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what is a project manager
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Globally, organizations are adapting to new workplace realities by using technology and automation to digitize their workflows and processes, which increases their potential for handling technology-based projects. As companies implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), they will need project professionals who are well-versed in technology to help them navigate the post-pandemic marketplace. Also, tech-related projects require a considerable knack for solving complex and unique problems, while efficiently managing budgets and timelines. This requirement has created a demand for project managers, making it one of the most sought-after career choices among skilled workforces.

What Is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a professional who plans projects, then executes them with the help of a team of skilled individuals, while managing timelines and budgetary constraints. Project managers supervise their teams’ daily activities and are responsible for delivering the final product or service to their client. They are competent in core technical skills, such as overseeing a project’s scope, schedule, risks, human resources and finances. However, they also possess soft skills like communication skills, emotional intelligence and the ability to manage diverse and multicultural teams operating remotely or in a hybrid format.

Project managers shape the outcomes and the success of their projects. They are involved in every step of the project, from the first to the last stage, and are the link between clients, team members, vendors and other direct or indirect stakeholders.

What Does a Project Manager Do? Duties & Responsibilities

Project managers have several duties and responsibilities, from defining the project scope, to communicating with stakeholders, to allocating and managing resources. Irrespective of the industry, sector or project management methodology, project managers are expected to plan, oversee and deliver projects by optimally utilizing available resources.

Among their roles and responsibilities, project managers:

Define the Project Scope and Determine Resource Availability

To deliver a project, a project manager must define its scope and metrics, assess its feasibility, understand its requirements, and evaluate available resources. Defining the scope allows project managers to determine whether or not available resources will suffice. Project managers work with the human resources department to hire more resources if needed, while factoring in time and budgetary constraints.

Develop the Project Plan

develop the project plan

A project manager’s responsibilities include developing a project plan, which involves identifying key stakeholders, outlining deliverables, setting tasks and allocating resources. To ensure optimum resource utilization, a project manager must also identify best-fit individuals to meet various project requirements. Automation tools like Polaris PSA can help project managers identify best-fit resources while factoring in the resources’ bandwidths.

Assign Tasks and Set Deadlines

Project managers must manage time as a resource, and assign deadlines for all tasks. Thus, when assigning tasks, they need to factor in resource availability and allocate tasks to resources with the best fit. This approach helps minimize rework, enabling team members to complete their tasks within the stipulated timelines.

Plan and Forecast

Plan and Forecast

Project managers use project forecasting to predict an ongoing project’s outcome. This method helps them assess cost, time, and the deliverable’s quality, to determine whether or not the project is on track with respect to key parameters like budget, timeline, and quality.

In addition, planning and forecasting help predict profitability, though these methods do require extensive data analysis and interpretation skills to understand past projects’ outcomes. However, this effort may be worthwhile, since understanding past projects can help managers make informed decisions.

Skills of a Project Manager

A project manager must be able to plan, manage, execute and finish projects, and have impeccable people and project management skills. These skills enable managers to delegate and prioritize tasks and deliverables, manage and optimize resource allocation, analyze problems and project performance and share progress with concerned stakeholders.

Some of the key skills project managers require are outlined below.

  • 1. Risk Management

    Risks are intrinsic to project management, and the absence of robust risk management practices can significantly impact a project’s outcome; it is their job to identify, address, and mitigate risks.

    Risk management involves planning, evaluating, and implementing proactive interventions to ensure positive project outcomes. Project managers employ risk management strategies to identify a project’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities (SWOT). This three–sixty-degree SWOT analysis helps managers anticipate the unexpected and respond quickly before bottlenecks manifest into more serious concerns. They also need to understand their organization’s or department’s risk tolerance levels before making critical decisions.

  • 2. Cost Management

    Cost management refers to planning, estimating and monitoring costs across a project’s life cycle, with the primary objective of assessing the financial resources required to undertake project-related tasks and duties. Project managers are expected to develop a budget and allocate funds accordingly. They also need to track the expenses incurred on project-related activities, ensure financial compliance, and gather data on actual project expenses to make informed decisions. Thus, project managers should possess excellent financial management skills, too.

  • 3. Negotiation

    An important aspect of a project manager’s job is to negotiate project deliverables and help clients clearly understand what the team can feasibly deliver. This process involves setting realistic expectations and creating a consensus on the final product or service. Managers must also be adept at negotiating timelines and costs.

  • 4. Technical Expertise

    Project managers must continually learn and grow to keep up with the latest technologies. This subject matter expertise allows them to more effectively communicate challenges and potential bottlenecks with team members and management. Plus, it empowers them to use technology for enhanced project outcomes. Thus, knowing how to leverage technology is a crucial hard skill for project managers.

