Who is a Project Manager, and where did they come from?

Where does the Project Manager come from?

Since the cognitive revolution occurred around 30 000 years ago, when people learned how to speak about things that have no physical appearance and only exist in the minds of Homo sapiens, our ancestors have begun a long journey that brought us to this conversation. Every mundane affair or an enormously ambitious one can never succeed without an understanding of how things work. To ensure the desired result, one needs to apply knowledge and skills. Including organizational skills. 

Even shopping we can regard as a project for collecting resources. One should plan the items needed, their amount, cost, weight, the way to the shopping spot, and the time required to accomplish this project. We do it every day, some are better than others in this subject, but it leads us to the point where we understand that planning and controlling matters. 

And here we come to another Cognitive Revolution when people started to question the origins of human behavior and performance. Along with other significant events, Management theories and practices enlarged, evolved, and spread to the extent when in 1969, the PMI (Project Management Institution) manifested a new specialty, a new job – Project Manager.

So who are Project Managers?

A Project Manager (PM) is responsible for delivering particular value to people. 

The main responsibilities of a Project Manager are:

Their goal is to deliver what’s expected to the customer and ensure a comfortable working environment for each team member and stakeholder.

PM talks to every stakeholder and every team member in their own language and navigates customers through production until successful delivery and customer satisfaction.

Project Coordinator, Product Manager, Project Manager? Are they the same?

In short, definitely NOT! 

In some companies, especially small ones, one person can be all of them. Some believe it’s good to have a universal soldier, and others remain convinced that one person can be truly great at one thing at a time. Let’s leave it aside for now.

So what’s the difference, and can one replace another?

A Project Coordinator

typically manages the company’s resources, distributes team members, and defines their load and schedule. This person approves changes in the teams, takes part in short and long-term planning, and knows the situation on each project, at least at a high level.

Basically, it’s the Manager of Project Managers. After a certain point of company development, there needs to be a Project Coordinator to avoid unnecessary discussions between Project Managers and save time for the CEO. 

Can a Project Manager be a Project Coordinator or vice versa? They surely can. Should they? If a PM is quite experienced and can maintain the whole department’s work, why not. If a PC takes some specific project, it usually means that they go one level down: from the Tactical view to the Operation view. And about that, we can say one thing; if you’re doing somebody else’s job, you’re not doing yours.

A Product Manager

is a person responsible for the product. Sounds too easy, right? The Product Manager defines what needs to be done, when, in what order, and (optionally) explains it to the Product Owner (stakeholder, sponsor, etc.) 

They must understand what’s happening to the product, when, why, how, and so on. They transfer their expected work to the Project Manager, who then ensures the development and delivery.

The Product Manager and the Project Manager are on the opposite sides of the Product Backlog (requirements, list of tasks): the Product Manager defines and fills it up. The Project Manager works with the tasks that are already there in the order requested by the Product Manager.

Can they replace each other? No, they have different responsibilities. Can one person do both? Yes, especially if we’re talking about some Product company. However, in the long term, in a big company, everybody does their own job to have the privilege of focusing on one thing.

What’s important for a Project Manager?

If we limit this discussion to what’s essential to start a career in Project Management, we would say that excellent communication skills and language competence could suffice for starters. We’re also sure that a PM needs to love people and interact with them, as most of the time, every PM spends talking to somebody orally or via messages. 

So the first set of skills is for certain communication: knowing how to speak, explain, persuade, negotiate, hear and listen. Indeed, each company and customer consciously (or not) is also looking for a team member or executor with a specific Mindset so that this person would fit the team and the project. That’s shortly on the Soft skills of a Project Manager.

The second skills huddle is formed depending on the domain. We’re talking about Hard skills now. It is helpful for a PM to understand Business Analysis, Basic Setting of Infrastructure, the Life cycle of a software product and project, metrics used for monitoring progress, performance, load and COM. And of course, Methodologies and Frameworks to be able to choose the best approach and ensure delivery of a high-quality product and a comfortable ambiance for everyone involved. 

What methods are currently used in Project Management?

We don’t believe it’s possible to tell even 1% of the complete information in this article, as the PMI is constantly updating the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge), which serves as one of the primary sources of information needed for those who manage or work with managers. 

In short, there are two main approaches (methodologies): Waterfall (linear) and Agile (adaptive). We dare to show you a figure from the Agile Guide by PMI that helps choose an approach depending on the project conditions and level of certainty. 

In the Software domain, it is better to work by Agile Methodology, which can be applied in many approaches; the most popular ones are Scrum, Kanban, DSDM, Lean, and others that you can see on another figure from the Agile Guide by PMI. 

A thorough breakdown will be presented in our next article.


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