Project Practitioners > Walking the fine line of project management

Walking the fine line of project management

By Nova Rose

There is a fine line between project manager and subject matter expert and unless close attention is paid to roles and responsibilities, this line can be easily blurred and in some cases become non-existent.

A few months ago I began a new project. At the first meeting it became obvious that the business unit had the expectation that I would be sitting through meetings to confirm business rules. It was a notion that I quickly dispelled. How could I explain to the group that while I was interested in their processes, my responsibility was to get the processes automated to their specifications? In another scenario, I was asked by one manager why it is that I could not have seen that if they asked for functionality in one module then they would also need it in another one. Well, it is my job to make these suggestions if I see them, but it is also my job not to goldplate and give the customer what they did not ask for.

I thought about these two scenarios and realized that the everyday project management tools and methodologies that we so eagerly employ are very handy when trying not to fall into the role of the Subject Matter Expert.


  1. Define clear roles and responsibilities

This is a very important exercise and the tool of choice is a roles and responsibilities grid. The roles and responsibilities grid allows you to identify the team members and stakeholders, their levels of participation on the project, and the deliverables each person will lead. It is important that the team is involved when the grid is completed so you are not doing this by yourself.


  1. Know when to remove yourself from the conversation

If the meeting is about creating a process map for the business, chances are the project manager for the software development should not be in attendance. Even if you find yourself sitting in the meeting, be mindful of your level of participation. Are you the one standing in front of the smart board trying to streamline the process? This should raise a red flag. If the business unit is looking to you, the project manager to set processes then it is time to excuse yourself from the meeting and ask for the completed document.


  1. Outline clear deliverables and assign resources

One great attribute of Microsoft Project is the ability to add resources to the work. Whatever is your project management tool, use this feature and use it well. Once team members can see where they fit and what they should be doing, it will become obvious what ’you’ will not be doing.


The truth is that as project managers we try to do the best we can to give a great solution to the business. If the project fails then we feel as if we have failed. Just remember that the project can be successful but the product can be a long-term failure. The more you have the users own the work, the more chances that there will be success all around.

Related Links
Make sure your team has a crystal clear view of the team roles and responsibilities with a list that everyone contributes to creating. If you'd like some suggestions for successful business process modeling, check out our technique brief, created by Sinikka Waugh. When you're creating a new project plan, make sure you're assigning the task owners to each task.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I think that nowadays Project Manager's need to be "jack of all trades" rather than pure Project Managers. To bee honest few companies can afford to not have a multi tasking Project Manager.

Therefore whilst it is important to differentiate your position and ensure you are seen to be charge of the project, you need to do whatever needs to be done to get the project done. If this means coding HTML or running test scripts then so be it. The Credit Crunch means we all have to multi task or else be out on the street!


Susan de Sousa
Site Editor

Susan, I agree with you, we do need to be versatile and multi-task to keep afloat these days. I have found that we need to juggle everything more these days and that includes business unit work and IT work. The problem that I keep facing is that when business units do not 'own' their processes and IT is placed in the position of formulating those processes, the users end up with a system that they believe the IT project manager 'gave them' and not one that they asked for.
I do agree that we need to jump in and write code or even work the helpdesk if necessary.

The comments to this entry are closed.

©Copyright 2000-2017 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Stay Connected
Get our latest content delivered to your inbox, every other week. New case studies, articles, templates, online courses, and more. Check out our Newsletter Archive for past issues. Sign Up Now

Follow Us!
Linked In Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds

Got a Question?
Drop us an email or call us toll free:
7am-5pm Pacific
Monday - Friday
We'd love to talk to you.

Learn more about ProjectConnections and who writes our content. Want to learn more? Compare our membership levels.