When a company organization is searched to find a project manager, the first results may be fruitless because no one with that job title can be found. The project manager’s identity is often hidden behind some other organizational roles. This is particularly true for specialized in-house projects where, for example, a person with the title ‘facilities manager’ might act as project manager during a major reorganization of accommodation. Another example is where a personal styled ‘senior engineer’ is made responsible for managing a costly new product design and development project.
Even where project management is accredited with the important of a full-time appointment, the situation can be made less clear by the variety of titles used to describe the job. Contract manager, scheduling and estimating manager, project coordinator, project coordination engineer, program engineer, project leader, and project manager are but a few of the titles which have been used. The trend in recent years has been encouraging, and project management is now widely recognized as a profession that deserves reasonable status and rewards with its own professional associations (The Association for Project Management in the UK) and with far less confusion over the job title.
The levels of responsibility and authority given to project managers vary considerably from one organization to another. In some cases they act simply as planners and coordinators. In other businesses the project manager will have complete authority over all those responsible for achieving the project objectives.
The career of a project manager may have started as an information technologist, as a specialist in one of the operational research disciplines, a contracts manager or a qualified engineer. One of the more common routes to project management lies through the engineering design department. Frequently the engineer in command of a particular project design is charged with some degree of overall responsibility for seeing the entire project through to completion. When this happens, the engineer has a dual organizational position, exercising direct line authority and supervision over the engineering design staff, which acts only in a functional role when trying to influence all the other departments engaged on the project.
The project management function in a small company might be conducted entirely on a part-time basis by one of the existing department heads, or by some other individual as in the case of the engineer just described. Other companies could be forced to recognize the need for a full-time project manager, the incumbent being held responsible for either one individual project or for several projects which are being handled simultaneously.
The question of “How senior is a project manager?” and “To whom should the project manager report?” now arise. Much of the project manager’s time will be spent in coordination – steering and integrating the activities of some departments and relying on others for information or supporting services. Thus the desirable organizational status for the project manager appears to be indicated on a level at least equivalent to the company’s departmental managers.