Project Management Fundamentals Essay

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Role of Project Manager in Different Projects

The project manager plays an instrumental role in ensuring project success. It could actually be argued that the project manager is the most important person in any project management environment (Meredith and Mantel, 2011). Essentially, the project manager carries the overall responsibility for ensuring the project is successfully planned, designed, executed, monitored, controlled, and closed (Thomsett, 2010; Young, 2013). Whereas the role of the project manager tends to be similar in virtually all projects, there could be some differences from one type of project to another (Winch, 2010; Project Management Institute [PMI], 2013). This essay critically evaluates the role of the project manager in three contrasting types of projects.

As per the conventional project management methodology, the role of the project manager stretches across four major functions: planning (laying out a plan for achieving the overall objective of the project); execution (implementing the laid out plan); controlling (monitoring the progress of implementation); and closure (delivery of the final product to the client) (Lock, 2007; Thomsett, 2010; PMI, 2013; Young, 2013). These functions clearly demonstrate how important the role of the project manager is.

The role may, however, differ from project to project (PMI, 2013). In a construction project, for instance, the role of the project manager would encompass hiring contractors, providing detailed explanations to contractors and supervising their work, establishing budget estimates, developing the construction timetable, as well as overseeing the procurement of construction materials and inspecting their quality (Dykstra, 2011). The role of the project manager would also entail engaging senior management, providing regular status reports, coordinating with engineers, architects and other specialists, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, as well as responding to delays and unexpected changes. Without effective execution of these roles, the project may not be completed on time, at budget, and with the expected level of quality; which shows the importance of the project manager in the construction environment.

Nonetheless, the role of the project manager in a software development project would be quite different. First, it may not be necessary for a construction manager to be an architect or an engineer (Dykstra, 2011). In a software development project, however, it is usually more useful when the project manager is considerably knowledgeable in software development and/or information technology in general (Mcmanus, 2005). This implies that the role of the project manager in a software development project may be much more active and complex compared to a construction project. This role would, for instance, involve understanding software requirements, creating a team of software engineers and designers, explaining the objectives of the software to the project team, reporting project status to senior management, supervising the installation of the new software, coordinating staff training, and monitoring the performance of the new system (Mcmanus, 2005). The role of the project manager would also entail working closely with business stakeholders to ensure the new system resonates with the needs and expectations of the client. Clearly, the project manager serves the most important role in a software development project.

The role of the project manager may even be more complex in a project aimed at developing a new car model. A project manager in this context would ordinarily be involved in developing the strategy of the new product, coordinating market research to test the new product, designing and defining the characteristics of the new product, ensuring quality control, planning the launch of the new product, as well as engaging customers (Shina, 2014). The role would also involve working with the sales and marketing team to maximize revenue and customer satisfaction. These roles evidently demonstrate the importance of the project manager in the success of the product. A notable difference between the role of the project manager in car manufacturing and the other two types of projects is that their role in the former tends to be much longer depending on the lifecycle of the product in question, while in the latter their role entails delivering a project with a defined timeline and budget (Shina, 2014). In essence, a project manager in the car manufacturing context would be responsible for the continuous success of the product, particularly due to the evolving nature of customer requirements.

In conclusion, project management is undoubtedly a daunting task for the project manager.
As the overall overseer, the project manager must effectively handle all the processes involved in planning, executing, controlling, and closing a project. It is, however, important to note that the complexity of project management may differ from project to project. Even so, the project manager remains the most important person in virtually every project environment.

Question 2: Agile Project Management Methodology

The project management environment is a constantly evolving phenomenon. Factors such as changing client preferences and priorities, greater task complexity, increased geographical dispersion of the project team, as well as shifts in the organizational and industry landscape increasingly impose new demands on project managers in virtually all industries and sectors (Cobb, 2011). Accordingly, project managers must be in a position to adjust their project management approaches with the changing circumstances of the project environment (Wysocki, 2011). The agile project management methodology advocates for this flexibility. In fact, the methodology has even more been deemed as the most appropriate for all projects in the increasingly dynamic modern environment (Brechner, 2015). This essay critically evaluates this assertion, clearly highlighting the merits and demerits of the methodology.

Whereas there is no universally agreed definition, agile project management essentially denotes a value-driven project management approach characterized by flexibility, openness to new ideas, and willingness to embrace change even during the latest stages of the project life cycle (Chin, 2004; Brechner, 2015). The methodology particularly calls for the adaptation of project management to the circumstances at hand. More importantly, it advocates for an incremental and repetitive approach to project delivery (Highsmith, 2010). The project is delivered in small, progressive stages, with constant adjustment to changing circumstances. This is unlike under the generally rigid conventional approach, where the project is often delivered as one large product (Wysocki, 2011). Furthermore, as its primary focus is value, the agile methodology encourages the implementation of new changes in the execution stage with little or no consideration to budget constraints (Cobb, 2011).

The agile methodology has historically been used in software development projects, where requirements tend to change frequently (Brechner, 2015). Nonetheless, the methodology has increasingly gained prominence in other project management contexts such as product development and construction (Wysocki, 2011). A major advantage of the methodology is that it permits constant responsiveness to shifting or new requirements. Constant adjustment of project requirements often enhances the management of risks in the course of execution (Highsmith, 2010). It also places the project manager in a better position to deliver a high quality product in accordance to the needs and expectations of the client, which in turn improves customer satisfaction (Brechner, 2015). Increased customer satisfaction in agile project management particularly emanates from the fact that the methodology enables greater interaction between the project team and the client (Cobb, 2011). This improves cooperation, communication, better visibility of progress, as well as transparency. Other important benefits of the agile methodology include earlier identification of problematic issues and less documentation (Wysocki, 2011).

The above merits do not necessarily imply that the agile methodology is a straightforward project management methodology. In spite of the value it can deliver to project management, it can equally present significant challenges (Wysocki, 2011). This is particularly true for large, complex projects. In such projects it may be quite difficult to quantitatively estimate the effort required (in terms of time and cost) to accomplish the project at the planning or commencement stage (Chin, 2004). This ambiguity and lack of predictability at the planning stage may increase the likelihood of scope creep.

Moreover, software development projects on which the methodology is commonly applied are generally not as sophisticated as projects in contexts such as construction, architecture, and engineering (Chin, 2004; Wysocki, 2011). For instance, it may be quite unrealistic or difficult to deliver products such as space shuttles, buildings, roads, and bridges in small, incremental stages (Highsmith, 2010). Such projects often require strict adherence to the initial plan as time and cost are usually of the essence -- a small deviation from the initial scope, schedule, and budget may generate disastrous consequences. Nonetheless, this does not necessarily mean that no adjustments are made to these projects once implementation kicks off. It may sometimes be impossible to ignore changes in the project environment (Chin, 2004). For instance, changes in regulation may.....

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Wysocki, R., 2011. Effective project management: traditional, agile, extreme. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Young, T., 2013. Successful project management. 4th edition. London: Kogan Page.

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