Skills and Role of a Project Manager

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8th Feb 2020 Project Management Reference this

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  1. What are the most important skills and abilities for a Project Manager to have? Are people and non-technical skills or technical skills more important?  Why?

Creating accurate project design, estimating time, budgets, and effort, etc. are all undertakings that a good project manager (PM) must do. Keeping the work structured and the teams knowledgeable and content is critical to the accomplishment and these aptitudes are what are required to realize these. Below are the most important skills and abilities for a PM to have:

Leadership – is a buzzword in the project management business, and with a decent motive: If you can lead, you can deliver (Abeid, 2015). This aptitude permits PMs to produce corporate ideas and manage teams efficiently. Enhancing this skill can significantly improve PM career advancement. The leadership role means to lead and manage teams; setting the vision, motivating the team, serving them, coaching them and inspiring others. PMs lead from both a strategic and operational perspective; get the team and organizational buy-in; set goals; resolve conflict; evaluate performance; communicate the vision; and ensure that team members have the tools, money, space needed to get things done. However, being a leader isn’t just about creating a feel-good vibe for the teams, the PMs have to implement procedure and keep everybody on the team in line too. And though it’s important to get everybody’s buy-in, PMs have the final call about what the team will work on next, as well as being accountable for whether the project succeeds or fails. As Jane Callahan (2018) admonishes, “Even if the entire team is up-to-speed, remember that you, the project manager, are still the lead. That implies taking the necessary steps to complete the project, regardless of whether it’s outside of the PM assigned duties.” Each project necessitates a leader who supports the team, the procedure and the clients.

Communication skills– because ninety percent of a PM’s time is spent communicating (Rajkumar, 2010). One of the fundamental skills for project management is the ability to communicate well, understanding and being understood. Extraordinary communication is the essence of any relationship and so the effectiveness of a PM’s correspondence has an effect not only on the project team but the client and stakeholders too. It’s critical that PMs can proficiently take thoughts, ideas, purposes, and subjects alongside delivering information and presentations, between other abilities. Correspondence goes side-by-side with leadership aptitudes. To be an effective leader, the capacity to clarify what project teams must do is needed. But, communication is not restricted to the project team; it likewise applies to all stakeholders, including customers, contractors, and vendors. Such can be done utilizing technologies like reporting tools, file sharing or chat. These tools enable group communication and individual-to-individual alike. Yet, viable communication doesn’t simply occur. It begins by putting in the time and effort required to get to know your team, client, and stakeholders well; and devising an appropriate communication plan that relates with the dissimilar type pf personalities.

Cost Management – a fundamental project management skill, cost management is of critical significance to most businesses. Failure to conform to this requirement could impact businesses that run on tight finances. PMs who have this skill possess the capacity to complete projects on both time and budget.You cannot do anything without the money to pay for it. The PM primary task is to ensure that the created budget is accurate and can meet the financial needs of the project, and, secondly, controlling those expenses through the execution of the project. This is easier said than completed. Except if you are fortunate and work for an organization with limitless funds, you are going to face certain monetary limitations, and more likely, be provided a very tight budget. It takes a great deal of aptitude to figure out how to squeeze every cent out of those limited funds (Landau, 2017).

Planning – project scheduling is a core project management skill, but one that surprisingly, many PMs do not pay much attention to (Aston, 2018). All things considered, what is a PM without a plan? The best technique to accomplish the objectives of the project within the timeframe that has been chosen is to itemize that goal into tasks on a timeline. That’s schedule, and it is the core of what a PM does, setting up an accurate schedule and then administrating the resources to keep on track so the project can be successfully completed on time. There are many tools that can aid with this process, boss among them an online Gantt chart, which offers a visual of the schedule with tasks, durations, milestones, dependencies, and critical path. The degree to which a PM is able to effectively plan will directly impact the project’s ability to be successful. No matter how good a PM is at executing, without being able to properly plan a project, the project will not succeed. The project management planning skill to ace is planning to the extent to always be ten steps ahead and always know what is next. That implies not only for success but for the disasters too. A skilled PM always got a plan under the sleeves.

