Project manager part 3

In theory, all project managers do similar types of tasks whether managing a factory, an organization, a restaurant, or a software development. In reality the implementation differs depend of the type of work. Managing a construction project is not the same a managing software project although at the high level, there are commonalities. Basically, project management consists of four major tasks: Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling.

1) Planning: Every project must have a project plan with a clear goal. Project goal must also be in alignment with the company's business goals. Project manager must ask: “How does this project help achieve the goals of the company”. Without clearly understand this, it is easy to be confused and lose control of what you are doing and the project could be a waste of money, resources and bring no benefit to the company.

2) Organizing: Project managers are responsible for managing people and resources of the company. They must know how many people are needed for the project and how long will it takes to complete the project. Therefore, project managers must know how to estimate the time and resources needed for the project and organize the project accordingly. If the project does not have enough people or necessary resources then it may not be done correctly and nothing will be accomplished. Without a well organized plan with specified schedule and resources, team members may think that the manager is unprepared, incompetent, and may not respect him. Unorganized project is a formula for failure.

3) Leading: Project managers must be able to manage people and makes sure that projects are completed on time, within costs, and meet all requirements. Team members follow project managers because they see them as someone that direct them, motivates them, guides them, help them meet the company's goals. Project managers need to know what motivates their team members and encourage them to reach their objectives. Effective managers must meet with team members often to understand their concerns, needs, and issues. This builds trust and a feeling of involvement for the team. Managers who are too busy, spend more time in meetings and not spending time with teams are often lose respect, being considered by the team as hiding their incompetents in being busy and not managing.

4) Controlling: Project managers must monitor the project's performance on a timely basis to make sure goals are being met. For example, if the company has a goal of increasing sales by 10% by the end of the year, the manager must check the progress toward the goal at the end of each month.

Every project must have a Statement of Works (SOW), a document that specifies what the project must do. The SOW must be updated frequently based on changes from customers' requests and uses as a baseline for the project. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the manager must work with customers to develop the SOW and get it approved before starting the project. A good SOW generally contains the following sections:

1) An Executive Summary: A short overview on the purpose of the project, its background, its scope and sometimes a high-level project plan.

2) Objectives: Clearly describes the objectives of the project. (i.e., what is the project, why it is needed, when it must be done etc.)

3) Goals: The project goals must be measurable so manager knows whether you are meeting the objectives or not. The goals have to be realistic and achievable with the date of delivery.

4) Scope: Describe the work that will be done as well as what will not be done (Note: the Scope is one of the most important sections of the SOW. Therefore, be very specific when writing it.)

5) Deliverables: A list of the deliverables to be produced by the project. Project manager must describe each deliverable clearly so team members who are responsible for it will understand it well. For example, design document; architect chart; workflow chart; testing plan; final product etc.

6) Project assumptions and risks: Since there may be some unknown issues while project managers work on the SOW and they make assumptions and they could be risks. Typical risks are associated with schedule, resources estimates; funding etc.

7) Customers: A list of all customers in the project.

A good project manager must be able to keep employees motivated throughout the project and ensure that things are accomplished accordingly. In most types of project, planning is important because things do not change much once the project starts but for software project, changes continue throughout the project because software product is an intangible product or “Brain product” therefore it requires more trainings, more experienced project manager than other projects.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University