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What Does a Project Manager Do? Roles and Responsibilities

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Software development entails many work processes occurring simultaneously. It isn’t difficult to get lost in the onslaught of tasks that can feel more like waves of chaos than a systematic workflow. Fortunately, good IT development companies have a person who can make this mess organizing this chaos look easy. We call this superhero Project Manager. 

What is a project manager

What is a project manager? A Project Manager is a team member who oversees all the moving parts of the project and is responsible for the project’s outcome. This person is directly involved in planning and creating every stage of the project – from filling a brief to bringing the product to scale.The project manager is the essential link between all the departments of a company, coordinating every role at each step along the way.

Most often the PM is entrusted to lead an MVP (minimal viable product) development, creating a prototype or a specific module. But, sometimes a company needs a PM to manage the work processes of multiple projects within a single product solution. 

It is not uncommon for businesses to search for a hybrid specialist, allowing them to maximize efficiency within budget constraints. These hybrid specialists often take on roles such as project/product manager or project manager/tech leads. We believe such an approach is not always efficient due to the challenges of focusing on very different areas of work simultaneously.

Let’s highlight the main project manager responsibilities and skills, and figure out what a project manager actually does. 

Project manager duties and responsibilities

It will be easier to understand what is the role of a project manager if we take an in-depth look at a typical PM’s main duties and responsibilities.

1. Step One is information gathering. The client should provide as detailed statement of work as possible, including competitive comparison and available resources and capabilities. The project manager responsibilities include possessing a good knowledge of the market and the final customers’ desired overcome.

2. The second step is to generate a brief that outlines the project’s strategic purpose and the planning necessary to execute on that strategy. After analyzing the data obtained in the previous step, a good PM will have a vision for the project’s work flows. This information also helps to define timelines and allows the PM to segment the work process into manageable tasks.

3. The PM then assigns tasks to be shared among the team members, and the most appropriate management approach is selected. Sometimes it may be necessary to bring in freelance specialists to the project. An experienced PM can determine whether any additional help will be needed.

4. During the direct project implementation, the project manager stays in constant touch with all members of the team. When difficulties or challenges arise, the PM tries to quickly find a solution. And, if a client or someone from the team has an interesting idea for improving the project, the PM can arrange a brainstorming session.

5. After presenting the project output to the client, the project is not necessarily complete. There may be a need of further development and one of the project manager tasks is to recognize it and discuss it with a client. 

Now, we have an idea of what a project manager does. It would not be an overstatement to say that the PM is one of the most important role in software development.

Communication with clients/project founder

When a startup founders hire an outsource development team, they expect that their ideas will be implemented with minimum deviations from their original concept. And it is part of the project manager tasks to find a compromise between what is desirable and what is possible. 

Of course, the PM has to make every effort to make a final product as close to the founder’s vision as possible. But it is also the project manager’s responsibility to explain to the client when ideas and functionality aren’t feasible or when their implementation would cause the project to exceed the timeline or budget. Project managers should be able to logically defend their position without upsetting the client. That is why communication skills are critical to project management, along with a solid understanding of the technical requirements.

To start planning the strategy and allocate processes and tasks among the team members, the project manager first needs to create the brief with the client, learn the intricacies of the business sector, and have a familiarity with the competitive proposals in the market. In order to obtain these kinds of details, the PM has to learn to ask the right questions and possess strong communication skills.

It may not seem like much,but this first stage sets the tone for all the work that follows. That initial stage facilitates the PM thinking through their implementation strategy to determine what is most likely to be successful. 

What does it mean to be a project manager? Above everything else it  means getting along well with people, listening to their input and feedback, and clearly conveying ideas to the team and the client. 

Task allocation 

In an ideal world, project managers put together a team of the best talent available for the work that will be assigned to them. But, real life dictates its terms. Beyond the ability to come to an agreement, the project manager should possess a refined understanding for task of delegation. If our superhero knows the team’s strengths and weaknesses, they can predict time limits for every planned stage.. 

One of the main goals of the PM is to distribute the responsibilities among the developers, designers and testers thoughtfully. Equally as important, the project manager should be always ready to relign in case of force majeure. Also, the PM must ensure every team member has a clear understanding of the tasks. Therefore, TORs must be as clear as possible.

One of the top priority project manager key responsibilities is demonstrating regimented discipline. The PM should set an example for the rest of the team by being highly organized and disciplined. This is true project management leadership.

Meeting the deadlines and choosing the methodology

It is the project manager’s role to control product development timelines. When the PM understands the team’s capabilities and knows how to motivate the members, it is easier to finish tasks on time. But, how long it takes to complete a project depends not only on a PM’s experience of how to best employ human resources but also the ability to maintain an organized approach to every task at hand. 

The choice of management methodology is also very important. And since a good product manager is a good strategist, they are tasked with selecting the model that will be efficient for the team. The most common methodologies are:

Waterfall. The oldest one. The basis of the model is phase by phase planning and splitting into defined tasks. Starting a new stage is impossible untill the previous one is finished.

Agile. The main focus of the model is on flexibility and speed of implementation. Not that this methodology doesn’t have a strict plan and can be inappropriate for some projects.

Scrum. This one consists of 14-30 day sprints. The main goal of this approach is to save the team from exhaustion, burnout, and a loss of creativity. Scrum emphasizes constant optimization of the processes. 

Lean. The main emphasis of this methodology is to reduce waste. Any work processes requiring excessive usage of resources can be refused within this methodology. Just as for Scrum, Lean optimization of the processes is very important.

Kanban. This model focuses on the visual parts of development: desks with project phases, road maps of every task, task prioritization by coloring the cards, etc. Kanban helps to increase team productivity and monitor team workload.

Product launch and searching possibilities for scaling

First, the team should develop an MVP (minimal viable product) with the ability to test it and work out the bugs and errors. The PM then decides whether the product is ready for presentation to a client or an investor. The PM can also employ tests made by voluntary users, not just testers.

What does a project manager do after the MVP is released? They consider how it can be scaled in the future to become a more attractive investment. Taking into account the tests results and current situation of the Market, the project manager can suggest different approaches to the project development.

What qualifications do you need to be a project manager?

Nowadays, there are not any strict requirements for  a project manager’s education level. One’s college major or area of study is also unimportant. Having the right skills and discipline are far more important. 

Soft skills of a perfect PM:

– Strong communication and social skills

– An understanding of intercultural collaboration issues (the skill is especially necessary if the team works with clients from other countries)

– Enough patience for “paperwork”

– Quick reactions and flexibility

– An ability to make decisions and take responsibility for them

– Creativity 

– Strategic thinking

– Good teamwork skills

Hard skills the PM should possess:

– Knowledge of urgent management methodologies

– Understanding of IT technologies

One of the best ways to know what it means to be a project manager is to obtain an internship in an IT company. In parallel a future PM must glean a lot of information from professional literature, social networks, or from lectures and presentations on relevant topics.

Before you ask, we want to say that, of course software development can be implemented without any project managers. But, the PM is a very important member of the team who can guide a project around risks and pitfalls. By hiring a project manager for the coordination of outsourced software development, a startup founder or investor can eliminate some of the stress of project challenges while ensuring the project comes in on time and meets standards the company demands.