The role of project management has never been more important than now. With an economy that challenges all of us, top-notch project managers are more essential than ever. Projects need to be completed on schedule at the lowest possible cost. Every dollar spent must contribute to the project, or to the bottom line. Quality project managers will leverage their contribution tenfold or more.
The cost pressures that many organizations are feeling today are causing some of them to cut back on project management. They bring project management inside, or assign technical people to take on such roles. When they do that, they hurt themselves in two ways: first, they deprive themselves of high-quality technical talent, and second, they fail to get the needed project management skill set in place.
Quality project management does not appear like a mushroom out of the ground overnight. It must be nurtured, grown and trained. Project management is an investment that will pay off handsomely.
When considering whether to employ outside project managers, the value of their contributions must be measured against more than their bill. While cost certainly should be a factor, remember that the project manager has a significant and critical impact on the success of a project. The value of the right consultant/project manager is in the person’s ability to influence the result of the project. Talented and knowledgeable project managers understand the importance of being competitive and ensuring that their fees are reasonable.
If there are internal candidates who are likely candidates for project management, then exercise opportunities to try them out. But to do so without a mentor or an experienced project manager in an advisory capacity is a sure path to disappointment, for both the individual with aspirations as well as the firm with high expectations.
A good compromise is to provide outside project management, but assist from the inside with project managers who have less experience. The use of outside talent available on an as-needed basis can then be reduced as inside talent achieves a higher level of performance.
Quality project managers understand the interplay between cost, scope, schedule, quality, risk, organizational limitations and the myriad of other elements of a successful project. They understand that balance is necessary. The ability to orchestrate these sometimes competing interests comes from many years of experience. The temptation to shortcut this experience is great, but to do so shortchanges the long-term goals of the organization: successful delivery of a project.
Christian Steinbrecher is the president of Ukiah Engineering Inc. and a senior consultant at Capital Project Consultants. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.