As described by the Project Management Institute, a project is a temporary endeavor that is undertaken to create a unique result, service, or product. A project has a time limit, with a start and end date. Project management is the application of expertise, resources, and time to manage the project and deliver what is required of the project. Projects have different phases, such as requirements gathering, design, construction, testing, and implementation. Project managers use various systems throughout the project’s phases, including high- and low-tech tools such as computer systems and project management software, policies and procedures, and paper forms.
The project manager’s role varies depending on the type of organization they work for. There are three types of organizational structures: functional, projectized, and matrix. The functional organization structure is the most common, with team members working within a functional department, such as engineering or accounting. Typically department managers of the organization will lead up the projects and project managers will have weaker roles. In projectized organizations, the structure is based on projects rather than functions, thus project managers have more authority and easier communication with team members than in the functional organizations. Matrix organizations are a combination of functional and projectized. In matrix organizations, there are functional managers for human resources, for instance, as well as project managers for projects. Project managers share the power with functional managers in matrix organizations.
Most project managers work for projectized and matrix organizations; those that work for functional organizations are typically employed part time or on a contract basis. Project managers are responsible for managing the project and fixing any problems that arise throughout the project’s life cycle. They control the project and are empowered to use organizational resources to accomplish the work. They are the decision makers and have the authority to spend the project’s budget. There are more than 2 million project managers working around the world, according to the Project Management Institute.
Other roles involved in project management are project coordinator, project expeditor, senior management, and functional manager, as well as stakeholders and sponsors. The project coordinator handles administrative duties related to the project, such as communications and correspondence, scheduling, paperwork, coordinating the project resources, etc. Functional organizations and weak matrix organizations may have project coordinators rather than project managers handle the projects. Project coordinators have weaker roles because they do not have the authority to make project decisions or budget decisions. Project expeditors have even less authority than project coordinators. Typically staff assistants are assigned the expeditor role, to provide assistance with project scheduling and materials delivery.
Project managers also work closely with the organization’s senior management. Senior managers make sure the project is a priority and project managers have access to the resources required to do the work. Project managers rely on senior management to create strategic plans and goals that align with the project, and also resolve internal conflicts. Functional managers provide expertise and access to resources for projects. Examples of a functional manager are an engineering manager, marketing manager, or information technology manager. The functional manager may also be the person who approves the overall project. Functional managers can provide valuable contributions to projects, and they are also the people with whom project managers tend to have conflicts on projects.
Certification in the project management field is not a requirement but can enhance project management and organizational skills, and also boost their chances to secure jobs with more responsibilities and higher salaries. The Project Management Institute reports that there are approximately 1.4 million Project Management Institute certifications held worldwide, and that number is growing. Some examples of certification designations are Project Management Professional (PMP), Program Management Professional (PgMP), Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). There are also certification programs for business analysis, agile principles and practices, risk management, and scheduling professionals.