Risk management – this is the aptitude to foresee and concoct solutions to problems before they emerge. Having this ability is an indication of having command over your project. Besides, it’s a viable method for guaranteeing stakeholders that their funds are in great hands. PMs are always an easy target when projects don’t go as planned. Irrespective of the situations, everybody wonders whether the PM could have anticipated and prevented the risk before it turned into a problem. Project investors dislike surprises and good risk management is a method for staying away from surprises, particularly the awful ones. Because risks are not usually urgent, many PMs fail to take them into consideration as seriously as they should. PMs can stay on top of the project by controlling risk, and actively mitigating against it as far as they can. Experience is the ability for effective risk management because the PM is able to foresee what could go wrong; and having the humility to ask the team is also a great skill for risk management. The project management risk management skill to ace is the ability to identify risks well before they become issue, and come up with effective mitigation plans so that the risk of them ever becoming issues is nullified (Aston, 2018).

Negotiation – project management is a bit like politics; it often brings together a disparate group of people, often with competing interests, and the PM’s job is to get these dissimilar interests on the same page so that the project goals can be accomplished. In other words, a good PM must be an outstanding negotiator. PMs who have excellent bargaining capabilities are more likely to solve conflicts that may happen among project stakeholders. This could lead to the formulation of idyllic scenarios that could prove to be friendly to all concerned. “Negotiating the utilization of scope creep, budgets, resources, schedules, and an assortment of different bargains that are inevitable” for a PM says Cesar Abeid (2015), and “be capable to negotiate well so that all sides are pleased is an important skill for the successful PM.” The key project management negotiation ability to ace is figuring out the middle ground and offering bargains so everybody that matters gets the feeling to have won.

The people skills of a PM are utilized in every aspect of the project. Excellent communications with stakeholders and team members is a major skill. Mutually playing a vital role for career improvement, the technical knowledge of a PM can provide excellence throughout the interview evaluation but once the PM phases into the organization, the final aim is to reach elevations consequently this is where soft and technical skills originate into the picture which will help to achieve the goals. PMs’ primary job is to communicate and manage their team; they must serve as a bridge between the technical and business side; they must listen to their teams, let them explain their issues; they don’t need to be technical but if they listen to their teams and learn their day to day they have a great advantage; however, if the project manager in addition has a practical knowledge of the technologies utilized in the project he can be more valuable not exclusively to the team but to the customer (Podestra, 2014).

  1. What is the role of the project manager at each stage of the Project Management Life Cycle?  What skills do you think are most important at each and why?   What is the most important phase? Why?

Understanding the project management lifecycle is valuable for successfully guiding a project from its initial stages to completion. No matter the project, the project management lifecycle can assist in narrowing the project’s focus, keeping its objectives in order and finishing the project on time, on budget and with a minimum of headaches (Picariello, 2017). The following are the roles of a PM in each of the stages of the Project Management Life Cycle:

a)      Initiation

In this initial phase, the PM begins multiple rounds of discussion with the stakeholders to decide whether the project can start. If all goes according to the plan Project initiation document is created which outlines the requirements of the document. The PM gives the project’s overview in addition to the method that they want to utilize so as to achieve the results that are desired. The PM also selects the team members who are required, depending on his or her skills and experience. The PM carries out assessments regarding risks, procurement, and also manages communication between stakeholders. At this phase, the manager needs to have risk assessment skills and cost estimation skills to guarantee that this phase is successful.

b)     Planning

In this stage, the PM is responsible for planning, and to guarantee that there is a breakdown of the tasks from the beginning to the end of the project. The PM creates the roadmap of the whole project. Different goals and plans are set by him/her such as scope, WBS, milestones, etc. The PM should make sure that appropriate budgets are arranged for the project, and also that a risk assessment is carried out. At this stage, the manager needs both budgeting and risk assessment skills. These abilities will make certain that the PM plans well according to the available resources and also predict the risks that the project might be dealing with down the road.

c)      Execution

At this stage, PM develops the team, assign resources, and daily meetings are taking place to track the progress. The PM should make sure that the project team has the resources that are required to perform the project activities. The PM therefore observes and analyzes the work that is being done by the team. For the execution stage, the PM needs to have risk assessment skills. The manager should also embrace teamwork to make sure that the process of achieving the project runs smoothly.

d)     Monitoring

Here the PM will utilize the Key Performance indicators to find out if the project is on track or not. The PM will recognize the issues in the project as it is being performed. The PM should also ensure that the project meets the desired quality to satisfy all the stakeholders. The PM needs quality control and reporting skills to ensure that the project possesses the right quality. Reporting skills should help him to answer the various questions by the stakeholders.

e)      Closure

At this stage, the role of the PM is to look into the things that are often overlooked, to ensure that the project is brought to a proper conclusion. The PM will also organize workshop events to thanks for the efforts done by the team members. The PM is also to do the post-mortem to analyze what went wrong in the project and should also write a review of the project to higher management. In this stage, the PM needs reporting and assessment skills to ensure that he evaluates the project for minor defects and also deliver a good report to the higher management.

