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Project Coordination: How to Deliver Projects on Time and Under Budget

Whether you need a project coordinator or want to be one, you need to know how the role contributes to project success.

Brian Bakker
Writer at Motion
Feb 13, 2024
Table of contents

Project managers have been known to describe what they do as herding cats. And at times, it can certainly feel that way.

But here's the thing: do you have someone focused on the day-to-day business of the entire project?

That’s where project coordination fits in. It’s a role that ensures the project plan is followed and involves keeping an eye on the project scope, ensuring all team members have what they need, ensuring day-to-day tasks are completed by their deadlines, and monitoring project progress.

Effective project coordination is bringing your projects in on time and within budget. In this article, you’ll learn about the project coordination process and the skills needed.

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Project management vs. project coordination

While both roles are essential to project success, there are significant differences. These have mostly to do with the scope of project responsibilities. Project management is more strategic. It involves planning, organizational skills, and overall control of a project.

Project managers are responsible for setting goals, creating a solid project plan, and managing team members and external stakeholders. You must also carry the can for delivery. Your team must complete the project on time, within budget, and to a quality acceptable to project owners and sponsors.

In contrast, project coordination focuses on the day-to-day business of keeping the project on track. It’s a more tactical role. It involves the nitty-gritty details, and you’d handle all the elements listed above and control change management. You’re also the canary in the coal mine for the project manager — sounding warnings of anything that may derail the project.

A project manager facing a project coordinator.

‎Why would you need a project coordinator?

It's really about the size of the project.

On smaller projects, it's common for a project manager to wear the project coordination hat. This is because smaller projects usually have limited scope, involve fewer administrative tasks, and don't take long to deliver.

The opposite can also be true: A project coordinator might take on the role of project manager. This is usually a strategic decision based on project duration and scope.

Another factor is the number of moving parts. Larger, more complex projects will usually have a broader scope and more complexity. They'll often involve multiple phases or stages. That's when the coordination role can become very time-consuming very quickly.

Ultimately, whether you need a dedicated project coordinator or not depends on how many cats you're trying to herd and for how long.

The role and responsibilities

While the exact job may vary from company to company, the sets of skills of a typical project coordinator job description are similar. They focus on coordinating the daily activities of the project. The goal is to track progress and ensure that all team members are doing what they need to do.

Police the project schedule

Scheduling delays have a habit of creating a domino effect on your project timeline. That's why it’s a focus area for successful project coordinators.

And how?

You start by ensuring your project schedule has clear deadlines for each task, paying particular attention to tasks that depend on others to finish before they can start.

Technology can help you automate this piece. For example, once you know your tasks, allocate your resources, and set your priorities and dependencies, Motion’s Project Manager app can do the rest automatically.

Track project milestones and deliverables

It's the many moving parts that can make projects complicated.

Every task has a unique due date, owner, and priority — all of which can change along the way. Being a project coordinator involves organizing and tracking each of those project milestones and deliverables.

‎But (again) there are many tools available to help you stay on top of what needs to be done. A good example is a Kanban board, which enables you to visualize, manage, and improve the flow of project tasks and makes identifying bottlenecks in your workflows easier.

Monitor project costs

The project budget is usually the most inflexible element of any project. Staying within that is critical for successful project coordination. It means that you must closely track costs throughout the project. You should also always be on the lookout for cost-saving opportunities.

The easiest way to do that is to work with a detailed, task-based project budget. It should break down each deliverable into sub-deliverables so you can compare your actual costs to estimates at any point. A work breakdown structure can help with this.


Teamwork makes dreams work, and effective teamwork depends on regular communication with team members. Ditto for stakeholders. The job involves always sharing information about the project’s progress, requirements, scope, and objectives. You’d also need to prepare, review, and distribute project proposals, memos, and meeting minutes.

Creating a project communication plan is the most effective way to achieve this. In it, you record who needs what (e.g. regular meetings), when, and by what mechanism (e.g. meeting minutes). That'll help you ensure you deliver what every stakeholder and team member wants (or needs), when, and how they want it.


The most maligned aspect of any project is documentation. Everybody hates it until needed, so it should be up-to-date and complete. It’s a key part of the job to manage all the “paperwork” associated with a project.

A project coordinator is expected to ensure that documentation is readily available so that team members (and key stakeholders) get what they need when they need it.


The job of a project coordinator also involves organizing. This goes for everything in the project lifecycle, from those regular project meetings with your team to following up on individual tasks. You’d also be expected to act as a supervisor on the project and to coordinate the activities of all team members, keeping the project workflow on track.

For meetings, you should take copious notes. After every meeting, you should then send your notes with action items to everyone involved. That way, everyone knows what’s expected of them, and can be held accountable.

