The Role of Project Manager

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the role of an efficient project manager. This can be achieved by discussing what project management is and why it is important in modern business. The role of project manager

involves considering various aspect of planning, coordinating and controlling of project. This section of the essay will demonstrate the role of project management. This can be discussed in the two stages, one is the core role of project manager (i.e. activity planning, creating charts scheduling, risk analysis and control) and the innate role played by him dealing with the project teams and other subsidiary tasks which are essentially performed by all managers. Further the essay will evaluate the role of project manager from my personal stint with project management at my earlier job.

Project Management institute has defined project as “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service” (Project Management Institute, 2004). Project management has been practiced since the dawn of times. From the time the civilizations became stable and started building roads, bridges, rotating crops etc they routed their projects unintentionally via project management techniques. But the increase in modern complexities like budgeting, cost, quality and time led to evolution of effective management technique which came to known as ‘Project Management’. Project management has earned world wide popularity and importance owing to its effectiveness while managing complexities in projects and rapid growth in project oriented organizations which has also contributed to professionalization of project management (Meredith and Mantel, 2006). Every project revolves around three main objectives first is to deliver required performance to meet clients expectation, second is the cost of the project, adding pressure on the manager to finish the project in prescribed budget and to complete the project in given time frame but with new developments and customer focused economy, customers views as well plays vital role.

Though project management being highly goal oriented and vital, it has been observed that project management has some limitations. The three main limitations according to William Killian are as under
1) Project priorities and competition amongst the talent may hinder the stability and long term interest of the organization.
2) The life of project being short and the organization indulging in scheduling for such temporary project may have to suffer in long term planning.
3) Further Killian adds that shuffling project teams often, my disturb the balance of the organization consequently hinder the growth in the specialized field.

Along with these there is also conflict in delegating authority. The senior manager tend to relinquish the authority and hence the middle and lower level manager are left in dilemma which further affects the performance, quality of work and time. However this constrains varies from project to project and it is also depends on the capability of the project manager. An efficient manager will be able to tackle this with his experience and skill whilst the inefficient manager will be fumbling with problems and try to settle it out. These limitations rather challenges will be a crucial test for a project manager in achieving the project goals successfully (Killian, n.d.).

The project manager’s task begins as soon as he is appointed the manager for a project. It is apparent that managers need to make choice amongst the possible projects and it is obvious that manager will select the project the maximize returns and the value of project portfolio for the company. Also it is important to note that project manager must keep in mind the long term strategy of the company while accepting and rejecting the projects (Milosevic, 2003). Like for a firm which is new into the project management business, it may have to accept certain projects at minimum possible return so as to get foot hold in the industry. The accepting and rejecting a project is very important task at the same time it is conflicting task (meaning the project may be profitable to some and may not be to some managers). However, there are several tools that can aid the project manager in deciding the viability of the project for example scoring model, analytical hierarchy process, economic method (Net present value, pay back and internal rate of return), portfolio selection approach and real options approach (Milosevic, 2003).

Nevertheless, these methods assume that project manager has more projects than the resources available to successfully complete the project. These methods hence only help in selecting a project that maximizes portfolio value, rather than helping the manager to decide whether to accept the project or not (in case of single project). Thus in the end the manager is in vulnerable position to decide about the project, consequently the manager may take an immature decision leading to failure of the project. Along the similar lines another important aspect for the manager is the closure of the project. Managers often hesitate to close the project even when the condition becomes reasonably adverse. He presumes that positive returns will flow once the period is over, but in most of the cases the condition worsens and the manager is held responsible for the failure of the whole project. Hence as Kerzner (2003) says project appraisal is the most important phase in the life of the project.

Once the first step is taken by accepting the project the project manager’s core project works commences. The manager has to undergo research process and chart out budget and schedule.
It is evident that most of the managers use programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) or critical path method (CPM) for project scheduling. But recently the use of PERT has reduced owing to the increased use of computerized technique. The use of these methods will help the manager to arrange the activities in logical sequence and allocate time required for each activity. The manager has to decide which path to be undertaken for connected activities. He has to choose appropriate person for the tasks and develop the project teams as well. Further he has to ensure that adequate facilities and supplies are available when needed especially in the early stage of the project. Simultaneously he has to start building relationship with the client and start knowing their requirements and expectations. As the work on project begins and more people are added the plans and schedule have to be updated accordingly and also the detail plan for the entire life cycle of the project are to be charted from the point of beginning of the project management till the work is finally completed (Meredith & Mantel, 2006).

Further it is important to discuss the responsibilities of the project manager whilst discussing the role of project management as an efficient tool to tackle complexities and uncertainties in projects. As per Meredith and Mantel (2006) project manager is responsible to mainly three group of people one is the senior management of the organization, second is the client and he is finally responsible to the project teams. Performing responsibilities towards each of this group is essentially the core and vital role of project manager. His role towards the organization entails conservation of resources, timely and accurate project communication. The project manager is expected to keep the senior management of the organization informed about the project status at all stages, including the problems anticipated, chances of running over budget or being late in completion of the project. Thus his basic responsibility is to give the management the true and fair view about the proceeding and take measures towards successful completion of the projects

Likewise the project manager is responsible towards to client by ensuring the integrity of the project is maintained even in the case of conflicting demands made by the other parties with legitimate interest. At the same time the manager is expected to ensure the quality, dimensions and other specifications of the client. On the other hand the project manager’s role in the project team varies with the nature of the team. His contribution in the project specialized team will be different from his contribution in other functional teams. Mantel and Meredith remark that it is crucial for the project manager to help the project workers with the transition of work or new projects. The project worker tends to pay more attention towards their own career as the project nears completion, leading to non completion of project on time. Hence forth the manager should be aware of this and help in the transition process.