In my opinion, planning is the most important phase of the project management lifecycle because it provides to the PMs the opportunity to carry out an analysis of the underlying risks of the project. At the planning stage, all requirements gathering, analysis are done and the PM gets a better picture of the objective which helps in project timelines and deliverables. This stage allows the PM to create a contingency plan. Planning saves time and also money that could be used in all the other phases of the project.

  1. What are key groups of stakeholders?  Pick two types of stakeholders and describe how you set expectations with each.  What is the role of stakeholders and how can one manage stakeholders at each phase? What are some common mistakes that a project manager might make?  What do you think are the most important practices and skills needed to successfully work with stakeholders?

Key stakeholders are the stakeholders who can have a negative or positive impact on a project, or the people who are important in or to an agency, institution, or organization involved in a project. Examples of key groups of stakeholders are managers, employees, customers, project team, suppliers, government, and the public. The two selected types of stakeholders are the customers and the suppliers. The customers are expected to conduct a market survey and support the businesses through purchasing the products regularly.  The role of the customers must ensure that the products and services offered to meet their needs and expectations. At the various phases, the customers can manage through shared communication and assessment which is useful.

The suppliers are important stakeholders who are involved in delivering materials and products to the businesses. The role of the suppliers is to ensure that the businesses have adequate resources to produce quality and increased products for the customers. The suppliers can be managed through proper assessment of their supplier capacity and setting standards for the supplier engagements.

The job of overseeing project stakeholders can, paradoxically, end up being a project in it own. Common mistakes the project managers can make is failing to identify all the stakeholders at the beginning of the project, failing to correspond well with the stakeholders. It is critical for the PMs to identify and correspond with the diverse stakeholders. The project team needs to decide the recurrence of communication and what will be incorporated; typically, correspondence ought to be compact and emphasis on advancement and value. Communication should be meaningful to all stakeholders (Mehling, 2010). Another mistake is failing to engage stakeholders throughout the process. It’s important to engage stakeholders in problem-solving, reviewing new requirements, and creating lists of lessons-learned. Stakeholders need to agree with what done looks like; otherwise, the project may easily get off track.

Some of the practices and skills needed to engage the stakeholders are improved communication skills, interpersonal skills, managerial skills, and leadership skills. Other practices critical is proper engagements and assessment of programs in the organizations.

  1. Define and discuss Work Breakdown Structure, Critical Path Analysis, PERT charts and GANTT charts.  Describe the role of each in determining scope, budgets, and schedules?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  Can they be used together?  What concerns might a PM have in basing decisions on these charts?

Work breakdown structure (WBS) is a chart which describes the work elements of a project and shows their relationships with each other and also with the entire project. The WBS outwardly outlines the scope into reasonable pieces that a project team can comprehend, as every level of the WBS offers additional detail and definition. The WBS delivers to the PM and the team the ability to divide a high-level scope statement into minor, better reasonable pieces of effort, named work packages needed to complete the project. As the project implements, precise segments of the WBS can be followed to distinguish project cost execution and recognize problems and issue areas in the project organization. WBS defines a scope as the manageable block that the project manager can understand because each level of WBS provides a definition and detailed information of the project. From the cost viewpoint, WBS is also assigned to specific departments for work. These departmental or the cost accounts are also defined in the organizational breakdown structure and allocate the budget to create definite deliverables. If project schedule is detailed, then there is a need to determine the projects under a work package need to be completed within a certain time period and also within a certain level of efforts (Sharon & Dori, 2012). When a project is running late, referring to the WBS will rapidly pinpoint the main deliverables affected by a late sub-deliverable or a fizzling work package. The WBS advantages include boosting productivity, easier monitoring of work definitions, coherent delegation, progressive work management, constant improvement of processes, risk management, training systems, planning evaluation. WBS disadvantages include having lost of tasks to perform at a single go, require active management of interfaces; increased work burdens on management and management functions like planning, organizing, monitoring, and review; potential demarcation problems. PMs must decide the exact amount of information to be incorporated in the work breakdown structure. Excessively and the project turn out to be too bureaucratic. Not enough and the project lacks meaning (George, 2014).

