A project manager is in charge of a project throughout all its phases. The project manager assists in the project’s development, from planning to execution, and supervises the personnel, resources, budget, stakeholder relations, deliverables, deadlines, and many more. They coordinate activities, track progress, and solve issues. A project manager's role is to make decisions, assign tasks, and ensure the project is successful.
A project manager plans organizes, and supervises the entire project, following the four phases of project management: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Each phase has challenges translating into specific tasks and responsibilities for the project manager (PM). Of course, the PM’s duties depend on the project’s industry, field of activity, and structure. However, the tasks and responsibilities listed below will help you better understand what a project manager does throughout the project’s lifecycle.
During the initiating phase, project managers are involved in defining the project’s goals and objectives, identifying stakeholders, and discussing vital aspects of the project. Their responsibilities may include attending project meetings, gathering information about necessary authorizations, analyzing marketing research, and meeting stakeholders.
Project managers are also involved in funding discussions, research regarding similar projects and competition, and all technical aspects of the project. They may be asked to develop a list of constraints, potential issues, and success criteria. Their technical expertise may also be a valuable insight into how complex the project will be and what parts are doable and potentially profitable.
At this stage, project managers have a counselor role and are not responsible for major decisions. Their responsibilities will increase when the project takes on.
Once the initiating phase is over and the project is approved, it needs a plan. Here, project managers have a more active role. Alongside stakeholders and CEOs, project managers create the project plan: the roadmap that will lead the project to success.
Project managers ensure that the project plan is doable. Furthermore, they ensure the plan leaves enough room for potential issues and unexpected situations. Amongst their tasks, there are:
Project managers have a big responsibility at this stage because they need to balance the stakeholders’ requests (e.g., fast turnover, low costs, etc.) and the project team’s needs (e.g., enough time and resources to complete tasks, training, etc.). It’s up to them to negotiate a viable plan that makes everyone happy.
The executing phase is where project managers are at their best. Using the right project management tools and maintaining transparent communication with their teams, project managers ensure the work is done, the performance criteria are met, employees are motivated and happy, resources are available, and stakeholders are up to date.
In the executing phase, the project manager will do the following tasks:
During the executing phase, project managers are the only ones responsible for the project’s performance. They are in charge of everything related to the project, and although they can delegate some of their management tasks, they are directly involved in every decision.
After completing all project activities, project managers can focus on results. During the closing phase, they will analyze project data and generate reports, meet with the stakeholders to present the results, organize events to disseminate the results, gather client feedback, and do the final touch-ups.
The project manager will release resources no longer needed (e.g., rented spaces and machinery, project-based employees, etc.), archive project data, send and pay the final bills, and complete the final project report that covers problems and solutions, observations, learned lessons, key takeaways, weak points, and future improvements.
A project manager can’t be successful without their project management skills. From leadership to communication, these skills help the pro responsible for the small and big initiatives to be handled promptly and successfully.
In the following lines, we expand on the top 3 qualities the best PMs possess. :
Alongside these core skills, a project manager requires analytical thinking, business knowledge, and risk management expertise. All these will help them make informed decisions and reach the project’s goals.
With this set of skills, one can be a project manager regardless of the project’s industry and field of activity. Many pros work as independent project managers without being full-time employees of a particular company. However, the practical side of being a project manager requires project-related knowledge and a good understanding of the industry, field of activity, and work environment. It’s always better when the project manager understands the employees’ lifestyles and struggles, technological problems, and overall economic situation.
Alongside the skills required by a project manager position, you will also need a certification. You can study project management during your education, like business or management bachelor’s degrees. Or you can choose to complete your education with an MBA or master’s degree in a field that covers project management, such as business, marketing, or economic studies.
Another way to become a project manager is to get certifications. Many training programs are specifically dedicated to project management and teach management tools, risk management, human resource administration, time management, quality control, and communication. At the end of the program, you will have a certificate attesting you have all the skills required to be a project manager.
For a project manager position, experience is highly valued. Even if you have the diplomas and certificates attesting to your education and skills, employers would like to see you have previously worked in a similar position and done well. Any leadership experience counts because it shows you managed a team, made decisions, and are familiar with a management position. Therefore, to become a project manager, you need to focus on smaller leadership positions, such as team leader, coordinator, and trainer.
A project management certification can give you a competitive edge and increase your earning potential. Here are some key options to consider:
Obtaining one of these certifications can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel as a project manager and demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. It's a wise investment in your professional development and can help you achieve your career goals.
Tip: If you want to learn more about project management, we provide the 101 guide covering the essential methodologies, types, tools, tips and benefits you need to know in 2024.
Project managers work in any industry and field of activity. They manage small and exhaustive projects, lead traditional or remote teams, and work for small businesses or corporations. Every product and service you can think of has a project manager supervising its creation. If you love to see something starting as an idea and ending as a successful product or service everyone uses, and if you love working with people, project management is for you. Look at what skills you already have and what certifications you still need, and give it a go.
How much do project managers make?
The income of a project manager varies based on the project’s size, industry, and country. For example, in 2024, the average annual salary of a project manager working in Canada or the US was around $86,000 - $87,000. However, in the UK, it was slightly over £47,000 ($58,000). Usually, the project manager makes more money than the team’s members.
What are the key project manager certifications?
Key project manager certifications cover project management tools and methodology, risk management, and people management. They must be recognized in your country and have good feedback in your professional community.
What is the difference between Project Management vs. Portfolio Management vs. Program Management?
Single project and organization
Multiple projects and organizations
Single project and multiple organizations
Linear and sequential
Iterative and adaptive