A Project is a temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case. The main characteristics of a project has:
- A start and end date.
- A pre-defined limited scope, time, budget & resources.
- A clear objective in which results need to be achieved.
- One or more sponsors and/or stakeholders.
During your Project Manager career you will come across all sorts of different sized projects. Your role is to manage every aspect of the project from start to finish. A project is more than just a product deliverable as it encompasses all the activities and tasks that need to take place to make sure the project is successfully delivered. Project manage is a continual balancing act between delivering the scope within time, quality and cost constraints.
The role of a project manager (which differs from industry to industry) will include the following responsibilities:
- Executing, monitoring, controlling and closing a project.
- Creating and implementing schedules to meet deadlines.
- Cost estimation and budget development.
- Team structuring and resourcing.
- Performing quality assurance.
- Managing and mitigating risk.
A Project Manager (PM) is responsible for delivering a Project from inception to completion. A Project is a temporary assignment in order to meet an agreed Business Case. The Project Manager will operate under the guidance of project Stakeholders (eg: Senior Management and key business users) but will take ownership of the day-to-day activities, risks and issues.
The Business Case and Project Initiation Documents will include:
- Project Scope & Objectives
- Expected Benefits and Success Criteria
- Constraints on Budget, Time and Resources
- A Governance and Reporting Structure
The Project Plan will map out the key deliverables, underlying tasks, dependencies, resources, and timelines needed to deliver the project, based on a defined Start and End Date.
A Project Manager may be responsible for one or more of the following:
Communication and Governance
- Providing input into the Project Initiation Document (PID), for example on Reporting and Governance Structures
- Communicating with Project Stakeholders, the Project Team and other interested parties, as defined in the PID
- Producing updates and status reports as agreed in the PID
- Escalating Risks and Issues where necessary
- Seeking approval when Project scope changes
Creating the Project Plan
The Project Manager should create a plan so that everyone knows how the project will be organised and what needs to be delivered when. This includes:
- Identifying the Key Milestones needed to meet project objectives
- Breaking down Milestones into Actionable Tasks
- Identifying the types of Resource needed to complete each Task
- Estimating the required Effort to complete each Task
- Identifying Dependencies between Tasks
- Creating a Timeline of Tasks and Milestones showing how work will be sequenced
- Identifying potential Risks which could impact project delivery
- Creating Risk Mitigation strategies in order to minimise these Risks
- Calculating the expected Cost of the Project
- Obtaining Sign-off from Project Stakeholders to proceed
Managing the Project
The Project Manager should monitor progress against the plan, and adjust as necessary. This includes:
- Identifying (and prioritising) activities on the Critical Path (ie: if not delivered in time will affect the overall project Delivery Date
- Marking off deliverables once completed; re-planning items which have not been delivered on schedule
- Managing changes to the original project scope/requirements, and re-planning activities accordingly
- Ensuring that Project Resources are assigned in the right time and place
- Addressing Resource Conflicts
- Monitoring costs and budgets (versus the Project Plan)
On smaller projects, the Project Manager may work alone, but on bigger projects they are likely to be supported by a Project Management Office (PMO) who will perform some of the more administrative aspects of Project Management (eg: gathering information for weekly status updates), and free up the Project Manager to perform the more strategic value-add activities.
On very large projects, there will be multiple PMs who report into a Program Manager, who oversees a whole programme of inter-related projects. A Program Manager usually has a lot of project and business experience, and strong relationships with senior management.
Closing a Project
Projects may complete, or terminate abruptly; but should always be Closed in an orderly manner, with all output preserved, so that the Project can be revisited later if required, and positive/negatives can be re-examined (to enhance future projects). The Project Manager is responsible for Project Closure.
You need to be able to self-manage yourself as well as others, handle pressure and stress very easily as well as be demonstrate your leadership skills. Key skills include:
- Organisation, Planning and Time Management: Defining and monitoring the Project Plan, and associated Resources requires exceptional organisational skills
- Communication/Influencing Skills: able to communicate clearly/concisely, build relationships, and influence key stakeholders
- Strategic and Detailed Thinker: able to understand the “big picture”, but also have attention to detail
- Flexibility: able to adapt/change track when new information requires a different path
- Common Sense and Calmness-Under-Pressure: knowing how to react when the plan changes or an issue/risk arises; judging when to panic, and when it’s not really that important
The Project Manager is not expected to be an expert in all project matters, but should be able to organise and facilitate, and often to learn quickly. They will often be exposed to a lot of information, and will need to distil it into points relevant to the project.
