Roles and Responsibilities of Project Managers in Digital Transformations and ERP Implementations

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: October 12, 2023

Project management is a crucial discipline within digital transformation. Not only is it complex, but it is also one of the most rewarding fields. The primary focus of this discussion is to understand the specific role and responsibilities of a project manager.

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One of the significant functions that we serve as consultants is fulfilling the project manager role. Frequently, we offer project management capabilities to our clients. Simultaneously, the client typically has their own project managers. The collaboration between our companies greatly enhances the effectiveness of the project management function. However, many organizations and individuals new to the field of project management are curious about the specific responsibilities of a project manager. This topic becomes particularly relevant when clients are seeking a project manager for their digital transformation, or when individuals express interest in entering the project management field. It is this precise role and responsibility of a project manager that we aim to elucidate in this discussion.

Project Governance

One of the primary responsibilities of a project manager is to focus on project governance, which commences at the inception of a project and persists throughout its entirety. Central to this governance is the development of a project charter. This charter serves as a foundational document outlining the guidelines for how a project will be executed. It delineates the parameters for project management, decision-making processes, roles and responsibilities within the project, its goals and objectives, resource allocation, and the comprehensive project plan. The charter encapsulates both short-term and long-term management strategies.

It is often the responsibility of the project manager to spearhead the development of the project charter in collaboration with the broader project team. However, it's essential to understand that a project charter isn't crafted by the project manager alone. Instead, they work closely with various stakeholders and business owners engaged in the transformation to ensure the charter accurately reflects the organization's direction and goals for the project.

Once established, the project charter is not a static document. It evolves, adapting to changes in scope and direction, ensuring alignment with the organization's shifting objectives. Thus, project governance is not only a critical initial step but also an ongoing effort throughout the project's lifecycle.

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Management and Leadership

Another fundamental responsibility of project managers encompasses both management and leadership. These are distinct yet interrelated domains, each requiring its own set of skills.

Management pertains to the direct oversight of various activities, resources, and tasks throughout a project. This involves ensuring tasks progress on schedule, within budget, and meet established quality benchmarks.

In contrast, leadership delves into the intangibles of project management. Its primary focus is on alignment. This means ensuring harmony between the project's direction and the established project charter, as well as the broader goals and objectives of the company. Specifically, leadership seeks to maintain alignment between the project team, the resources they utilize, and the organization's executive leadership. A common challenge faced by project managers is the potential misalignment of the project team's actions with the overarching direction set by executive leadership. Such misalignment can inadvertently steer projects off course, not necessarily due to a lack of competence or intent but a lack of clarity and alignment with the organization's larger objectives.

Therefore, both management and leadership roles are imperative for project managers to effectively spearhead transformation initiatives.

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Budget and Status Tracking

Another vital responsibility of project managers is to monitor the overall project budget and status. Within a project, numerous components are in motion, potentially encompassing hundreds or even thousands of line items and tasks. The role of project management primarily involves tracking the progress of these individual activities and ensuring that the project remains within its budget. Both the project budget and status rank as the most frequently assessed and understood metrics by project managers. This task, while complex, is fundamental for project managers, and they are commonly held accountable by both the project teams and broader organizations for ensuring timely delivery of project status and budget updates.

It is crucial for managers to spot potential challenges early on. Before a budget is exceeded or before any task's status becomes critical, preemptive measures should be taken. For instance, if a particular task is lagging or if there's a projection of budget overrun, these concerns should be flagged and escalated even before they become official setbacks. One of the hallmarks of an adept project manager is this proactive approach to managing project status and budget throughout its entirety.

Risk Mitigation

In project management, one of the paramount functions is risk mitigation and management. Every significant transformation entails inherent risks, and all major organizations grapple with these challenges. Effective project managers are those who can preemptively identify and anticipate potential risks. More crucially, they possess the skills to mitigate and navigate these challenges. Instead of waiting for risks to escalate to insurmountable issues, proficient project managers discern budding risks and take preventive measures. Risk mitigation and management are not only vital for the success of a project but also pivotal for a project manager's career longevity. Unforeseen risks can jeopardize the reputation of the project manager, often making them the primary target for unaddressed or mismanaged risks. Therefore, for the success of both the project and one's career, it's imperative for a project manager to proactively identify and address risks throughout the project's lifecycle.

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Art and Science of Project Management

Effective project management is both an art and a science. Delving deeper into this concept reveals that there are tangible aspects to managing a project, such as project status and budget. These elements are clear-cut: tasks are either completed on time or they aren't, and budgets are either met or exceeded.

This clarity and precision fall under the science of project management. However, the nuances and subtleties lie in the art of project management. A critical question arises, even when tasks are completed on schedule: Were they executed to a satisfactory quality level? Were potential downstream consequences of not meeting quality standards considered? The art aspect requires a keen understanding of these gray areas and the potential repercussions of decisions made.

Furthermore, especially in contexts like digital transformation or software implementation, a project manager must possess more than just managerial acumen. An understanding of the technology and its nuances is crucial. This is not just from a managerial standpoint but also from a subject matter expertise perspective, ensuring that quality issues are identified and addressed appropriately.

We hope this information proves beneficial.

I would enjoy brainstorming ideas with you if you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, so please feel free to contact me at I am happy to be a sounding board as you continue your digital transformation journey.

Be sure to download the newly released 2024 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices..

Kimberling Eric Blue Backgroundv2
Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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