What are the differences between a project manager position and a project coordinator position?

Published by Massimoluigi Casinelli on

The project manager or a project director is responsible ultimately of the project success: this entails being focusing on delivering, which, in turn, entails execution and performance.

Project coordinator is primarily responsible of streamlining the project management processes and of guarantying proper communication across different functions within the project, by “over passing” the “silos” borders, which might be detrimental for the project execution.

For example, the project coordinator allows proper communications and facilitates effective processes between design and construction. Typically, a project coordinator is required on a complex and/or large-size project (a Programme) with different subprojects.

In this case the project coordinator is called to support the project manager (who in this case would be a Project director) by guarantying that procedures and processes are consistent across the different subprojects or work packages (in case of a large project). In this environment, the project coordinator works strictly with the project controls manager, the contract manager, the construction manager as well as with the design manager.

A key expertise that a project coordinator must have is the knowledge of all the project management processes (cost estimating, budgeting, planning and scheduling, quality, risks and design development), in order to guarantee the proper integration. From this prospective he/she is very similar with the project manager or a project director, but remember that the project coordinator is not ultimately accountable for the success of the Programme/Project.

Obviously, even the project manager is a “project coordinator” as far as he/she is concerned in coordinating the efforts of various departments and people in the project team, but on complex and/or large-size project, the project manager might need to be supported by the project coordinator.

The project coordinator, as described above, is a senior person, with technical background and a strong knowledge of project management processes.

On small projects, this role is not present and the activities above described are carried out by the project manager itself, eventually supported by the project controls manager.

In other organization the project coordinator might be the project service manager.

The perception of the project coordinator role may be different based on the specific country and/or the industrial sector. We should therefore review carefully the role and the actual job specifications, a part of the “role title”.

For example, I found in UK a company with a different perception of the role. For this company, the project coordinator was a person with few years of experience, not necessarily graduated in engineering, with poor project management background, who was mostly focused on document controlling, updating meeting agenda, and in easy standard reporting.

In this case, despite the name, this “project coordinator” works actually as a project secretary or as a project administrator assistant, who certainly give their valuable contributions, but certainly not towards the directions above described.

The same might happen with the role of project controls manager, which could be perceived more as a project administrator, but unfortunately project administration is only a part of the project controls, and certainly not the most important.

In conclusions, it’s important to review carefully the needs of your project in order to identify the key roles needed on the project team; first, you have to identify your requirements in terms of competences and skills. Project organizing is part of strategic project planning.

In this category of my blog “short notes” I collect some of my answers in Quora regarding project and contract management, or some questions received during my training courses.

Categories: Short notes

Massimoluigi Casinelli

I am a chartered civil engineer and certified CCP (cost engineering and total cost management) at AACE International, with thirty years of experience in project management of the construction sector. I deliver expert planning, programme management and project controls on multibillions-Euro infrastructure programmes, including highways and railways, metro, air terminals and complex buildings (commercial, residential, schools), with some experience in oil & gas and power. I worked in advanced contexts of project management (from matrix organizations of EPC contractors to large employers organized to manage complex capital projects), by undertaking various roles in the field of project management / controls and contract management; this diverse range of experiences allowed me to gain knowledge on the various components of project controls (schedule, cost estimating, budgeting and cost control, progress and performance measurement, risk and claim management). I am an Italian citizen, currently in Italy.

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