A project manager has overall responsibility for the successful planning, execution and control of a project. She usually reports to a project board, which is responsible for approving the project and budget and signing off on each stage as it's completed. Every project is different and will have a specific set of goals. In every case, though, the project manager's objectives are simply to complete the project on time, on budget and within the agreed scope and quality of the plan.
Many projects are by their nature time-dependent. For example, a project to refurbish a hotel must be completed by the start of the key booking season. Implementation of a new IT system has to be planned so that the fewest possible number of business days are lost. Because contractors are paid by the day, it's also important that they're not employed any longer than they have to be. The project manager must plan work and resources so that time is not wasted. However, she must also be realistic: A timetable that depends on everyone working 70-hour weeks is not sustainable.
Typically, a project is given a fixed budget by the senior management of the organization. It's the responsibility of the project manager to allocate time and resources within this budget, keeping aside contingency funds to cope with potential problems. The more complex a project, the more difficult it can be to control the budget. This is why staying within budget is a key objective on which the project manager's success will be judged.
A good project manager must ensure that all the work required is done, but that no unnecessary work is included. "Scope creep," in which additional requirements are added on an ad hoc basis, is a major cause of exceeding both budget and time constraints. Managing scope can be a source of conflict between the project manager and the project board, as the latter can often try to squeeze in some extra requirements.
A quality objective is not necessarily about making sure that every aspect of the project is of the very highest quality, but about making sure that it's delivered to the quality agreed and expected by the client. Standards should be agreed at the beginning, taking into account the budget and time objectives. In the hotel refurbishment example, the quality objective would probably not include 100 percent gold-plated taps, but that all taps should be of a matching style, plumbed in and working two weeks before the hotel is due to re-open.
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