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What Does a Project Manager Do, Exactly? Find Out Here.

With an estimated one in six IT projects going over budget by 200%, it stands to reason that having a skilled project manager overseeing each project is mission-critical. 

Project managers are responsible for the planning, procurement, execution and completion of a project, and it’s worth noting that this is a very different role than that of a product manager. 

In this post, we’ll answer the question “what does a project manager do?” along with what exactly the job entails and how to transition into a project management role in tech.

What a Project Manager Does (and Doesn’t) Do? 

While people often focus on what project managers do, it’s probably easier to explain what they don’t do.

The role of a project manager is complex. They oversee all the moving parts of a project, communicate with stakeholders, and ensure key milestones are being met. 

Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Planning the project using the Statement of Work (SOW). Creating a requirement document that maps out every single element needed to get the project completed in painstaking detail.
  • Coordinating the resources and budget.
  • Creating a timeline that includes milestones and sprint cycles.
  • Managing the project as it goes through each phase — including dealing with anything that goes wrong along the way. 
  • Reporting on project progress.
  • Keeping the team motivated and on track. 

Skills Required for Project Managers

For people looking to break into the world of IT project management  many of the skills you already have are likely transferable to this role. 

Transferable skills include everything from communication and leadership to time management and teamwork. These skills are needed to be successful regardless of the industry you’re in, so for those wanting to move into the tech sector, you’ll need to consider how you can best highlight these skills when interviewing for a project management role.

Other skills project managers require include: 

  • Expertise with multiple project management methodologies
  • Scheduling and task management
  • Budgeting and cost management
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Negotiation
  • Critical thinking
  • Research
  • Reporting
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict management
  • Patience

Project Management Methodologies

To answer the question “what do project managers do?” it’s critical to recognize their understanding of project management methodologies.

Project management methodologies are a system of procedures, techniques, practices and rules used by project management professionals. There’s more than one way to get to the finish line, and each project management methodology offers a way to do it. 

Choosing the right methodology for each project will be based on several factors including project complexity, timeline, flexibility, cost, budget, team size and the ability to take risks. 

Some of the most popular project management methodologies are:

  • Agile
  • Scrum
  • Lean
  • Waterfall
  • Extreme Programming (XP) 
  • Adaptive Project Framework (APF)
  • Kanban

Some project managers may specialize in one of these methods, or use a variety of them depending on their company and specific role. 

A Day in The Life of a Project Manager

If you ask a project manager what a typical day looks like, they’ll probably tell you that no two days are the same.

Project management roles will vary by company, but as a project manager in the tech sector, you can expect the day-to-day to probably look a little like this: 

  1. Checking in with stakeholders to gather requirements, deliverables, and timeframes.
  2. Outlining project charters or statements of work. 
  3. Meeting with your team members to discuss progress, obstacles and solutions. 
  4. Planning your resources and shifting capacity as needed. 
  5. Creating or updating project plans.
  6. Conducting risk assessments. 
  7. Producing regular progress reports for stakeholders and leadership management.
  8. Mitigating any issues that arise.
  9. Coaching and motivating team members. 
  10. Leading post-mortem meetings for completed projects. 

Translate Your Project Management Skills Into a Tech Career

Having solid project management skills can open up countless career opportunities, particularly in the tech sector where these skills are in high demand. 

By taking the time to look at your existing skills and assessing what additional skills you may need to add into your repertoire, you can set yourself to be successful as a project manager regardless of the industry. 

Interested in building additional skills to make yourself even more marketable?

Udacity’s School of Business offers learners the opportunity to build their business skills in areas such as user research, design, distribution, analysis, and strategy. Whether you’re getting started or advancing your career, you’ll establish the right foundations with Udacity’s School of Business.

Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer is a content writer at Udacity with over 10 years of content creation and marketing communications experience in the tech, e-commerce and online learning spaces. When she’s not working to inform, engage and inspire readers, she’s probably drinking too many lattes and scouring fashion blogs.