What’s the Difference Between a Project Planner vs a Project Manager?


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What are the differences between a project planner and a project manager? Jennifer Bridges, PMP, defines each role in this short tutorial video. 

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

how are project planners different than project managers?

In Review: Project Planner vs Project Manager

The origin of the terms, project planner and project manager, helps define the differences between the two disciplines, as Jennifer noted. To plan is about organizing, arranging, designing, preparing and scheduling. While to manage is about leading, supervising and administrating. These are two different roles that are sometimes accomplished solely by the project manager, but often are distinct roles on larger projects.

Let’s define the tasks per role: 

Project Planners:

  • Work with a Project Manager
  • Plan and track costs
  • Estimate costs
  • Maintain schedules
  • Keep project resources on track
  • Provide regular project updates
  • Maintain contact with project staff
  • Intercede to settle conflicts with project staff

Project Managers:

  • Work with or as the Project Planner
  • Leads the team responsible for project outcomes
  • Initiate the project
  • Plan the project
  • Execute the project management plan
  • Monitor and control the project
  • Close the project
  • Resolve conflict
  • Manage stakeholder expectations

Both roles are responsible for managing the project and project teams through the lifecycle of the project. Yet it’s helpful to define the tasks associated with each role, to help add clarity and definition in the cases of people in distinct roles, so there’s no overlap or conflict between them. 

Pro-Tip: It’s helpful to understand which role you’d be more successful in, as some people have excellent planning skills, but are not so good at managing people, and vice versa. It’s also important to know that not all industries hire for these distinct roles. The construction industry leverages the project planner role, but in others, the project manager is expected to perform all these functions. It’s important to know which role suits you best you are to better succeed in your chosen field.

Take it further: If you’re interested in the definition of other project management terms, check out our Ultimate Glossary of PM Terms. If you think of any we missed, then let us on Twitter @ProjectTips with the hashtag #PMGlossary.

Thanks for watching!

Video Transcription

Today we’re talking about project planner versus project manager. We want to look at two of these roles, and the differences between the two. But before we start, we want to look at the origin of both of these words. If you look at the verb “to plan,” it’s really talking about to organize, arrange, design, prepare, and schedule.” If you look at the word “to manage,” it’s talking about to head, or to lead, to supervise, organize, and administer.

If you look at the project planner role, they work with the project manager, so they’re responsible for planning and tracking the schedule, and estimating cost, and tracking those. They work with the project staff, and actually intercede with any conflict that might keep the project off track. Think of them as the masters of time management.

They also, if you think about the project management plan and all the sub plans, they’re responsible for planning each of these and tracking them. Like the scope plan, the cost plan, human resources, quality, and risk management, all of those plans they’re responsible for.

So if you think about the project management processes in a project to initiate the project, to plan it, execute it, monitor and control it, and close it, they’re really responsible for this specific area, the planning. But if you look at the project manager role, the project manager they work with, or they work as the project planner, if there’s not one. They lead the team that’s responsible for completing all the deliverables.

So they initiate the project, they plan it, they execute it, they monitor, control it, and they close the project. They also are responsible for resolving any conflict, not just between the team, but sometimes between the stakeholders and even some of the vendor partners, and they manage the stakeholder expectations.

So those are some of the major differences between these two roles. So keep in mind this is industry specific. Some industries do not leverage the project planner role, but some do, like construction. So ask yourself, which one are you? Are you a project planner? Or are you a project manager?

And if you need a tool that can help you plan or manage your project, then sign up for our software now at projectmanager.