Critical path analysis (CPA) is a project management tool that uses network analysis to help project managers handle complex and time-sensitive operations. It acts as the basis both for preparation of a resource planning and schedule. During management of a project, it allows monitoring of the achievement of project goals. Critical path analysis also helps in identifying where action needs to be taken to get a project back on course. Critical path analysis is best used in reorganizing the project before initiation and as it progresses. CPA aids in keeping the project’s completion on track and makes certain that deliverables finish on time. A critical path consists that set of dependent tasks (each dependent on the preceding one), which together take the longest time to complete; therefore it can be used in determining scope, budgets, and schedules. CPA identifies and outlines the noncritical and critical tasks in connection to a work plan or business procedure and the quantity of float related with every activity to avert process bottlenecks schedule postponements. The CPA evaluates specific projects that should be completed, assesses where the parallel activities can occur, find the fastest time to finish the project, determines resource requirements, classify the action sequences, as well as enables task scheduling. Critical Path Analysis is a vital element in diminishing project timelines and monitoring expenses to avoid surpassing the budget. With Critical Path Analysis complex activities may be impossible to represent accurately on a network for the PM. The project may still require management as external factors may change. Critical Path Analysis relies on estimates for the expected duration of activities and if these are inaccurate the whole process may be invalidated.

A PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) chart is a project management instrument utilized to plan, arrange, and manage jobs within a project. A PERT chart displays a graphic design of a project as a network diagram comprising numbered nodes indicating events, or milestones in the project connected by marked paths indicating tasks in the project. The arrows’ direction on the lines specifies the order of tasks. The PERT chart is best used to illustrate task dependencies as it presents a graphic illustration of a project as a network diagram consisting of numbered nodes representing events, or milestones in the project linked by labeled vectors representing tasks in the project. PERT can be utilized in determining scope, budgets, and schedules. Charts are usually drawn on ruled paper with the horizontal axis indicating time period divisions in days, weeks, or months. Plans are broken down into smaller parts. PERT chart provides a graphical representation of a project’s timeline, and it permits the tasks in a particular project to be examined. PERT charts are usually preferable to Gantt charts because they identify task dependencies clearly and better, however, they are often more difficult to interpret. The Program Evaluation Review Technique analysis necessitates a thorough study of project undertakings and commentaries from numerous individuals from dissimilar organizations. Furthermore, PERT is a complex technique that’s executed over an expanded time. The labor-intensive nature of the PERT method can make PERT charts expensive to support for a PM.

GANTT charts are tools used in project management and show activities (tasks or events) displayed against time. Alongside the topmost of the chart is an appropriate timescale, and on the left side is a list of the undertakings. Gantt charts are generally utilized for monitoring project schedules. For this, it is suitable to have the capacity to demonstrate extra information about the different phases or tasks of the project, for instance how the tasks are connected to each other, what resources are being utilized for every task, how far each task has advanced. Gantt chart consists of a horizontal bar for each task connecting the period start and period ending columns, and it can be utilized in determining scope, budgets, and schedules. The way to break a project to complete it in a specific time period then the Gantt chart is used. This focuses on analyzing the scope of the project based on its results or deliverables. Once you have identified the details, you should develop the list of the tasks that you want to be finished to produce desired results. These projects will have durations and dependencies and thus it can be scheduled. When the logic is defined once as well as the project’s budget is calculated, results can be viewed in the Gantt chart (Dawson, 2013). Gantt charts help in working out practical aspects of a project, such as the minimum time it will take to deliver, and which tasks need to be completed before others can start. However, it’s best not to show the dependencies on the Gantt chart, especially if there are a large number of tasks and complex dependencies between them. Gantt chart’s limitation is that it relies upon an already constructed and complete work breakdown structure. As such, should there be major tasks missing from the work breakdown structure, or should a major milestone be missing, the Gantt chart will not tell PM. The PM will thus be attempting to create the work breakdown structure and at the same time constructing the Gantt chart.  This can result in the risk of having to recreate the entire project schedule if something is left out or duration is not estimated properly.

Work Breakdown Structure, Critical Path Analysis, PERT charts, and GANTT charts are used together. PMs typically use PERT charts, Gantt charts, as well as the other visuals to arrange projects, organize resources, as well as to gain a good understanding of their projects. The prime minister must be furious as well as put their opinions together. It has been proving to be the great medium of communication. Planners and Thinkers can convey their ideas, fears, and doubts to another level on one level. Most importantly, it becomes a suitable tool for assessing the performance of the individuals as well as the groups. When deciding on the specific details of a work package, the project manager should be careful not to get detailed. If CPA is not clear and stable, CPM may difficult to monitor or manage as well as it becomes ineffective. It cannot handle the sudden changes in an implementation plan. So the project manager should pay attention to all these things.

