The role of project managers in project management

The success of the project is measured as the ability to complete the project according to the specifications and within the specified budget and time schedule decided prior beginning the project. For proper flow of

the project and to complete the project in due course of time both planning and execution must be properly implemented. In this essay we shall discuss about the basics of the project, project manager and project management. All the main aspects of the role of project managers to get the project running and to achieve its goals are defined below. First there is detailed explanation of the project and the set of working that would be followed by the organizations. Further it would be considering the selection of the project managers and the qualities required by them as they are key personnel in enabling the project to attain its set of goals. Further more it is discussed about selecting project considering its key values and implementing strategy to achieve the desired goals. A detailed explanation is given on the project life cycle and 7-S framework considered for the project manager. Lastly it is discussed about the general conflicts that generate during the working of the project as it involves many teams and departments of the organization. Finally a practical approach would be discussed about the role of project manager in project management.

Project has been defined as “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service” (Project Management Institute, 2001, p.167) A project is usually a one time activity with a well defined set of goals. In order for the smooth conduct of the project it can be divided into many sub-division of the main goal. The sub-divided projects are then handled by many of the different departments in the organization to accomplish desired end results. The completion of the project is measured according to the goals defined and within the specified budget and time schedule. Similar to the product life cycle the project also has a life cycle. From a slow beginning with the appointment of the project manager, choosing a team of members for the project, allocating resources etc, they build up momentum; reach the peak point, starts declining and finally termination of the project.

Furthermore if a project needs to be successfully completed then the project manager is expected to incorporate all the characteristic of the project, validate that the proper knowledge and resources are available, both planning and execution must be properly implemented. The project manager takes the responsibility of for planning, implementing, beginning and ending the project in the due course of the time as promised prior taking the project into account. The project managers first set of the task is to know the client’s history about the working of his organization, his needs and wants for the project given to the project manager’s organization. Then he has to deicide on the preliminary budget, select the people to serve on the project team, make sure that the proper facilities are available, the important thing is to consider the fact that the supplies required for the project are met through when needed and precaution should be taken of the time details necessary to get the project moving.

Selection of the project manager is one of the most important aspects concerning the project. The following are the list of some important attributes, skills and qualities required for selecting the project manager.
• A strong technical background.
• A hard-nose manager.
• A mature individual.
• Someone who is currently available.
• Someone on good terms with senior executives.
• A person who can keep the project team happy.
• One who has worked in several different departments.
• A person who can walk on (or part) the waters.
(As sited on Meredith, J.R. & Mantel, S.J., Project Management – a Managerial Approach, p.140, 2003) Above all are the key pre-requisites for selecting a Project Manager.

Apart from the different skills and attributes the other main qualities which are possessed by the project managers are credibility, sensitivity, leadership, ability to handle stress and management style. There are two different kinds of credibility that are needed by the project manger they are technical credibility and administrative credibility. “A project manager with reasonable technical competence seems to be associated with the project success and it is seen by the project team members to be a ‘positive’ leadership characteristic (Zimmerer and Yasin, 1998). The other credibility is the administrative in this the project manager has the responsibility to its clients and the senior management, to keep the project on schedule and within the cost determined to them prior to the project was undertaken, report to the superior manager about the working and progress of the project during certain intervals of the project.

Project managers should be political sensitive it means that they should have the ability to sense interpersonal conflicts earlier then that generates among the project team. They should have the aptitude to confront and deal with the issues before the inconsistency escalates into interdepartmental and intradepartmental warfare.

Leadership has been defined as “interpersonal influence, exercised in the situations and directed through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specified goal or goals” (Tannenbaum and Massarick, 1957).

“Project management provides an organization with powerful tools that improve its ability to plan, implement, and control its activities as well as the ways in which it utilizes its people and resources” (Meredith, J.R. & Mantel, S.J., Project Management – a Managerial Approach, p.1, 2003). The entire effort-from the implementation of the technology to the management of the change to the organization (culture, process and structure) – needs to be managed. The project manager assigned by the organization has this responsibility and the associated authority to effect the needed change. The project manager also has responsibility to manage the vendor activities, deliverables and schedule while establishing a foundation for the ongoing partnership between the vendor and the organization. Effective project management involves communicating both upward and downward within the organization in order to understand the business concerns, gain acceptance of the pending changes and gain project buy-in and support for the teams activities.

The project that is undertaken is assessed through various stages some of the important criteria for selecting the project are as follows based on Souder (1973)
1. Realism – The project to be embark on should be based on the reality of the manager’s decision and include the numerous objective of both the firm and its manager. It should also take into account the various factors like the project risk, technical risk of performance, cost, time and factors considering the customer rejection.

2. Capability – The decision made should be sophisticate enough to deal with multiple time periods, consider various situations like the micro and macro economic factors of the organization.

3. Flexibility – The project should be flexible enough to adjust as per the market change. It should also consider the firm’s environment in which it operates its primary business or the defined objectives of the firm.

4. Ease of Use – The project should be realistically convenient, it should not take a long time to execute, should be easy to implement and understand. It should also consider the resources that are readily available with the firm and it should not require special interpretation or equipment.

5. Cost – This is among the most important factors to be consider, the project selected should be profitable to both, the client and the firm. It should not require special equipment, human resource, which are in use for the current project and not useful after the completion of the project.

After selecting the appropriate project which is feasible, profitable and that meets the goals or the objectives of the organization the implementation process begins.

Source: Harvey Maylor, Project management.

