The project manager role — responsibilities, skills, and more

A project manager

Project managers are largely responsible for realizing an organization’s goals. They spend hours coordinating tasks and communicating with various stakeholders. Executives who fail to support them can miss deadlines and lose revenue opportunities.

The right project manager can lead, motivate, and coordinate your team to complete plans successfully. A 2022 PMI survey showed that organizations with efficient project management offices outranked competitors in revenue generation, customer satisfaction, and other metrics.

The need for project managers has never been greater, so it’s essential to understand their role in your organization. To help you grow in your role or lead your project managers well, this post will cover:

What does a project manager do?

A project manager (PM) plans, organizes, schedules, directs, executes, maintains, and troubleshoots a project so it gets completed on time, within budget, and according to projected scope. The PM also serves as its liaison to stakeholders.

Project managers manage relationships across a project’s initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing phases. Here's a closer look at how a PM executes each phase of the project life cycle to support efficiency and, ultimately, business growth.

Core tasks of a project manager

Seven key responsibilities of a project manager

A project manager’s scope of work will vary depending on their industry, organization, and the specific types of projects they manage. However, there are seven critical responsibilities that they typically have in common.

  1. Planning the project
  2. Assembling a team
  3. Setting deadlines and monitoring project progress
  4. Problem solving
  5. Managing resources
  6. Communicating with stakeholders
  7. Evaluating project performance

1. Planning the project

A project manager is responsible for developing a project idea into an actionable plan with clear objectives. They work with clients and stakeholders to set expectations for the project and determine the expected deliverables. A PM also identifies the necessary tasks to complete the project.

2. Assembling a team

Another critical responsibility of project managers is pulling together the right team to complete a project. The project manager evaluates personnel, assigns duties, and shifts team members to new responsibilities as needed throughout the project.

3. Setting deadlines and monitoring project progress

Project managers set deadlines to maintain productivity and complete work within the given budget. PMs use a work breakdown structure to identify individual tasks and determine the time needed to accomplish them. They continuously monitor progress toward deadlines and communicate any potential changes to their team. PMs may also request outside assistance if it looks like someone might miss a deadline.

4. Problem solving

An effective project manager adapts their plans to unforeseen hurdles, changing client needs, and potential resourcing issues. PMs face complex problems and solve them with creative solutions and systematic approaches. Project managers should look at a problem in detail, evaluate the facts available, examine their assumptions about the problem, and experiment with potential solutions.

5. Managing resources

Successful project management depends on the practical use of resources. A project manager carefully tracks their team’s use of funds, hours, and any other resources. PMs also create a clear breakdown of costs for each part of a project and prepare to communicate them to stakeholders as needed.

6. Communicating with stakeholders

A project manager’s duties revolve around communication. It’s not enough for a PM to manage their team members and meet deadlines. They also maintain the trust of stakeholders by keeping them informed of progress and being responsive to their input.

7. Evaluating project performance

Project managers create and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) for their teams. They establish milestones for each phase of a project and the metrics they will use to measure success. At the end of a project they will revisit original goals and evaluate the metrics established to determine how successful the team was.

A day in the life of a project manager

A project manager will usually start the day by checking emails and answering pressing questions about projects. They might lead a morning stand-up meeting to set the day’s objectives and then schedule meetings with stakeholders. Some PMs reserve a specific time in the week exclusively for answering questions to streamline their overall workload.

Throughout the day, a PM will constantly monitor their team members’ workflows and the amount of resources allocated to a project. They may use a project management solution to help track this information and assign new tasks. A PM will also adapt their strategy as needed to new circumstances or changing client needs.

Project management skills and qualifications

The need for project managers continues to grow, creating many entry-level positions and opportunities for advancement. At a minimum, a successful PM will have interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and technical know-how.

Whether you’re looking for qualified PM candidates or trying to become one yourself, focus on the following skills and capabilities.

Most PMs have a higher education degree and one or more professional certifications. According to Zippa, around two-thirds of today’s PMs have bachelor’s degrees, while 15% hold master’s degrees. PMs should advance their education in tandem with their career goals to remain competitive.

Project managers can also obtain certifications like the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) to develop specialized project management skills. Two of the most popular general PM certifications are Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

Differences between project, portfolio, and program management

Project management, program management, and portfolio management are three different types of work management that are easily confused. Each discipline requires managers to perform a different set of tasks.

Your organization may not need to fill all of these roles, but with a better understanding of each, you can identify critical gaps in your business's infrastructure.

Project managers are in high demand in many of today’s fastest growing industries, including technology, healthcare, marketing, human resources, and construction. While there are broad similarities between the duties of a PM in every industry, there are some important differences between them.

Manage projects with more efficiency and improve your project life cycle

Understanding the project manager role can help you leverage the position to improve operations across your organization. You’ll know what type of day-to-day support PMs need to bring their projects to completion. By implementing better project management practices, you can also improve each stage of the project life cycle in your organization.

Adobe Workfront can help your PMs plan, manage, and complete projects at scale. Workfront integrates people, data, processes, and technology across the organization, so you can manage the entire lifecycle of projects from start to finish.

Take a product tour of Adobe Workfront to learn how you can improve your project management capabilities today.