Project Developer vs Project Manager: Some fundamentals



In the world of business, particularly, in sectors such as construction, energy, infrastructure, mining and manufacturing, a key position we often hear about is that of a “project manager” and or “project developer.” Most often, observe that, irrespective of the sector or the nature of the project in question we tend to confuse or interchangeable use the two titles.

In essence, the two, play related but different roles and often collaborative to realize a project. This write -up seeks to highlight some key differences between the two roles and elaborate on the key functions.

It will also provide some recommendations on the professional and academic courses for persons seeking to pursue career opportunities in project management and project development.

Who is a Project Developer?

A project developer is a professional is responsible for initiating a project and taking steps to ensure its realization. This includes conceptualizing and packaging a project in a manner that makes it feasible for implementation.

A project developer also works alongside with the project manager to ensure successful completion of the project. He/she does this through well- researched information, identifying and mobilizing the relevant partners necessary for the execution of the project.

For instance, to build a thermal power plant as an independent power producer (IPP), a project developer would typically engage with relevant stakeholder such as Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Finance, Energy Commission, just to mention a few, to understand their needs and requirements, regulations and to obtain the necessary permits. He /She would also look for investors, lenders (where necessary), consultants, Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC), off-takers, acquire land etc.

Depending on the nature of the project or sector, a project developer needs not possess technical expertise such as that of a mechanical or electrical engineer. However, having a great understanding of the concept of the project in question is essential.

Additionally, possessing mobilization, stakeholder engagement, research and critical thinking skills is essential. In other words, he lays the foundation by ticking all boxes to ensure that the project is ready for kick-off.

Who is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a professional responsible for planning project schedules to execute projects with specified budget limitations. A project manager is responsible for the day-to-day operational planning, budgeting, and allocation of roles at the implementation phase of a project.

The project manager is responsible for creating timelines for how the project should flow and building flexible or tight work schedules for all employees to follow. The project manager is almost always at the site to ensure smooth flow of work.

In the above example of building a power plant as an IPP, a project manager would typically be responsible for planning and managing the execution/implementation stage work schedule, hiring sub-contractors, procurement of required materials, and temporary technical and support staff for the implementation of that specific project.

He / She would be responsible for managing budgets to ensure cost effective and optimum delivery of the project.

Below are typical job descriptions of the two roles:

Though there are not cast-in stone academic or professional courses for careers in project development and / or project management, the following.

Project Development -Recommended courses Project Management -Recommended courses
·         Business Administration

·         Development Studies

·         Development Finance

·         Procurement Management

·         Project Finance

·         Law

·         Project Management Professional

·         Engineering

·         Project Management

·         Construction Management

·         Project Management Professional (PMP)

·         Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)


The writer is a Senior Project Development Manager responsible for infrastructure, energy and healthcare at a multinational company in Ghana. He can be reached on [email protected]

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