What does a project manager do and what are their responsibilities?

The role of a project manager or the question what does a project manager do often puts people into difficulty. The reason behind this confusion is that the role of a project manager can be very different from one job to another. In order to address this question, one must learn more about project managers altogether.

Table of contents

  • What is the job of a project manager?
  • What responsibilities does a project manager have?

What is the job of a project manager?

First of all, you need to understand what does a project manager do. In many cases, project manager duties are very wide-ranging, and they change from one project to another. A person who works in this field must be ready to tackle any task that may appear in his way. Project managers have to be flexible and handle unexpected situations.

Managing project tasks

As a project manager, you will have to initiate the project by managing the early stages of it. In this sense, the project manager has to work with the team members and see what requirements must be satisfied. After establishing the stages, the project manager responsibilities extend to defining the scope of the project and the desired outcome. Setting objectives for each stage is also part of the initial planning.

To make it short, project managers thoroughly describe the purpose of the project, the means required for obtaining the desired outcome and what each member should expect. By clarifying these aspects, the project is ready to begin.

Developing an idea

The roles of a project manager are various, and they change according to the situation. The first job that a project manager has once the project management description has been clarified has to do with developing an idea. All projects are based on a fully-fledged idea that the project manager comes with. Project managers not only come up with the idea for the project, but they are also part of the development of it.

Project managers have to communicate effectively with the sponsors of the project, who is usually an employee that supports the initial idea and has the necessary resources to get it going. The project manager and sponsor collaborate to form a more complete picture of the project. After composing the main idea, project managers start creating the initial assessment of the project stages as follows:

  • He evaluates the project’s requirements
  • He identifies the resources need to complete it
  • He determines the dependencies of the project
  • He calculates all costs related to it
  • He makes time management decisions
  • He assesses risks

Managing the team

The project management job description is sometimes not specifying the fact that the project manager is the one who assembles and manages the team which will work on the respective project. This is a duty that project managers have to handle too. They decide who will fulfill the positions needed to complete the project.

The staff is entirely organized by the project manager, who will need to take into account the fact that some of the team members might be caught up in other projects at the respective moment, which makes them unavailable for a new one. Thus, the project manager must find the next best solution for the project he leads.

In case some staff members are absolutely required for a specific project and they already have an attributed role, the project manager might need to postpone starting the project until these members are available for work. Other team members might be only required for short amounts of time, which means that they don’t need to give up their current projects.

Resource management skills are highly required at this stage considering the implied project manager duties. Communication skills and overall project management skills will influence the entire development of the project.

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Dealing with stakeholder engagement

Even though some people don’t know, the project management responsibilities also involve stakeholder management. Stakeholder management refers to communicating with stakeholders so that they engage in the project and are actively involved in assessing the changes that happen throughout the project. The changes may affect the finality of the project, this being the reason why they are so important to review. To sum up, project managers have to possess great communication and persuasion skills to establish an influential relationship with the stakeholders. 

Managing budgets

When wondering what does a project manager do, you should also mention budgeting. Project managers have to deal with the available finances that are related to developing and completing the ongoing project. All projects involve consuming financial resources, which need to be managed by someone who has the necessary expertise. Project managers have the role to control the amounts of money that are spent in each stage of the project particularly and cut costs when it is required.

Preparing invoices and other sorts of documentation related to the money spent on the project also falls in the responsibilities of a project manager. The project’s finances can be managed by:

  • Developing a budget that is based on estimations regarding the tasks involved in the development of the project, as well as the resources needed.
  • Working with other people who are experts in finances is definitely a requirement considering that the expertise of a project manager alone won’t do the job for a comprehensive project budget
  • Addressing the budget to the project sponsor and seeing if everything is clear and appropriate for each phase of the project and if the money is justified in relation to the project’s needs.

The costs of the project will vary once tackling certain stages of it, the moment when the project manager must intervene again to establish the most accurate budget tracking for each activity. The initial estimations must be as close as possible to the final cost of the project. Cost control is one of the duties that project managers should master.

Leading team members

Leadership skills are required for all managing positions, especially in the case of project managers. Because this is one of the first project management tasks you will have to complete, you should pay careful attention to it. The way you attribute tasks to team members will influence the final outcome of the project.

The project management role involves ensuring that the members of the team you have selected are suitable for the tasks you gave. This requires great communication skills, negotiation skills, collaboration skills and motivating the team at all times to keep going while providing the necessary feedback for it. Leading a team also involves dealing with disagreements or conflicts that may appear between the team members, which can be resolved by communicating as well. Therefore team leaders take de-escalation training to develop communication and conflict resolution skills.

