the expected results.
Budgeting is an important part of the planning process. Without a well-planned and properly estimated budget, the project can’t move forward.
A good project manager knows how to work within the given budget. They review their finances and make adjustments ahead if needed. You must be able to understand the importance of cost estimation and budgeting. It’s a critical aspect you need to work on to avoid future discrepancies and conflicts.
c. Monitoring Progress
Project management doesn’t just end with planning and executing a project. In the beginning, project managers and team members might have the same clear vision, but it doesn’t always stay the same throughout the process. A project manager should monitor every aspect of the project from start to finish.
Monitoring a project involves keeping track of each part of the project plan. An effective project monitoring can help you see if the intended results are achieved as planned and what actions are needed to achieve the intended results.
It’s also important so you can assess ahead whether the initiatives are creating a positive impact to the project execution or not.
This is the final phase of the project management lifecycle. This emphasizes the completion and releasing of the final deliverables to the client together with the project documentation. It also involves termination of the contract and communicating the closure of the project to all stakeholders.
There’s still a lot of things to do when closing a project. The project manager is responsible for checking and making sure that all project works are completed and the objectives are met.
Project managers should make sure all project resources are released. They should also conduct lessons-learned studies to assess what worked well and what didn’t. This assessment will help the team to work on future projects better.
a. Managing projects and other documents
Final reports and documentations are important in every project. It is essential to ensure all the necessary activities and documentation are complete. These can serve as reference for future project teams.
Project documentation encompasses all the documents involved in a project. It is needed to make sure project expectations and objectives are intact and project tasks are traceable.
Project managers should know how to present comprehensive project reports and should be vigilant professionals on tracking project progress. With a proper project documentation, you and your team can make better decisions.
b. Project Insights
In every completed project, the project manager should conduct and record lessons learned. These are the documented information that reflects the positive and negative experiences of a project.
As a project manager, you should collect inputs from the project team and stakeholders as well as feedback and review of all the bad and good things that happened from the beginning to completion of a project.
From there, you can leverage the positive experiences like new processes and technologies to improve your performance in your future projects. On the other hand, you can take note of all the negative experiences and make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes again.
What makes a good project manager?
A good project manager needs a combination of attributes which is crucial in becoming an effective leader. Project managers must deliver every project on time and on budget and meet the client’s expectations or even go beyond.
Also, project managers must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with stakeholders in the beginning and during the implementation of a project.
Skills and attributes a project manager should have
Project manager jobs require a lot of skills and knowledge to plan and implement a project. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but with proper technical, business and management skills, you can ensure to deliver quality output to your clients.
To manage a project well, a project manager must possess the following skills and attributes.
- Establish good relationship with the team and stakeholders
- Acquire project management certifications
- Build and sustain strong communication with everyone involved in the project
- Apply and possess quality management principles
Project manager certifications you can take
As mentioned above, project managers take continuous education and development in the project management profession. This includes different project management certifications that can further your knowledge in handling multiple projects and teams.
Here are some of the most common project management certifications you can take:
The Project Management Professional is the most prestigious project management certification and desired by many employers around the world. This is accredited by the Project Management Institute and demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of project management.
Agile Certified Practitioner
The Agile Certified Practitioner is PMI’s fastest growing certification. ACP recognizes your knowledge and skills in agile principles and techniques.This is for project managers working in agile teams or whose company is moving towards agile principles.
Certified Scrum Master
The CSM is offered by Scrum Alliance and is recommended for project managers who want to lead teams utilizing Scrum–an agile framework for completing complex tasks. CSM is an entry-level certification that demonstrates Scrum principles and methods.
Certified Associate in Project Management
Also accredited by PMI, CAPM is considered as an entry-level certification for project managers. Though it’s not a prerequisite for the other PMI certifications, some professionals take CAPM before they receive their PMP certification. CAPM demonstrates the fundamental skills and knowledge a project manager should possess.
The project manager jobs and the roles and responsibilities tasked with each team member, whether big or small, is very beneficial for the success of each project. The project manager and the project team need to work hand-in-hand to be efficient in what they do.
Also, project management requires continuous learning and development through training and certifications. Are you ready to skyrocket your career now?
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