The Project Manager will also need leadership qualities – they will not usually directly manage project resources, but will need to bring them together as a team and know how to get the best out of them (when they will often have other competing priorities).
A Project Manager’s role is to ensure project delivery; they are not always there to make friends. The Project Manager will need to be able to challenge team members, in a firm but fair manner, if they are not delivering to expectations.
The role of a project manager is very varied and no two projects are identical to each other. It pays very well once you have a track record of success with delivering complex projects.
There is a continually growing market for project management skills, for several reasons:
- Companies are becoming more projects orientated.
- Companies are looking to improve their project success rates.
- Companies are recognising the link between strategic ambition and projects.
- As work becomes more global and complex, this drives demand for improved project management.
Project management is not just about being organised. The personality traits of a senior project manager are similar to those of a successful entrepreneur: they take responsibility, they lead and they drive a team to achieve success. Not everyone makes a good project manager. There are many roles within project management though that will suit most people.
There are a number of project disciplines include project management, project administration, project support office functions, project planning, programme management, programme planning, and portfolio management. So plenty of opportunities to grow.
To get the best start, you could consider obtaining Project Management certification, or perhaps working as an administrator in a project office alongside studying.
Project management is just one of the many ‘levels’ within the possible project related discipline and career options that you will encounter. The diagram below shows where the Project Manager role sits within the overall structure.
If you’re thinking of university, a business course will usually contain a module or two on project management. Otherwise, take a course to become skilled with the theory before going for a job interview. Alternatively, go for a project administrator role first and learn on the job while taking a course to get accredited as a project manager. If you are lucky, your company may pay for the course. If they do, expect to have to agree to a reciprocal agreement as the company is investing in you and spending money on you. For instance, you may have to pay back the course fees (partial or full) if you leave the company within six months of taking the course.
There are a couple different popular project management certifications that you can earn. For example, in the UK, PRINCE2 is very well-known (especially for government projects) and there’s also accredited courses by the Association of Project Managers, APM. The project management principles are similar between them all and it’s always best to have as many accreditations as possible to stand out from the crowd.
Here’s a summary of the training courses for each track, that once passed, will mean that you become accredited!
|Beginner||PRINCE2 Foundation||Project Manager Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ)|
|Intermediate||PRINCE2 Practitioner||Project Manager Project Management Qualification (PMQ)|
|Advanced||PRINCE2 Professional||Project Manager Project Professional Qualification (PPQ)|
As well as the project management courses listed above, there are other courses worth considering. It’s well worth the investment in yourself which will reap rewards afterwards. These will help you stand out from the crowd and make yourself a well-rounded project manager. The courses include:
- Project Management Tools, Techniques & Software: eg: Gantt Charts, Microsoft Project, Zoho, Asana, Sharepoint, JIRA, Mindmapping software
- Soft Skills: Communication, Presentation, Time Management, Leadership, Creative Problem Solving
- Industry Knowledge/Training: specialist knowledge can be useful (especially when working in a complex industry) but the ability to learn quickly is more essential.
And if you are working on software projects, using the Agile SCRUM methodology, it’s worth looking into the Agile Project Manager courses.
There are a number of professional bodies that you can choose between in order to become a qualified ‘chartered’ project manager and provide you with continuous professional development (known as CPD). Click on the logo below to find out more information.
Project Administrator £16,000 – £27,000
Junior Project Manager £22,000 – £32,000
Project Manager £25,000 – £50,000
Senior Project Manager £50,000 – £75,000
Program Manager £80,000 – £120,000
Project Director £100,000 – £150,000
* The above salary figures are averages, per annum and a rough guideline as salaries will differ by geographic location and industry.
So what are you waiting for? Get started on your project manager career path right away! If you are already on the path, there is always more that you can do to accelerate your journey. And don’t forget we have more resources online and you can always book a course at inkscroll.com!
The inkscroll.com team