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What is a Project Manager and what do they do?

Updated: Jan 9

A project manager leads a team to complete a finite effort that contributes to the overall strategy of the organization. The project manager (PM) is directly accountable for the success or failure of the project.

What follows is a list of some of what project managers do...

Defines Roles and Responsibilities

At the start of the project, the project manager must define what role each resource will have in the project. This is something that’s not obvious as a Senior Director will have a different role on a project than his general role in a typical matrix structure. With the help of the project team, the project manager can develop a RACI (Responsibility assignment matrix) to clarify responsibilities.

Manages Communication

From emails to meetings to IMs, the PM must be able to oversee communications and sense if there is confusion or ambiguity. If either is present, the PM must call a time out and get all appropriate parties in a meeting or, at a minimum, in a group chat. The PM is accountable for ensuring clear communication across all project resources. This is especially true if project managers need to manage communications with distributed teams.

Manages Risk

Every project has risks and it is beneficial to identify these as soon as possible. This way, mitigation plans can be generated from the beginning to ensure that these risks do not become issues. It’s okay for the PM to enlist the help of the team to identify risks.

Plans and Manages the Project Schedule

Project Managers need the help of the team to develop the project schedule or to plan sprints. During the execution of this schedule, the PM must hold everyone accountable to complete their task. If a task is showing a delay, the PM must investigate why there's a delay and the potential impact on the project schedule.

Empower Others

The PM cannot manage all tasks by themselves. They need to trust their team to own certain aspects of the project. For example, if the development and quality assurance teams are located in India and the PM is not critical to the test case development sessions, why not empower the QA lead to manage these sessions during IST? If the PM is located in the US, any issues can be brought up in the daily scrum call.

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