The planning stage involves the formulation and revision of the intended activity that needs to be carried out when the project is taken into consideration. After analysing the activity that needs to be performed the execution of the project is carried out. The check/study phase is the period when the performance, quality, quantity, cost and time is considered during the project initial stage. The final stage is the act stage where the process is considered as being the final termination or completion of the project. (Harvey Maylor, p.7, 1999)

Thereafter selecting the project implementation process the framework for the project is required. The 7-S framework of management issues was promoted by McKinsey and Co., management consultants. 7-S model provides an effective way of analyzing an organization, in terms of dynamic relationship among 7 key elements namely:
Strategy – The pre-requisites resources needed for the project and the technique to achieve them.

Structure – The arrangement of the organizational departments that relates to each other; centralized or decentralised.

Systems – The procedures, processes and routines that characterize how the work should be done: Financial system, recruiting, promotion and performance appraisal systems.

Staff – The selection, appointing, position given in the project team are considered.

Skills – The implementation of the managerial and technical tools during the working phase of the project by the managers as well as the project team.

Style/Culture – Determining the ethics and code of conduct to maintain during the achievement of the organizational goals.

Stakeholders – Individuals or the group which are interested in the outcome of the project considered.

The process of planning a project usually requires inputs from various people. No matter the size or the quantity of the project, planning involves interaction with different departments and staff working in the organization. It is logically not possible to interact with different people without having conflict, when there is a conflict there should be proper way to tackle the issues arising out of conflicts. Conflict can be defined as “the process which begins when one party perceives that the other has frustrated, or is about to frustrate, some concern of his” (Thamhain and Wilemon, P.891, 1975). Conflicts normally occur on issues such as schedules, priorities, staff requirement, technical factors, administrative procedure, cost estimates and personality conflicts. The best method known to mankind in solving the conflict is negotiation. Raffia (1982, P.139) defines a Pareto-Optimal solution to the two party conflict and discusses the nature of the bargaining process required to reach optimally, a difficult and time consuming process.

Practical approach in understanding the role of project manager in project management. Bhavan’s is the largest college in Mumbai and it has over 25,000 full-time and part-time students. There is a large infrastructure which includes a learning resource centre, student services and 1,200 internet enabled PCs. The project was aimed at providing the learning materials over the internet to deliver specific study materials to identified group of students. To test the content of the study materials that are being provided are correct. It specified the objectives to achieve student course data exchange easily, to identify the rules and regulation within the college, to establish summary reports and to ensure that the tracking and reporting of the student achievements are met through intercourse and over the internet also.

The project management approach was similar to the PRINCE for example but it was mixture of different combination of recognised practices. The main advantages of the methodical approach were to control, focus, key inputs/outputs, clear objective and challenges. It was the policy of the institute that the project was taken into consideration only if the project was beneficial to the institute. If the project was undertaken it would increase the reputation and market creditability of the institution. The matter it was concerned for was the funding of the project, it was considered that it would not fit in the strategy of the institution but the involvement in this project was very attractive for the external sources. The time required for the project to get down the resources to work was not that easy. There was a great deal of trust in people’s skills and expertise was endowed. A real ‘push’ was required towards the end of the project to ensure its successful conclusion.

When the issue came into the notice of the trustees and the stakeholders there was a deliberate strategy tracked to ensure maximum support and get the project completed. The initial objective was to get a green signal from the trustees and stakeholders and it was achieved. The project was explained in a understandable measure so that it does not create any fears or confusion that would have been experienced. It was essential that the academic registry, the senior management team and the head of IT services would accept the project. Hence transparency and honesty was the best data to be provided to the internal management team. Team building was a essential step in getting the project to be selected. The main aim of the project was summoned as it would help the internal management team and not just being the facility provided to the external parties.

The human resources were allocated and the group mix was important and it stayed together throughout the duration of the project. The people considered for the were based on their prior knowledge, experience and strengths in order to achieve the desired goals. The communication used by the project manager was just ‘plain English’ and a strong steer of direction was controlled over the team. This helped the project team to understand the requirements of the project and also helped them to clear some of the technological and data specific aspects of the project.

PEST and SWOT analyses were used to measure the outcomes of the project at periodical intervals. The project investigated elements of the college rather that looking at the sector as a whole. Precise decisions were taken at the supplies and the requirements of the technology and the project outcomes. The team were introduced to the Just – in – Time methodology where the requirements were met when there was a real need to avoid going over the budget. The project was not just about providing a cutting edge in the field of technology but during the initial stages a significant time was taken in consideration for the processes and demands of the technology.

The vendor representatives attended the regular project meeting each month. The vendor-appointed project manager is the point person to act as a liaison between the organization and the vendor. This individual is responsible for coordinating vendor resources, managing the vendor deliverables and handling support requests as they are identified. In addition, the vendor-supplied project manager or a member of the vendor’s team should be expected to provide guidance to the organization on how to best leverage the vendor product by sharing best practices, processes and experiences of other companies using the vendor’s technology. One of the biggest challenges for a project manager is striking a right balance between technical and non-technical skills.

The review process used a minimum bureaucracy approach. Emphasis was placed on communicating the matter or escalating the matter to the superior level of management or the project manager. General questions regarding the project progress were asked like “where are we today?”, “What steps are still pending?” and “When can we get it done?” many of the simple questions helped in frame the project progress and resulted in appropriate measurement of task and timescales. Monthly progress reports were complied by the supervisor considering the work to be completed given at the beginning of the month. This in turn helped the project to be reviewed or monitor its progress.

The final goal of the project was achieved and there were lot of experience gained, good relationships were built. Extra creditability was gained by the institute and it also helped in developing close relations and smooth flow of work among the work areas of the different sections of the college.

Thus if a project is to successfully completed, both planning and execution must be properly implemented. Poor planning will not allow appropriate execution and control processes or achievement of the project’s targets. Hence considering the above arguments and discussion the project managers role in the organization and responsibilities towards both the firm and project team are important.