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What is project management? The PM's role and responsibilities

Project management is applying processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to deliver project objectives. In doing this, the project manager (PM) will constantly refer to timescales and budgets.

The project manager makes all this happen, with overall responsibility for the 5 phases of project management:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning (which includes design)
  3. Implementation/execution
  4. Monitoring and controlling
  5. Closure of the project.

What industries need project managers?

Any industry or company could potentially benefit from a qualified project manager, but PMI’s 2017 report lists these as the leading sectors:

  • Manufacturing and construction
  • Information services and publishing
  • Finance and insurance
  • Management and professional services
  • Utilities
  • Oil and gas

What skills do project managers need?

Project managers have a wide skillset. This is essential for managing the many different strands, problems and issues that every project throws their way. The PM’s role is to be active too, by asking questions. It’s important to detect when decisions are based on assumptions and not hard facts. They also play a key role in resolving conflicts. Underpinning all this are robust general management skills.

What do project managers do?

Risk management

Every project comes with risk. Some are immediately identifiable, while others are harder to spot. Many are internal to the project. All of these are compounded by external risks and influences. A project manager is expected to not only identify risks, but minimise and measure them throughout the project.

Risks come from uncertainty. A successful project manager focuses on this, placing them as their primary concern. Minimising risks takes many forms, but open communication is clearly the proven basis for making sure they don’t hinder progress.


There are many people that project managers have to communicate with. Team members, executives and all other stakeholders must have a consistent line of communication with the project manager.

Not only that, but project managers are often the go-between for all of these different stakeholders. Project managers will deliver updates from the team to the executives. Then, if there’s a change to the budget or timeframe, the project manager reports that back to the team manager.

Meeting business goals

Project managers are responsible for making decisions, some of which could have significant implications for the project. Every decision a PM makes must directly influence and benefit the project.

Moreover, the project itself must be justified from a business point of view. From planning to monitoring, project managers will keep updating the business case. This will confirm that the project serves the organisation’s overall goals. If not, it’s up to the project manager to initiate changes.


Organisational skills are another key to project management. There are many different software solutions available to help project managers:

  • Plan and define the project’s scope
  • Actively plan and sequence the project
  • Plan resources that the project will need
  • Manage time and develop schedules
  • Balance the budget
  • Manage and balance risks
  • Collaborate
  • Ensure quality

Attributes of a successful project manager

The ideal project manager can fulfil all of the tasks previously mentioned. In doing so, they should demonstrate the ability to make decisions and understand the bigger picture.

While leading teams, it’s important to collaborate with contractors and stakeholders. Along with communication, perhaps the most important trait is an eye for detail. With the right training, they’ll be able to run many successful projects through their career.