As for what does a project manager do, he must build the ambiance of a collaborative team and encourage face-to-face meetings with the entire staff, but one-on-one meetings as well, to get to know each member and the difficulties he might go through.

Managing decisions

Project managers are the ones in charge when it comes to making decisions that are related to the project. The responsibilities they hold in this direction are major and they need to be well-thought to avoid influencing the project negatively. In most cases, the decisions you make will be individual, but in other cases, you will need advice from other people you work with. You can receive recommendations that may influence the project positively in case you don’t have the necessary expertise to make a specific decision.

Managing project objectives

The objectives that are set for the project are the ones that guide the entire process, which requires a lot of attention from the project manager. Delivering the objective can only be done by collaborating with the team efficiently. The success factors must be influenced beforehand, to ensure that the project objectives will be completed.

According to the level of detail involved in the project objectives, the project manager responsibilities extend more or less. In most cases, the objectives are straightforward, and the managers know what resources are needed to complete them, as well as what factors may influence them in the long run.

Managing the handover

The outcome of the entire project execution phase represents the finality of the project management process. To keep processes in order, the project manager must provide the team with a complete handover. The team members will be the ones keeping the project working, eventually delivering the final result.

Delivering a good handover means that the project manager won’t have as many responsibilities any longer. The go-to person of the project changes so that the manager is ready to move to the next project he must handle. The team members will continue working with the handover received to obtain the final outcome.

Sharing knowledge

Even though this is not something mentioned on the what does a project manager do list, project managers should always share their knowledge and teach others what they have learned from their past experience. Holding meetings at the end of each project should help team members tackle their tasks better in the future. This is advantageous for the team and for the organizational culture, keeping the company from repeating its mistakes.

What responsibilities does a project manager have?

Formulating the project plan

Among the project management requirements, you must formulate a thorough project plan that will be followed until the outcome is delivered. It sets the criteria that make the project qualify or not as a successful one. Here are the steps:

  • Minimizing risks by adopting adequate measures
  • Developing policies and processes that will help the project development
  • Defining the activity plan
  • Choosing a framework for the project
  • Assigning tasks to each team member
  • Creating a complex schedule and milestones
  • Setting a budget
  • Establishing the project’s scope, objectives, benchmarks and so on
  • Use project planning tools and project management software

Managing resources and activities

Planning all the activities is a part of what does a project manager do. They also need to find the appropriate resources needed for each of these activities and manage them accordingly. Project managers are the ones who determine the entire activity of the project, based on the resources that are available, both in terms of time and money. Project managers must be able to set milestones realistically and manage the team members properly.

Motivating the team

Project managers are responsible for motivating the team members throughout the project so that they don’t get caught up in the complexity of it. Handling projects can be difficult, especially for people who recently started to work in this field. Project managers are supposed to assess the potential of each team member and give him tasks that mirror this potential.

Meeting deadlines

Time management is one of the responsibilities that project managers have to deal with at their best. Customers want their projects to be completed within the previously set deadlines. By not meeting deadlines, the project can be considered a failure, even though the quality of the work is impeccable. The goal is to set realistic deadlines and communicate with the team members as often as possible. In this sense, project managers must:

  • Define each activity
  • Sequence activities
  • Estimate the duration of each activity
  • Develop a schedule for the project
  • Respect the schedule

Estimating costs

The budget that is initially set for a project must be respected thoroughly until its completion. The person responsible for managing this budget and making initial assumptions regarding how much money will be spent on certain activities is the project manager. This is also on the list of what does a project manager do besides attributing tasks to each member of the team and creating schedules.

Communicating with customers

By actively communicating with customers, project managers make sure that they are satisfied with the progress and with the final outcome. Minimizing the uncertainties that customers may have is a condition of the project’s success. Respecting the feedback received at any stage of the project is a requirement as well, as it keeps the team up to date in regard to what the customer wants from the project.

Assessing risks

All projects come with risks and pitfalls that can’t be avoided. They can only be potentially evaluated. This is the job of the project manager, who can assess the risks and intuitively prevent them from happening or to minimize the impact they may have.

Tracking progress

Monitoring the team’s progress, the project’s performance and any other detail that may influence the final result also fall in the list of a project manager’s attributions. Tracking progress will give the project manager a chance to take corrective measurements where they are needed.

Managing paperwork

Project managers should be aware of all the paperwork that is necessary for handling a project. Proper documentation is mandatory for the smooth development of a project and managers are responsible for creating compelling reports regarding it.


Project managers put in a lot of time and work in order to transform an idea into an actual project with a great outcome. Without their efficiency and productivity, projects would develop chaotically and the results would never please the customers, teams wouldn’t be able to meet deadlines and consequences of pitfalls would take over them.

By Isidora Markovic

Agile Project Manager

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