Project management – FAQ

What is PMaaS and what value could it provide us?

Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) is a cohesive, managed service that provides project management professionals to organizations that have chosen not to maintain a team of project managers (and all of the training and support infrastructure to enable them to be fully effective) but does so while maximizing flexibility of response, speed to deliver, array of available skills and experience, and professional maturity of process.

Why use outside Project Managers?

Project managers are fully dedicated resources that aren’t engaged in the day to day work for which your organization is optimized. When projects come up, as they often do, you could just assign line personnel to ‘take care of it’, but can they juggle? Do they have the specialized skills? If the project is particularly critical, will they be able to manage the risks and complex trade-offs needed with minimal disruption and maximum results? PMs are needed to ensure proper discipline, good communications, efficient use of people and budget and to enable confidence that the project will provide what was agreed when it is needed. Important changes to your products, your capabilities, or your organization shouldn’t be left to chance.

There are plenty of free-lance PMs out there, why use a provider?

It’s true, many organizations employ free-lance PMs to good effect. Bring them in as needed and remember them if they do a particularly good job. PMs have professional qualifications and a broad portfolio of previous work enables you to assess, pick and choose. But all of that takes time and effort. You have to find them of course. And good free-lancers are almost always busy, so getting one quickly can be rather difficult. As well there are the issues around contracts and payment, getting and chasing references, and ensuring you get the quality you’re paying for each time. Paying a provider is probably* more expensive, but the added value comes from an array of available resources, transparent engagement of each one, the possibility to plug and play should you need to add or subtract personnel quickly, and better quality control of the resource pool and monitoring of performance and output.

* Some free-lancers can be quite expensive. Are they worth it? If you’ve worked with them before, you may be confident that they are, but if not, you may not be about to get what you’re paying for.

       

We just need some PMs from time-to-time, what is the advantage of a managed service like PMaaS?

Depends on volumes. If you need fully independent PMs working on separate projects, then perhaps you don’t. True, it helps to have a provider that is attuned to your company culture and knows the types of people that would fit best, the approaches that would most enable them to be successful, as well as the ability to measure what you’re getting with personalized KPIs and people pre-trained in your internal processes, but for one-offs it’s probably not necessary.

However, once you have a number of projects going in parallel, then you need to consider how well the portfolio is being managed. Are the resources being shared in effective ways? Are the contingent risks understood and being measured? Are we forecasting demand effectively and planning our project needs going forward or just living hand to mouth? Suddenly centralized planning, reporting and review starts to look very helpful. Personalized KPIs and consistent reporting go a long way to providing peace of mind and reduce reporting and budget risks. Furthermore, the dedicated support personnel and infrastructure (recruiting, training coordination, reporting assistance, policy/process compliance) can get complex pretty quickly if you need to scale up. Needing a couple of PMs is one thing, but if you need a PMO, you need a PMO. You need your PMs to be coordinated, supported and managed in ways that maximize the time and energy they’re spending delivering your projects.

Do you simply have one or more separate, small-scale Projects, or do you have a Program that needs to be managed?

Simply put, programs are not just groups of projects. True they usually are separate suites of component projects, but they’re longer-term and include the identification and tracking of benefit realization. When a project has delivered its results and the sponsors have agreed with them, it’s over. Was it useful? Were those results as good as advertised? In many cases the answer is no. Just because something can be built, doesn’t mean that it should, or perhaps the project took so long that the deliverables are now no longer useful. Program management requires both more experienced PMs as well as a meta-level of management to ensure the investment in the projects pays off. If your organization doesn’t have experienced program management staff, it can be very helpful to partner with a trusted provider that can work with you to manage both.

Lastly, aren’t Consultants just over-priced PMs? Or is it just what the Big Four call them?

Do you know what you want? Do you know what you actually need? Have you properly prioritized what needs to get done and have you engaged and configured the right tools to do it? PMs will plan, initiate, manage, and deliver a project to create or change something for you. But if you’re not entirely sure what is needed, or you’re not sure if the list of changes you want fit with your company’s strategies/objectives and you need to prioritize and tailor to get the most out of your project budget, then a bit of consulting may be needed.

You could go for the services of a consulting firm, and in many cases that may actually be your best course of action. But keep in mind that advice is best when it’s based on deep understanding of your situation, needs, culture and processes. Once again, having a provider that has been working with you, PMs that know your process landscape, are compliant with your industry and internal guidelines and understand your operating environment provides an ideal foundation for the kind of frank assessment, detailed analysis and clear, useful recommendations for future project & program work.