Project Management

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Topics: Career Development, Leadership, Strategy
Project Manager - by Title or by Role
So, what is a project manager, the title, or the role? In my experience, chartered project managers who perform as the “project executive” and who report into a steering committee are rarely HR titled as a “project manager,” although they may have been at some point in their career. These PM’s are normally seasoned individuals who have cross-domain knowledge, and who have proven experience as a project professional; hence, they are trusted with the reigns of the project.

On the other hand, those with a project manager title are often relegated to performing technical project management activities and have limited or no functional control over the project, and perform more in line with the role of a project administrator.

Obviously, this is not true across the board and depends heavily on the organization's structure, industry, maturity level and the like. What is your experience, your concerns, and what is the trend from your perspective?
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My personal opinion is that it is about the role. I still see a lot of focus on the title and for this reason, we see lots of questions such as 'where is the PM role in Scrum' or 'what will the BA do now that we do not have a need for one in Agile'. My concern is that when we do not see the title we believe that the role has disappeared. I will go a step further and say that it is more about the function than the role and not at all about the title. The title is meaningless and rarely tells anybody what you are actually doing.
A project manager is a professional in the field of project management. Project managers have the responsibility of the planning, procurement and execution of a project, in any undertaking that has a defined scope, defined start and a defined finish; regardless of industry. It can be a role or a title depending on your responsibilities in the project.
It s about the role. Even so, and here I agree with Anton, many focus on title. But at the same time I am still seeing many cases when the term is misused. I remember in one of my previous organizations we had a lot of PMs, in different departments, basically any team leader or so was a PM. The attempt to align the job description, define a singular role etc met a very strong resistance and in the end this initiative was abandoned (!).
My concern is that people without having the specific knowledge and experience hide behind the title and this has an impact on the profession and how it is perceived in general. I see this "plugged" into reality reading the job descriptions from available openings, because this shows how some organizations understand this role.
It is mostly a role. Title can be anything, but the responsibilities bear by the person and the duties performed by him defined his actual position.
In Scrum, there is no role as project manager but in those organizations the Scrum Master have to perfom similar duties as of PM.
1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Nov 14, 2019 5:53 PM
Adrian Carlogea
Scrum is a framework, usually used in software development, that is not specific to projects.

Some years ago I worked as a software developer on a software product development department that was using Scrum. However the department was not using projects and as such there were no project managers there. The department did not have a fixed budget to deliver something but instead it was continuously resourced to maintain and enhance a software product for which software licenses were sold.

The company also had a software delivery department that was deploying and customizing software. This department was also using Scrum but also had project managers as the projects were delivered for a fixed price and as such they had a fixed budget.

In conclusion the Scrum Master has not taken the role of the PM. If you are using Scrum in a project you need both roles although they can be held by the same person. If you are using Scrum in product development or maintenance and don't have a fixed budget to deliver something then you need the role of the Scrum Master but not that of the PM.
Dear George
Interesting your question
Thanks for sharing

We are living an unforgettable moment that is associated with organizational transformation

From traditional silos and hierarchies to projects and processes

The project manager (whatever name we want to give) is a person who must have a set of competencies that allow the organization to deliver project results in accordance with the objectives
I would call it responsibility instead of role or designation
George -

It is a role, but even in contexts where there is a titled individual, elements of the role might be diffused among other contributors. For example, in a large project following an adaptive lifecycle, there might be a PM who is acting as the overall conductor, but project management activities are being carried out by others including agile leads/Scrum Masters and Product Owners.

I agree with my colleagues that it is primarily the role. Interestingly to me, when I see the role in organizations that are very technically oriented, they don't use the title PM. They use titles like lead engineer, project engineer, technical leader, integration manager, etc. Some include project, some include manager, but they tend to reflect the technical focus of the organization, even though the PM may have little influence over the technical details.

Where the title PM is used, there is often widespread disagreement over whether that is a leadership role, or an administrative one. That is equally true for both the hiring organization, and the people hired into a position with the PM title.

People can be a very bad fit for a position with the PM title if they don't have the same understanding of what it means to the hiring organization for that reason. I think a good question for the hiring manager when being interviewed is what they think a PM does. Is it a person who collects data and formats charts so that managers can lead projects, or is it a person who interprets data, and makes well thought out decisions, plans, and/or recommendations based on their understanding of the data?
From my experience working on IT projects, IT PMs usually have more an administrative role. Mostly they have to keep track and report. Also they facilitate the decision making process.

In large IT projects in which the organization does not have the knowledge and staff to do the work usually a so called Project or Program Director is being assigned. He can be either a senior member from the IT department or a contractor with experience in IT management. He may or not have a project management background.

The Project/Program Director is given the authority to use the project/program budget to hire contractors/consultants and also to make major project decisions. The Director acts like a proxy for the sponsor when the sponsor does not have the domain knowledge.

The Project/Program Director is probably close to what many people think a PM should do. In reality however the Director hires program and project manager that as, George says, do the "technical" project management work but usually they are not given too much decision making power.
We get questions in PMC from a diverse set of project professionals. The diversity is such, that it is hard at times to identify the “project professionals” functional role and its meaning in their organization, which then makes it hard for us to be contextually correct in our responses.

In principle, if we had a field when posting a question called “your current role,” what items would we have in that drop down? I would contend that “project manager” would NOT be one of the entries, because it is too generic. So, recognizing this, what would be the Role Vocabulary that would, in theory, give us what we need to understand the submitter's “contextually correct functional role” for their question? For instance:

- Executive General Project Manager (i.e., the “accountable PM” who hold the reigns of the project)
- Supporting General Project Manager (i.e. a PM among many PM’s working a large project, responsible for one or more teams)
- Project Administrator (assists in technical project management activities)
- Engineering Project Manager
- etc. etc. etc.

I’m not suggesting that we have a new field when submitting a question, I’m only suggesting we use this as a scenario in coming up with the “Role Vocabulary.” Is anybody willing to put their thinking caps on and contribute to a list on this thread?
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