Project manager responsibilities

Note: Determining who the audience is and what kind of communication product best meets the identified needs precedes this process.

  1. What does it mean to be a project manager?
    • Every project — print, web, event or other — needs to have someone identified as the project manager.
    • This is the go-to person, the one to whom all questions/issues/concerns about the project should be referred.
    • This person doesn't necessarily do everything, but is responsible for managing the project and directing the work flow.
  2. How do you decide who is the project manager?
    • History — he or she has managed this project in the past
    • Relevance — the project is most closely aligned with this person's expertise or job responsibilities
    • Expediency — this person has the time, ability and willingness to manage this project
  3. How does the project manager interact with others?
    • The project manager works with others to determine the scope of the project, quantity, distribution plan and budget. The PM determines who the players are and what their roles will be.
      • If this is a repeating product, how many did we order last time? Are any left over? Do we anticipate needing more?
      • What is the funding source, what account will be billed and who will approve the expenditure?
      • If this is a printed piece, get post office approval if needed.
      • Will there be some kind of distribution? How will that be accomplished?
    • The project manager schedules the project. This is a collaborative process requiring consultation with all the people who might be involved at some point in the process. A very important step is getting sign-offs from all the key players to approve the final product.
    • Draft a timeline that includes all players. Consult with those affected and revise the schedule if necessary.
      • Start with the date the project is due and work backwards.
    • The project manager oversees the project.
      • Monitor to make sure it's on schedule and on budget.
      • It's a good idea to check in with the project each day: whose desk is it on, where is it going next, how long will it take to get there. Ask yourself if any of these factors will affect the deadline.
    • The project manager wraps up the project.
      • Check the bill and approve final payment. If there are discrepancies, figure out what caused them and work with Purchasing to address them. Be sure to note this information in the file.
      • Solicit feedback on what went well and what could have been done better, then compile those comments into a postmortem and file it.
      • Make sure there is a record of the key aspects of the project: who, what, how many, when, where, how much it cost. Make sure that information is filed where it can be found again. Do this soon after the project is complete or you will forget the details!
      • Before archiving the file, clean out extraneous "stuff" that wouldn't be useful to someone else later. Useful information includes quantity printed/purchased, people involved, costs and the postmortem. Include a few copies of the final item.
      • If this is a repeating project, make a recommendation about whether evaluation, follow-up market research and/or user input is needed before this project is undertaken again.
  4. How does the project manager interact with supervisors?
    • The project manager needs to keep his or her supervisor informed about how the project is tracking, any issues that come up which might affect the final project or its delivery date, budget implications, etc.
    • Inform the supervisor ahead of time about key dates when the supervisor's input will be needed.
    • Let the supervisor know when a project is completed and provide samples of the final product so the supervisor can forward that information up the reporting chain.
  5. Tools for the savvy project manager
    • Scheduling backwards — not a complicated procedure but an invaluable tool. Start with the date you want to have the product in your hand or the event to take place, and work backwards to the present time, filling in the amount of time various steps should take and who will be responsible for that task.
    • Plan the distribution: Who should receive this item? Who needs to know it is available? How will they get it or how will you let them know?
    • Use Marketing and Communications' PPF (print project flow sheet) (PDF), which contains several important checklists: editor, photo manager, project manager, web publishing, and design and production checklist. By reviewing these checklists you can gain familiarity with the role of others in your project production "team." Or create your own checklist, specific to your needs.
    • Determine who needs to sign off on your project before it is final. Sign-offs may include budgeting, design, production, photo, editing and distribution. The final check-off is for the project manager, to verify everything has been done, copies or files are archived and "it's a wrap."