With the advent of agile projects combined with increased modern complexities and uncertainties the role of project manager has become more intense and challenging (PMBOK Guide, 2006). The project manager has to perform the role of risk manager as well along with the normal role he performs. Project managers are often expected to anticipate the future and prepare their organization and project against risks and problems. The challenge is not to identify risk for a single project, but to predict it consistently and ensure that every project has the same level and depth of risk analysis (pmi.org, 2007). PMBOK guide (2006) refers to risk management as a process where the project manager along with the project team is required to conduct risk management planning, analyze, respond and monitor the project. Avoiding the risk management in any of the project may even result in total failure of the project. Therefore, managing risk is important element of project planning.

Along with the core role as a project manager he also has to act as a leader, a motivator, a guide and also as relationship manager. The scope of project management is widening, thus adding more pressure on the project manager. With globalization the word of mouth these days, the project managers are managing offshore projects. For example the IT industry based in India whose most of the clients are in Europe and North America, the project manager has understand the requirement of the client and has to even send the teams to do the same and even work on the project in some other country. The manager’s task becomes more tedious managing teams in home country and in the foreign country. In such cast the manager has to develop a communication system and monitor the project proceeding regularly. But the main issue in such project is the cultural difference. The manager must adapt to multi cultures as well as different working and social environment especially in offshore projects. Mental and Meredith (2006) emphasize that actual role of project management deals with reducing the conflict between stakeholders in the project (the project team, client, senior management and public).

As mentioned earlier in the essay as like other manager the project manager to be effective communicator (Mintzberg, 1973). Project manager plays a role of facilitator for the organization and the client while managing a project. Henceforth communication is vital aspect of project manager’s role. In order for a project to be successful there are two main essential ingredients that is people and effective exchange of ideas within them. If there are no people nothing can be done and without communication no body will know what to do. So communication is like engine oil if the engine is not provided with oil it will not run similarly one need to understand that communication should be treated as engine oil for any project. It is the role of the PM to ensure that there is effective communication within the team (Wideman, 2006).

From my own experience as a project manager handling a business development project in South Africa, I personally feel that communication and coordinating the activities is the main task of project manager. I had to manage two project teams one the investment planning team the based in South Africa and the other back office team in India. The investment planning team had to be briefed about all the latest proceedings in the financial markets and communicated effective targeting strategy to approach clients for investing in India. The investment planning team use to approach the clients and in case of any discrepancy on the clients end had to be cleared out by me. Any investment deals that were closed had to be communicated to the back office team in India to carry out further proceedings at the earliest. Here my role essentially was monitoring the activity. On the other hand my responsibility towards the senior management was to keep them updated about the progress, inform them about any anticipated problem. We were facing budget constrain to reach our targeted objective. Hence I had to communicate the same to the senior management and got increased the budget. The most important lesson for me being a project manager is keep the stake holders of the project informed and also keep the teams happy for smooth running of the project. The senior management does not like surprises.

The PM should spend considerable amount of time communicating with individual members of the team in order to understand their needs and concerns. The PM should also encourage communication within the contributors of the project. He/she should also try to establish regular communication with the clients and also the senior management about the progress of the project. Another important feature for effective communication is that the PM should emphasize more on written communication (Kerzner, 2003).

It is important to note that project manager’s work does not end on successful delivery of the task expected of him but he also plays a vital role in closure of the project. The closure of any project should be a controlled end. The PM is responsible to prepare the end project report with details of the main findings of the project. The Pm should also represent a formal view of the projects degree of success. The PM should also organize a project closure meeting with the concerned people. The meetings main aims should be to reviews the overall project and ensure the completeness of the major project deliverables. The project closure meeting should also be attended by the Project owner along with the Pm as it is the final control point. The PM should also provide the project owner with the end project report (get ahead, 2005).

In this final phase the project manager will be juggling the monitoring of fine detail with a review of the strategic objectives to ensure the project does actually achieve the desired outcomes (JISC info net)

It is evident from the above facts that role of project manager is comprehensive, dynamic at the same time challenging and rewarding as well. As Mantel and Meredith comment PM’s job is not free from problems and frustrations being responsible for the outcomes of the project. The problems involve dealing with parties, senior management, client, project team and public. With professionalization at the heart of business today, the manager task is expected to become more gruelling delivering quality for clients at the same time he has to be within the budget limits stated by the organization. He has to maintain appropriate trade off between client’s expectation and the stipulated budget. As more and more IT firms adopting project management model for their operations the scope of project managers seems bright. It can be concluded that there is no specific role of project manager; he has to work as the situation demands from him. It has been found that the real issue of the project manager is not technical but human (Mental and Meredith, 2006). And lastly as Mental and Meredith argue that challenge for the project manager these days is moving from technical to managerial position to identify the need and develop interpersonal skills.
Bibliography

Anonymous, “Project Closure”
Available from: http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/InfoKits/project-management/pm-project-closure
Accessed on: 20/03/07
Anonymous, “project initiation and project closure”
Available from: http://www.getahead-direct.com/gwpm07-project-initiation-and-project-closure.htm
Accessed on: 20/03/07
Kerzner, H (2003) “Project management- a systems approach to planning scheduling and controlling” Wiley publication
Meredith, J and Mantel S (2006) “Project Management- A managerial approach” 6th Edition John Wiley and sons publication
Milosevic, D (2003) “Project management toolbox tools and techniques for practicing project manager” Wiley publication
Project management institute, USA “A guide to the project management body of knowledge “(2004)
Wideman, M (2000) “Communication: The project life blood” accessed on 20/03/2007
Available from: http://www.maxwideman.com/musings/lifeblood.htm
Accessed on 20/03/2007

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