Whether you’re tasked with developing a new database, a marketing campaign, designing an online programme, planning a function, or any other project large or small, there are certain roles and responsibilities a project manager needs to fulfil in order to successfully execute a project.
While the daily tasks of a project manager will vary depending on the scope of the industry, field or project, the general roles and responsibilities of a project manager include four phases: planning, organising, leading, and ending off the project.1
While each phase is separate and defines a distinct aspect of a project, there are instances when they overlap. For example, planning does not only happen at the beginning of a project. While it would be ideal if plans were executed perfectly within budget and on time, this is not always the reality. Planning is generally something that occurs throughout the project, as adjustments need to continuously be made. A mark of a good project manager is someone who is dynamic and plans for changes in order to respond to them as quickly and efficiently as possible.2
As the project unfolds and a realistic picture of what it entails becomes clearer, your project can be refined. As a starting point, here is an overview of the four phases and how they work together to ensure a successful project. The role a project manager is pivotal in driving each phase of the plan. In amongst the hard skills of planning, organising, leading, and ending off, maintaining strong interpersonal relationships and strong problem-solving skills are key amongst project managers, as they are continuously dealing with people and changing circumstances.
The first phase of a project is about determining what has to be done and how it will be done. The planning function involves setting a purpose or goal, and establishing how to achieve this goal with the stakeholders, resources, and environmental constraints in mind.3
The most important step in any project is defining the overall objective of the project. However, it is important not to be too rigid when describing your initial baseline or purpose. The 2016 State of Project Management Annual Survey found that out of nearly 700 projects, almost a third are rarely completed according to the initial goals originally planned for.4 However, this doesn’t mean the goals of your project should not be discussed and determined at this stage. Once the purpose has been defined, a project manager needs to develop a plan to best execute the purpose or overall goal of the project.
To do this, there are certain aspects of the project the project manager needs to determine at this stage. Firstly, identifying the stakeholders and their various roles in the project will indicate to the project manager how wide or narrow the scope of the project is.5
Once this has been established, you need to determine what each person or team involved in the project is going to need in order to complete their job successfully. This is known as resource allocation, and is essential in creating a feasible budget in the organisation stage.6
Related to planning is the organising function, which involves delegating for the work to be done. Teams need to be put in place, and identify who needs to fulfil what role, and when, in order to meet the project delivery deadline.7
To ensure everyone is aware of their roles, project managers need to create a schedule. With an idea of the stakeholders, the scope, and the resources needed, you can begin scheduling the project. It is important to keep in mind tasks can run late, so as you create your schedule, it is advised you leave some room for delays between tasks.
When you begin to create the schedule for your project, the first thing to ask yourself is what needs to be done in order to meet your project’s goals.9 It is important to be detail oriented, specific, and thorough in this stage as your schedule will be refined from this list of tasks.
Next, decide which tasks need to be completed before others can begin in order to establish the order of the tasks.10 If you are dealing with a large project spanning over a considerable period of time, it is advised to create project milestones.11 This makes it easy to track progress, and serves as motivation and reassurance for your team and stakeholders.
Having decided on the order, you now need to establish a timeline.12 Discuss with each team or stakeholder responsible for each task to get an accurate idea of how long each task will take to complete. It is important to manage expectations in this stage, and always budget for some wriggle room in your schedule to take precautions against unexpected delays or challenges.
With your timeline in place, you can begin to give a detailed allocation of tasks to the teams and stakeholders.13 Ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities, their deadlines, and how their role impacts the project as a whole.
When the project begins and your schedule is put to use, as the project manager it is crucial you continually review14 the process and remedy any delays, issues, or misunderstandings as early as possible.
