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Project Management as a Service

Take-Aways

1.Projects sometimes warrant dividing roles amongst multiple resources.
2.As a project progresses through its phases and stages, activity levels for project management resources fluctuates. A flexible staffing model provides the needed resources at the right time.
3.Engagements for project management services can be an effective way of providing missing competencies or capabilities.
4.Service providers can provide additional objectivity.

Project Management Roles

One theme raised in my blog post Balance of Power is that the duties of a project manager may be sufficiently large that they need to be shared. This is helpful on large projects, under circumstances where a specialist is needed, or as part of job development for an employee. It is also a way of ensuring that other elements of project management are not ignored or to widen the span of control exerted by a project manager who is responsible for multiple projects. These may be resources that are located in functional departments or as part of a Project Management Office (PMO). Some common roles include:

·         Project Lead: responsible for daily project execution activities

·         Project Scheduler: develop and maintain project schedule, and perform “what if” analysis

·         Project Tracking Leader: responsible for collecting status, conducting tracking meetings, and tracking issues

·         Requirements Manager:  requirements development and management

·         Risk Manager: develop risk management plan, identify, monitor and manage risks

PMO Staffing

PM Network recently published an article called “The Hiring Dilemma” by Abid Mustafa. He discussed considerations for staffing your Project Management Office (PMO).  His recommendations for working with contractors parallel that of general labor arbitrage and CAI’s Staff Augmentation offering. This general approach is to make an agreement that allows for contractors to be brought in on call and on short notice, and to ensure that your team is integrated with contractors so that they act in a united and coordinated manner, especially in the presence of their joint customer.

PMO Partnerships

One option overlooked is procuring the needed project management services through a PMO vendor. In effect, you are not hiring another person, but rather a team. You request a service from the vendor who is responsible for delivering that capability using one or more resources and whatever tools they have at their disposal, at a fixed price. You get the right team member that is needed at a given moment, especially when the service requires people with multiple specialties.

As an example, if you wanted to create web-based training to support a new product, you would need an instructional designer, a media developer, a graphic artist, and a narrator. You may need a project manager if you cannot manage that aspect of the project yourself. One approach is to hire a single individual who says they can do all of that. Chances are that they will excel in one area but will be weak in other areas.

Why compromise? You could contract a vendor to produce the training for you. You only have to manage the procurement process, which will require less effort on a yearly basis than the time required to manage a hired resource. Some of these resources (like the designer) will be needed throughout the project while others may only be needed for a few hours several times throughout the project (like the narrator). Managing this arrangement as procurement rather than having to coordinate individual resources would be more efficient and effective.

Furthermore, teams often bring their own tools and equipment. This saves you the costs of investing in equipment or software that would have limited utilization within your organization. The cost of specialized tools is often infeasible for those who do not have a given competitive competency.

The engaged PMO can also provide the perspective of an outsider more effectively than a hired contract resource. Contractors are typically integrated into the project team, and they begin to adapt some of the norms of that group while still being somewhat of an outsider. They likely will not raise significant dissenting opinions that would be raised by a PMO.

Some PMOs will provide Project Management Information System tools providing applications such as advanced scheduling software (used to optimize very large schedules that simpler tools like MS Project cannot), Monte Carlo analysis (simulates large number of possible task completion durations to anticipate potential critical path and budget problems), and Automated Project Office (used to assess project and portfolio health).

Organizations are not restricted to a single PMO, and when there are multiple PMOs, they can be complimentary rather than competitive. The Project Management capabilities that are not part of your PMO can be provided by a consulting PMO. The PMO you procure can have a physical presence, but using a virtual team can lower your costs.

Think of the Virtual Project Office as a partner who’s got your back.

Thomas Swider, PMP

Tom’s interest in project management started while working at Primavera Systems in technical support for SureTrak Project Scheduler. Although mastering the intricacies of GANTT charts and resource leveling were challenging mental puzzles, Tom learned that there was a lot more to project management than the charts, and sought opportunities to work on and lead projects while working at Computer Sciences Corporation. He was able to act as project manager for both training and support desk projects.

He has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since 2004. His expertise in eLearning Project Management helped in the successful delivery of internal training courses and CAI University.

Tom holds a Master of Project Management degree from Keller Graduate School of Management, which was earned entirely as a virtual learner, completing his work while on buses, planes and hotel rooms. He earned his PMP credential in 2011, and is currently a consultant for CAI’s Virtual Project Office service offering.

About Thomas Swider

Author and PMP certified project manager, currently consulting for CAI’s Project Office Plus+ service offering.

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