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What does a project manager do?

The project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the project and must be competent in managing the six aspects of a project, i.e. scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources

Project managers work on specific projects that have definite outcomes, have time limits and have to stay within a budget.

These tasks typically include

  • planning what work needs to be done, when and who’s going to do it;
  • looking at the risks involved in a particular project and managing these risks;
  • making sure the work is done to the right standard;
  • motivating the team of people involved in the project;
  • co-ordinating work done by different people;
  • making sure the project is running on time and to budget;
  • dealing with changes to the project as and when necessary;
  • making sure the project delivers the expected outcomes and benefits;

What skills do I need?

There are a whole range of skills you need to be a successful project manager, and they’re not necessarily all technical. They may be skills you already use in your day to day life as well as being job-specific abilities developed through education and training.

We call these soft skills and hard skills, which can range from leadership, being able to motivate and encourage others, have good communication and decision making abilities, to managing risk, budgeting and project planning.

Project management skills are transferable from one industry to another. The tools and techniques of project management are universal and a good project manager should be able to add value in any environment.

It is important to have the right balance and combination of the various skills needed to be a successful project manager, as explored within this blog.

What can projects deliver?

Competence Assessment Tool Square

What project management roles can I choose from?

Use our example role profiles to help focus on relevant competences. The profiles are pitched at different levels and give a general overview of the role and typical responsibilities. In many cases the profiles will share common competences.

This can be useful in identifying learning and development opportunities. There is also scope to develop and adapt the profiles to the specific needs of your organisation.

Some of the more common job titles are listed below complete with a brief explanation.

APM Competence Framework

PMO Administrator

This role profile applies to PMO administrators. At this level, a PMO administrator will provide
support to the project, programme, or portfolio team through administrative and reporting activities.

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Project Manager (Entry)

This role profile applies to project managers operating at entry level. At this level, a project manager can apply project management knowledge when they participate in a project in any capacity and common knowledge is not sufficient to perform at a satisfactory level of competence.

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Programme Manager (Intermediate)

This role profile applies to programme managers operating at intermediate level. At this level, a
programme manager can typically lead a programme of limited complexity or assist on a complex programme, following the appropriate governance applied for the determined life cycle.

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Portfolio Manager (Intermediate)

This role profile applies to portfolio managers operating at intermediate level. At this level, a portfolio manager can lead a portfolio with limited complexity or assist on a complex portfolio, following the appropriate governance applied, monitoring and reporting on the portfolio to several stakeholder groups, and bringing people together to achieve specified outcomes in line with strategic objectives.

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PMO manager

Projects and programmes can start and end, whereas the PMO is a department that forms part of business-as-usual. The PMO manager will not run projects themselves. Their role is typically to ensure consistency in approach to selecting, planning, running and closing projects. The PMO will be the conduit for project status reporting, performance analysis and information for senior management and is likely to have very solid project management experience themselves.

Project co-ordinator

Working with a project manager or as part of a project management office (PMO), this person brings the basic skills of project management discipline to project teams. Typically takes ownership for maintaining project risk, issue, change logs as well as project schedule and sometimes cost tracking. This person has good spreadsheet and planning software skills.

Spencer HobbsA day in the life of a project manager

Spencer is a project manager in the engineering/construction sector.

"I’ve been a project manager for nearly 10 years, and started the role a little further into my working life than others (I was previously a people manager).

I remember when I first had the idea of a career change. I got together with some old friends to organise and reform my old rugby team. Turns out I needed a lot of planning and organisation skills to make this happen. It made me think: I’m good at this, and I enjoy it; could it become my career?"

Find out more
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Why choose project management?

A career as a project manager can be exciting, varied, fulfilling, and productive. There are great career prospects for project managers.

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Whether you have a question around qualifications or courses, some advice based on your personal insights, or wish to tell us your project success story, we'd love to hear from you.