What are the differences between project contractor and project manager?

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When you want to realize an IT project, several options are available to you. You can do it yourself, if you have the skills and knowledge, or you can hire a web, mobile or software development company. This is where the project contractor and project manager come into play. Bocasay is an offshore outsourcing company that can help you for any IT project.

These terms appeared more than 20 years ago in the field of public works. Today, they are used in the sphere of information systems implementation and there is often confusion between these two notions in companies.

So, what are their roles? Who does what? How can you tell the difference between the two?

How do the project contractor and project manager work together?
How do the project contractor and project manager work together?

The Project Contractor

The project manager is the person or company who decides to carry out the project. He or she serves as an interface between the client and the technical project team. The role is therefore more functional than technical: to listen, verify and guide.

The project contractor is the decision maker. The project cannot take place without this essential role. As the project’s director, the role is also known as Product Owner (within a Scrum method context).  

His/her responsibilities are:

  • Define the objectives
  • Determine a budget
  • Allocate the budget
  • Conducting meetings
  • Validate the web or mobile development of each step
  • Plan the delivery time
  • Take part in the acceptance testing (phase that allows to correct the remarks made by the client or the imperfections noticed during the acceptance test)

As you can see, without this conductor, the project would not be organized, profitable or reliable. The project contractor has to write the specifications that transcribe the client’s needs. In addition, to carry out feasibility studies to determine whether the project is feasible from a technical and financial point of view.

In order to be a project contractor, the following skills are required:

  • Sense of Leadership
  • Good Communication
  • Team Player
  • Good interpersonal skills 
  • Priority Management 
  • Conflict Management
  • Familiarization with the different trades of the company

As far as background and training are concerned, a 5-year degree in areas such as management or finance, complemented by professional experience in information systems technologies, is recommended. This is a high-level position that is generally reserved for professionals with experience in team leadership and project management.

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The Project Manager

The role of the project manager is to follow the project’s specifications, drawn up by the project contractor. It is through the project manager that the project comes to life. The project manager ensures the creative process, coordinates operations, and is responsible for their good execution. He or she executes the project needs expressed by the project contractor.  

To put it simply, the project manager technically carries out the “work” in the conditions of quality, costs and deadlines imposed by the project contractor. The role is also known as the ’lead developer’.

Role responsibilities include:

  • Co-designing project specifications
  • Selecting the service providers who will constitute the project team
  • Choosing the appropriate technologies for the realization of the project
  • Delivering a quality product within the defined timeframe and budget
  • Managing the development team
  • Reporting the progress to the project contractor

The project manager becomes the link between the project contractor and the teams of developers working on the project. He or she must receive directives and manage a team of development engineers. 

The qualities that reveal a good project manager are:

  • Master the different development environments (IDE, Eclipse, ASP, J2EE…)
  • Be versatile in order to find technical solutions
  • Know how to manage a team
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Know how to negotiate with different providers to stay within the imposed deadlines and budget

In terms of background and training, a project manager or lead developer, has generally completed a master’s degree in computer science (bac +5). However, other courses are possible provided that they have a specialization in computer science. This position is not accessible to young executives as a few years of experience are required in the field.

When different teams work together on the same project
When different teams work together on the same project

Project Contractor Support

The assistant project contractor relieves the project contractor from time-consuming tasks so that he or she can concentrate on the strategic management of the project. Assistant project contractors help with decision-making by providing analysis. Their role involves acting as a link between the project manager and the project contractor, the latter often coming from a different background. 

The role’s missions include: 

  • Team leadership
  • Close cooperation with the project manager
  • Use of programming languages
  • Following project specifications
  • Problem-solving
  • Regular communication of results
  • Ensuring that the project conforms to the client’s initial request

Apart from making sure that communication exchanges are well understood, and facilitating coordination and follow-ups, the important qualities required to become an assistant project contractor are:

  • To be proactive and reactive (basic qualities for steering a project)
  • To be a good communicator (written and oral)
  • To know how to synthesize and restore information
  • To have an excellent technological culture
  • To be organized and available for his collaborators
  • To be a team player

As for becoming a project manager and project contractor, in order to work as a project manager, a high level of education combined with professional experience is required. It is required to have a Bachelor’s degree in software engineering, and to have at least 3 years of experience as an assistant project manager.

The Project Contractor, the Project Manager and the Assistant Project Contractor: a performance leading trio! 

These 3 roles are often confused and for good reason. The missions they occupy can sometimes be similar and intertwined. However, they are all essential for good project progress. The project contractor occupies a strategic position, the project manager an operational position and the assistant project contractor makes the link between the two.

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