  1. Are there cases when Project Management should not be used?  Why?  Describe the advantages, disadvantages, and potential impacts of using Project Management for small and large projects.  What factors determine when it is required?

Yes, there are cases where project management parameters need not be used. The common cases are the simple or small projects with a narrow scope which requires simple budgeting and undertaking by few people. Project management requires a well-thought plan. In order to achieve all the anticipated goals, adequate time and resources have to be invested. Small projects do not require project management as this will seem like a waste of time and resources that could be applied in other developments. It is very recommendable that project management is applied to large projects. This is because such projects are highly sensitive and could greatly affect the organization. Cases, where project management process should not be used in IT projects, include projects with limited budgets and short life spans.

Advantages of Project Management

  • Guarantee that the work activities accomplish the results indicated in the IT and business strategies. This includes defining and revising goals, managing undertakings across projects.
  • Guarantee that the project is operating on the budget, is on or ahead of schedule,
    and meets the customer’s performance criteria.
  • Project management breaks down the project into tasks and sub-tasks and finds interdependencies between tasks as well as the allocation of resources, estimation of total project duration and budget.
  • It makes monitoring of the project progress more effectively.

Disadvantages of Project Management

  • Cost overhead. Project Management costs money. This includes hiring project managers, training project managers and hiring program managers to make sure that projects are kept aligned with the overall business strategy.
  • Communication overhead. Project Management adds a new level of communication between team members and management. Rather than having the information flow straight from management down to the team members and vice versa, it’s all channeled through the PM.
  • Time Overhead. An instance is incorrect requirements that the PM may mistakenly gather and pass to the team members for implementation. Once the requirements are found to be wrong, the team members have to scrap the executed portion based on the incorrect requirements. The PM then has to re-gather the requirements, and finally pass them again to team members for implementation. This takes lots of time.

Potential impacts of Project Management 

  • Project management process significantly improves the likelihood of an IT project being completed on time and on budget.
  • The practice of project management is expanding rapidly as there is an increased need for professionally managed projects. This has led many companies to experiment with their IT organizational structures.
  • Quality and quantity increase with effectiveness and efficiency due to the implementation of project management processes. The focus is narrowed down to reach specific goals within a specific timeframe and that will lead to better results.

The factors that determine when project management is required or needed include the budget or financing needs, the scope of the project, the size of the project, the nature of the project, the available resources, the time frame, and the quality specification among other factors. Understanding when and when not to use project management is key to the successful delivery of the project or certain business undertaking. The factors that manage a whole project from beginning to end require a talented team with different skills and talents. These people are completely responsible for the planning as well as for executing project objectives, not just materials and labor. Each project management team and project follows a proper project lifecycle. A good project preparation can simply mean a difference between failure and success of the project hence project management is necessary for every case (Spagnuolo & Onofri, 2016).

References:

  • Abeid, C. (2015, April 7). 6 Essential Skills for Project Managers. Retrieved from https://www.liquidplanner.com/blog/6-essential-skills-for-project-managers/
  • Aston, B. (2018, August 1). 7 Essential Project Management Skills For 2018. Retrieved from https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/project-management-skills/
  • Callahan, J. (2018). The 5 Essential Skills of a Successful Project Manager. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/learn/project-management/project-management-skills/
  • Dawson, M. (2013). A case study in Gantt charts as historiophoty: A century of psychology at the University of Alberta. History Of Psychology, 16(2), 145-157.
  • George. (2014, February 1). The Benefits and Challenges of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Retrieved from https://www.blueprintcpd.com.au/blog/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-work-breakdown-structure-wbs
  • Landau, P. (2017, July 11). 10 Essential Project Management Skills. Retrieved from https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/project-management-skills
  • Mehling, H. (2010, May 19). 8 Tips to Effectively Manage Stakeholders. Retrieved from https://www.datamation.com/career/article.php/3883106/8-Tips-to-Effectively-Manage-Stakeholders.htm
  • Podestra, C. (2014, August 28). Is it possible to manage an IT team without a technical background? Retrieved from https://stayrelevant.globant.com/en/is-it-possible-to-manage-an-it-team-without-a-technical-background/
  • Rajkumar, S. (2010). Art of communication in project management. Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/effective-communication-better-project-management-6480
  • Sharon, A., & Dori, D. (2012). A Model-Based Approach for Planning Work Breakdown Structures of Complex Systems Projects. IFAC Proceedings Volumes, 45(6), 1083-1088.
  • Spagnuolo, C., & Onofri, S. (2016). Agile: Project Manager è morto, viva il Project Manager. PROJECT MANAGER (IL), (26), 28-31.

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