  • 5. Communication


    Teams that communicate effectively register 25 percent higher productivity than those that don’t. Thus, communication is one of the most critical attributes of successful project management, since it involves diverse stakeholders – clients, vendors, and team members. Effective communication ensures that all stakeholders understand the project’s progress and bottlenecks and work collectively toward a shared goal. Project managers must communicate the organization’s vision and outline their expectations from team members; Managers’ communication skills allow them to share their views in a concise and effective manner. Similarly, these skills help them convey the client’s concerns and vision to their team.

    Communication skills are critical for enhancing productivity and ensuring that team members can share their concerns and challenges, especially when workforces worldwide are working remotely or using hybrid setups. Thus, the corporate shift toward digital workplaces and project management practices has increased the importance of communication for efficient project management.

  • 6. Leadership Skills

    Leadership skills are non-negotiable for project managers, as they must lead a group of highly-skilled professionals. Project managers are expected to encourage team members, set goals and timelines, coordinate activities and devise a roadmap to achieve project targets. Besides all of that, they must also demonstrate accountability and institutionalize a progressive and enabling team culture, which is tricky as they are not decision-makers or leaders.

    Project managers must be resilient, self-reflective, flexible, and fast-learning, as they are expected to impart these values to their team members. They must lead by example.

  • 7. Adaptability

    Project managers must be highly adaptable, as project requirements can change considerably and quickly. Plus, they must be able to adopt new technologies, master them quickly, and encourage their team members to learn them. For instance, several organizations have shifted from legacy systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERPs) to Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools. Managing such rapid changes to established processes requires quick learning and the ability to adopt new tools, workflows and processes. Thus, they must demonstrate the willingness to learn, unlearn, and adapt on the go, while setting high benchmarks for their team members.

  • 8. Stress Management Skills

    Workplace stress is at an all-time high as an unprecedented number of employees are reporting burnout, symptoms of distress, depression, and anxiety. Uncertainty, working within silos, and rampant attrition are impacting employees in large numbers. These challenges underline the importance of stress management skills for efficient project management. While project managers must often meet challenging timelines, they must also ensure that their team members are not under undue mental and physical stress.

  • 9. Openness to Multiculturalism and Diversity


    Workplaces are more multicultural and ethnically diverse than ever before – thanks to remote hiring and hybrid workplaces, which have allowed organizations to tap into the global talent pool. Therefore, project managers must appreciate and accept diversity and differences and not discriminate. This outlook helps nurture a progressive and forward-looking team culture that breeds excellence.

Qualifications of a Project Manager

1. Higher Education

Organizations usually expect a bachelor’s degree from candidates interested in project manager roles. However, it is not uncommon for companies to hire professionals with specific expertise or experience, overlooking academic accomplishments. Those interested in specific project management programs can opt for an undergraduate certificate in project management, a professional certificate in project management, or a bachelor of science in project management.

Professionals seeking a long-term career in project management can choose a master’s project management degree that offers in-depth learning on subjects like cost and value management and ethics in project management.

2. Certifications

The demand for project managers has created traction for project management certifications. These programs help professionals acquire new skills and demonstrate the experience that organizations are looking for. As a result, several organizations offer project management certifications, such as the Project Management Institute (PMI), ScrumAlliance, and the ILX Group. However, professionals must assess their desired career paths and what specific skills they hope to gain to determine the project management certification best suited to them.

Some of the most popular programs include:

  • Project Management Professional
  • Certified ScrumMaster
  • PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner:
  • CompTIA Project+
  • Certified Project Management Practitioner
  • Certified Project Manager (IAPM)
  • Certified Six Sigma Black Belt
  • Certified Associate in Project Management

Project Manager Career Path

Project managers can climb the corporate ladder to become COOs or vice presidents, or pursue other job roles and responsibilities. Interestingly, professionals can start a project management career with or without experience. But typically, project managers begin with entry-level roles, and may follow this sort of career path:

  • Entry-level roles, such as project coordinator, assistant project manager, associate project manager, and junior project manager
  • Project Manager
  • Senior Project Manager
  • Director of Project Management
  • Vice President or COO

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of a project manager?

Project managers have several duties and responsibilities, from defining the project scope, and communicating with stakeholders, to resource allocation and management. Irrespective of the industry, sector or project management methodology, project managers must plan, oversee and deliver projects by optimally utilizing time and resources.

What is a project manager’s salary?

Project managers are well-paid professionals whose salaries increase greatly with experience. The median salary for a project manager in the US is about US$ 89,000. Project managers’ salaries also depend on the project’s scope, budget allocation and the organizational pay structure.

What skills should a project manager have?

A project manager must be able to plan, manage, execute and finish projects, and have impeccable people and project management skills. These skills include hard and soft skills to delegate and prioritize tasks and deliverables, manage and optimize resource allocation, solve problems, analyze project performance and share progress with stakeholders.

What qualifications do you need to be a project manager?

Those interested in project management can begin their career by gaining an undergraduate degree in management. This academic course helps develop management and human resources skills. Or, a degree in communication may be useful, since they improve reading and writing skills, which are critical for managing the large number of stakeholders usually involved in projects.

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