Put simply, project management is overseeing the orchestration of a task or job, delegating work, and setting realistic and achievable goals for a team of experts. The project manager makes sure there are the required resources, that communication is flowing smoothly from top to bottom, and that the schedule is on track.
Everyone practices project management in an informal sense – hosting dinner parties, planting a garden, or booking a holiday. But professional project management is a fast-paced, high intensity job. Project managers exist in heaps of different industries, including Information Technology, Construction, Design and Human Resources. This means that further training or study may be required if you’d like to specialise in a particular field of management.
On a daily basis, a project manager or coordinator might have to deal with planning and designing the project, organising finances and liaising with the team. They also have to know how to avoid or manage risk, deal with clients and make quick, effective judgements and decisions, often in a high-pressure environment.
A lot of the time a project is planned so thoroughly that the schedule is developed to include every hour or every day of the project! In situations like these, where the project is complex and of a large scale, scheduling software is used to coordinate timing, so it’s important to be computer literate as a project manager. You also have to have a thorough understanding of what the job involves, and exactly how to get it done.
An essential part of the job is managing resources: this includes people and supplies. For instance, if you’re running a construction project, you’ve got to know how many workmen you need on each given day, and how many hours they’ll need to work. On top of that, if heavy machinery like cranes or bulldozers are needed, the project manager must calculate the cost of rental, when the machines need to arrive at the site and how to get the most out of them in the shortest amount of time. If the project isn’t running to schedule, or is poorly planned, costs increase and clients are never happy about this! A good project manager is able to balance finances efficiently, juggling the cost of labour and resources.
Project management spans so many industries, there are many pathways open to you. Primarily, project management is necessary to the industries of information technology, events, construction, architecture, design and engineering. And within those industries, there are large and small projects, of varying complexities - as you might have read in our industry expert profile with Sarah last week.
It’s rare to enter the industry as a fully-fledged project manager. Just like a lot of industries, most people work their way upwards. An example of a career pathway is entering a project management team as an assistant, or being assigned one aspect of the work. The more experience you have, the more tasks people will entrust you with. Eventually you’ll have observed and absorbed enough knowledge and skill to run a project of your own. Other entry points are in technical jobs, constructing, managing and editing the schedule of the project using a software programme, as well as reviewing documents and writing reports on behalf of the team.
Some of the roles in project management include:
This kind of position is a fantastic entry point into the industry. It provides a lot of exposure to the work being done by the project manager. Daily tasks might involve writing and distributing reports to keep everyone involved in the project informed as to its progress.
The name says it all. This position typically exists in extremely large and complex projects. You’ll know the management software back to front. Your job will involve entering information and data into the system, and updating files. It’s a pretty technical position, vital to the management team, but it doesn’t require you to be involved in management.
Assistant Project Manager
This job doesn’t necessarily involve directly assisting the project manager in their role. Instead, you might be given a certain aspect of the project that is your responsibility entirely. You’ll meet with the project manager regularly to keep them updated on your progress, and you have all the same expectations upon you in terms of budgets and deadlines.
You’re in charge! Whether you’re running a project by yourself, or leading a team of experts and delegating tasks, you’re the vital link between the client and the team. You might be working with a government agency, a private company, an individual or the senior management of your company and you might have a team of five or fifty. Either way, you shoulder the responsibility of making sure the project is executed beautifully, and in a timely, cost-effective manner.
If you're already working in Project Management, you might want to check out some of these project management mantras from our resident project management trainer, Ian Peters.
Do you like writing lists? Are you a people person? Project management might be for you. The typical skills possessed by someone excelling in project management include:
- Exceptional time management skills
- The ability to work under pressure
- The ability to meet a deadline
- Great communication skills, both professional and interpersonal
- Being a lateral thinker, who tackles problems analytically
- The ability to manage finances and budgets
An individual with training in project management might look to work as a project manager either in a generic context or specific to an industry. It is projected that 11% more Project Managers will be employed in Australia in 2018, compared to 2013. So the industry is in the middle of the process of growth.
The average salary of a project coordinator is $58,119 per year, with the maximum salary being as high as $64,163 per year according to joboutlook.gov.au and abs.gov.au. However, it’s important to note that given project management spans varying industries, this average salary is only a very generalised indicator. Turning to the average Australian salary by industry, Mining is the highest paying. Construction, Information Media and Telecommunications and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services are other industries relevant to project management that are sitting up there.
Turning to construction management as a case study, statistics show 79,700 Australians are employed in the area and the level of future job openings is high. The long-term employment growth is 67.5% over ten years. The weekly earnings for full-time workers is $1795 before tax and 92.5% of those employed are working full-time.
The success of a project relies on the abilities of the project manager. It’s a lot of responsibility, and at times it can be stressful. But if you love getting a job done, if you’re good at organisation and communication, it’s just right for you.
So if a career in project management is sounding pretty good to you so far, check out some info about study options and the industry itself here.