Key skills for effective project coordination

Besides basic knowledge of project management principles, some other essential skills will serve you well when coordinating projects.

Communication skills

An essential skill for the job is excellent communication skills.

You need excellent verbal and written language skills. The job requires you to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, from immediate team members to the project sponsor or owner, who could be a CEO.

Time management

Coordinating the day-to-day tasks and activities of a project team isn't simple.

You must be able to multitask and manage your own time. In a sense, it's like juggling. While individuals with various technical skills do their part of the project, it's you that the project manager comes to if somebody doesn't deliver.

You must anticipate when a teammate will be late and manage the situation to prevent it or minimize the impact on the project.


Top-drawer project coordinators are also effective problem-solvers. You must always be ready to evaluate the problems and technical hitches that crop up and work with the team to develop solutions. It's up to you to deal with them on the front line.

This might mean collaboration among team members on the fly to find workarounds. It might also mean escalating potential issues and negotiating expectations with customers or key stakeholders.


Not everyone can do it but it’s certainly a core competency of an effective project coordinator. Multitasking allows you to work on two or more tasks simultaneously, switching back and forth from one to the other.

But be careful on this front. Multitasking is a nuanced topic, with research suggesting that the effectiveness depends on the nature of the tasks and the individual's skills. Best to prioritize and batch similar tasks before multitasking.

Technical Proficiency

We live in a fast-moving world of ever-evolving technology. And it’s with technology that you keep project information organized, track your project’s progress, and report back on key metrics.

Project coordinators need to monitor and keep up with news of the latest tools and software to assist in project management. You must also be proficient in the use of these tools along with spreadsheets and databases.

Attention to detail

The devil is in the details, and details on a project can be critical.

Tracking those details (like due dates for tasks, meeting preparation, scheduling...etc.), documenting them, and managing them can be a job unto itself.

It's about getting the small things right.

5 tips to improve your project coordination skills

The thing about project work is that you're only ever as good as your last project. And if that was a disaster, well…

Here are five tips from seasoned veterans for (even) better project coordination and keeping your projects on track.

‎1. Manage project information carefully

When you control the schedule, help manage the budget, and track project progress, you'll inevitably be the "go-to" person for information.

Use the need-to-know principle. Keep an expanded RACI chart listing every project team member and stakeholder. Know who needs to know what and when. Keep information (including documentation) available 24/7.

2. Look out for useful tech tools

As a general rule, people don’t like change. But if you’re going to be a star project coordinator, you’ll need to balance that tendency with curiosity. The relentless march of technology regularly drops new products and project management tools that can make our lives easier at work and at home.

3. Always be open to learning

Here again, we have formal and informal paths. The formal path is to put yourself through some of the many courses and certifications available. Two that stand out are Google's Project Management Professional Certificate and Project Management Institute's project management certification. Both will require a lot of work.

But not all education is formal. For example, you can build strong communication skills by writing project briefs or better time management skills by adopting techniques like the Pomodoro approach. Every day offers opportunities to learn something new. It may not be useful immediately, but someday, it could be the thing that helps you rescue a failing project.

4. Manage expectations

Stakeholder and project team expectations management are among the most challenging aspects of a project manager’s job. Stakeholder expectations are often unique and can be deeply personal.

Of course, to do this right, you have to first set realistic expectations. How? As the saying goes, underpromise and overdeliver.

When things turn south, you'll have to package (and deliver) the problem, solution, and how it affects the project to your customers and stakeholders.

5. Know your team

The key to effective project management is knowing your team. What they can do, what their technical skills are, their aspirations, and much more.

It's one thing to give a team member a challenging task, but quite another to ask them to do something they're not equipped to do. Finding that fine line can lead to many successful projects.

‎Project coordination in Motion

To be an ace project coordinator isn’t difficult, but it can be a challenging job.

At the same time, it can be very rewarding, especially when you manage to get the cats all moving in the same direction.

You must be willing to learn new things. Constantly. You must also be a little adventurous and prepared to try new collaboration tools and technologies. First-mover advantage is a real thing that can help you coordinate your projects more efficiently.

Motion can help you with your cat-herding responsibilities. It’s AI-based project management software that can help you build the most effective project schedules. Once you’ve done that, Motion will help you keep your cats aligned and let your project really fly.

If you're ready to try a new tool, it's time for you to try Motion. There's a 7-day free trial waiting for you.

Brian Bakker
After 40-odd years of working in technology, project management, media, and marketing, Brian's career and growth journey has exposed him to a wide range of niches. He brings this breadth of knowledge and expertise in his content work through enriched storytelling and original concepts that make SaaS content engaging and accessible for readers of all stripes.
Written by Brian Bakker