The complete guide to project management & what it means to be a project manager
If you ever worked on projects (which you surely did), you must know that one of the most important factors leading to their success is the project management. And this is exactly what we talk about in this article: we give you a complete guide to project management and we ponder on what it really means to be a successful project manager.
Project management and project managers – definitions
Let’s start with some theory. Simply put, project management is a process of applying methods, skills, and experience to lead the work of a team to achieve certain goal, all within given constrains such as scope, time, and budget.
Project managers are people who organise, plan, and execute projects on time and to the best results. Being a project manager is always a big responsibility, no matter what kind of project they work on – in the end, the success or failure of each project is always down to them. They are the ones that are the easiest to praise and to blame.
Project managers are needed in every industry. No matter whether it’s marketing, tourism, construction or software development, every company works on projects.
Tasks and responsibilities of a project manager
The role of a project manager is incredibly complex, but it can be summarised in one sentence: it comprises on day-to-day management of the project. Let’s look into typical tasks and responsibilities of a project manager to understand what such a person does on daily basis.
Every project is divided into five parts: initiation, planning, execution, control, and closure. Project managers are involved in all those stages.
- At the beginning their role is to define the scope of the project – they need to think about the end goal in terms of deadlines, costs, budget, resources, and expectations.
- Later, they need to plan the project and gather a team, making sure each team member is aware of the work that needs to be done.
- Then comes project control: the process of monitoring the progression and performance of the whole team, as well as making sure that all is done within budget and deadlines.
- Other important tasks here are documenting the progress of the project and communicating it to stakeholders and teammates, assessing risks and responding to changes and any problems that may occur during the execution of the project.
- That’s done, project managers close their projects, hand them over and review them for the future.
What makes someone a “good” project manager?
Given the complexity of the role, becoming a good and successful project manager is not an easy task. What are the skills needed to become a project manager? Above all, a person keen to become valuable project manager needs to be a proper leader – the main goal of each PM is to lead the team to achieve a certain goal. And leading the team has many different aspects: from recruiting and training to couching, managing, and solving personnel problems.
Another skill that is essential for the role is the ability to communicate with people at very different levels: stakeholders, sponsors, teammates, customers, sometimes suppliers. What’s more, project managers need to be incredibly well organised and have great time management skills.
As the role is dynamic and evolves with the project, project managers need to have the ability to work under pressure and see the big picture despite minor problems that may occur. They also need to be able to cope well with stress – being a project manager means making a lot of decisions and accepting risks associated with them.
How to become an effective project manager?
To become an effective project manager, one needs to develop great communication skills, leadership skills, decision making ability and team-building skills. The job description of a project management coordinator is usually a long one and includes several different responsibilities, not necessarily related to the actual product the team is developing.
Many project managers hold a degree in the industry they are keen to work in, some have qualifications in Business Administration or Management. But, as they say, there is nothing better than experience. And indeed, its experience that makes the best PMs in the world.
If you are keen to start your career in project management, start from the junior positions and slowly go up. Many aspects of the PM role are similar to those of different jobs, so the good news is that you can become a project manager at any stage of your career.
Challenges of managing projects as a project manager
Being a project manager that manages other people’s projects can be tricky. Managing projects as an induvial is linked to a high level of stress, a lot of responsibilities and many various challenges one can encounter at any time.
The main ones include:
- Lack of proper communication, being it between the team members or between the stakeholders,
- Scope creep – a situation when project management allows the project’s scope to extend beyond its objectives,
- Lack of clear goals and success criteria,
- Problems with budgeting and time management,
- Lack of adequate skills within your team,
- Inadequate risk management.
Why being a good project manager really matters?
For a project to be successful it needs to be managed well – it is as simple as that. No matter whether the project is to organise a party for staff or to conduct a complex software development job, good project managers are extremely valuable and they always make a difference.