This step should happen once you have successfully defined all the tasks that need to be done to complete the project, or after the first step in the scheduling process. Using your task list, estimate the cost of each component of your project.15 Make sure to take every aspect into account, and be as flexible as possible, while still remaining within your limitations.16
Hosting a kick-off meeting is all about briefing your team on the schedule you have created. It is about clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the project, and receiving feedback from those who are experts in the field. For example, if you had initially allocated one week for production, but the head of production knows it takes 10 days, you can adjust your estimates, budget, and activities accordingly.17
This stage is about the execution of the project. It is the project managers job to make sure every aspect involved in the project is going according to plan.18
Keeping a close watch over the project helps to catch any signs of emerging problems early on. Tasks in the project running over time, issues in the team, quality and budget concerns are easier to get back on track if you catch them earlier rather than later.19 To successfully monitor your project, you can follow a few simple steps throughout the process:
- Having developed your plan and your detailed schedule, you need to communicate the expectations of the project clearly to your team. With clarity on what is expected of them, you will be able to effectively monitor progress.
- Set intervals for when you monitor. It is important not to micromanage, though you do need to keep a good level of oversight at all times. Decide on an interval that works for you, your team, and the project timeline, and communicate these clearly to your team so they can be prepared, and your meetings are productive.
- It is your job as the project manager to not only monitor the progress, but track progress throughout. Decide at the beginning how you will go about determining progress, and keep a record of the necessary data, information, and updates as you go.
- As you collect information and evaluate the progress of the project overall, it is important to adjust expectations and communicate these adjustments if and where necessary.
Holding progress meetings can help keep teams and stakeholders connected to the bigger picture and the overall goal of the project in relation to how they fit into the process. Reporting to them on the progress of the project helps to maintain transparency to avoid surprises down the line, and allows them to provide input if any issues do arise.20 It also gives an opportunity to problem solve, and keeps everyone involved focussed and driven to achieve the overall objective.
4. Ending Off
Before you close your project, you need to evaluate how your team and project performed in comparison to the initial goal set at the start of the project. Make sure you and your stakeholders are on the same page with how the project performed, and whether it is time to close the project or not.21
Reflecting on the overall success post-project allows teams to share lessons learnt in order to grow from experience and prepare in the best way for the next project.22
The steps outlined above indicate the role of a project manager in planning, organising, leading, and closing a project, and the responsibilities that go along with each phase. Organisation, forward-thinking, practical problem solving, and relationship management are all characteristics of an efficient project manager – capable of handling complex projects.
- 1 The four phases of project management. (Nov, 2016). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 2 Bodepudi, M. (Feb, 2018). ‘Roles and responsibilities of project manager & project management team’. Retrieved from Grey Campus
- 3 Nicholas, J., Steyn, H. (2017). ‘Project management for engineering, business and technology’. Retrieved from The Fifth Edition of Project Management for Engineering, Business and Technology.
- 4 Wellington Project Management. (2016). ‘The state of project management annual survey 2016’. Retrieved from Wellington Project Management.
- 5 Ray, S. (May, 2017). ‘How to create a project management plan’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 6 Ray, S. (May, 2017). ‘How to create a project management plan’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 7 Chandrayan, P. (Oct, 2017). ‘Project managers: roles and responsibilities.’ Retrieved from Codeburst.
- 8 The four phases of project management. (Nov, 2016). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 9 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 10 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 11 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 12 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 13 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 14 Westland, J. (Jul, 2013). ‘How to create a project management schedule’. Retrieved from Project Manager.
- 15 Harrin, E. (Jul, 2018). ‘Easy steps to create a project budget’. Retrieved from The Balance Careers.
- 16 The four phases of project management. (Nov, 2016). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 17 The four phases of project management. (Nov, 2016). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 18 Chandrayan, P. (Oct, 2017). ‘Project managers: roles and responsibilities.’ Retrieved from Codeburst.
- 19 Peterman, R. (Aug, 2016). ‘Project management phases’. Retrieved from Project Management.
- 20 The four phases of project management. (Nov, 2016). Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 21 Nicholas, J., Steyn, H. (2017). ‘Project management for engineering, business and technology’. Retrieved from The Fifth Edition of Project Management for Engineering, Business and Technology.
- 22 Harvard Business Review (Apr, 2006). ‘Managing Projects: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges’. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.