The Project Management Institute defines a project as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” A project has a defined beginning and end, defined scope and defined resources. It will usually include people who don’t usually work together. Projects are about driving change in the organisation.
The aim of a project manager is to meet the project requirements within a set timeframe, budget and specification. They play a key role in turning change into an opportunity, rather than a disruption. Good project management has grown into a highly prized skill with whole organisations and concepts built around it.
You can choose an internal person, or team, to handle a project based on their skills and capabilities. In the manufacturing industry, it is quite common to allocate the responsibility for managing projects to the existing operational team. But when they already have their “day job” to do, is this really the best choice?
A better option could be to draft in the help of an external project manager.
Why bring in an external project manager?
1) Benefit of experience
Most projects require specialist skills, approaches and resources to get the results you want. Bringing an expert in can fill any skills gap within your company. They will also bring with them lessons learned from previous projects which they can apply to your organisation. This knowledge is invaluable.
2) Less impact on the day to day running of the business
Most people within an organisation are already stretched. Ask them to take on something else and you’ll create a gap elsewhere in the business. Is their priority the project, or business as usual (BAU)? This conflict can impact productivity or quality of both the project and BAU.
You can fill the skills gap temporarily for the duration of the project only. This will usually cost less that employing a project manager in-house. You can also select the most appropriate project manager for a particular project – an engineering expert for a production line overhaul, an IT expert for a systems update.
An external project manager may be better placed to make decisions for the sake of the project. They’re not hindered by office politics or “the way things have always been done”.
5) Better focus
With one objective in mind, an external project manager is less affected by company policies and other things going on. They can focus on what they need to do, and get things done according to the defined guidelines and expectations.
6) It can save money
At first glance, an external project manager might look like an expense. But it’s more than likely they will actually save money by keeping the project on track time-wise and budget-wise. They have the skills and objectivity to identify problems early and develop strategies to handle these.
7) Increased transparency
A trained project manager will use tools, plans and reports to keep everyone abreast of what’s going on. There will be no nasty surprises waiting to be discovered!
With their single point of focus, a dedicated project manager is able to take a proactive approach to the project, steering it in the right direction. Someone with split priorities may be forced to be more reactive. This can lead to delays and mistakes.
9) Staff learn new skills
Even working with an external project manager, you’ll still need the involvement of internal team members. This can be a great opportunity for them to develop their own skills, learning from an expert. Engaging staff in this process can help bridge the company culture gap – often a concern when bringing in external resource.
10) Easing resistance to change
Often change can be a little unsettling for an organisation. Sometimes, bringing in external support can help smooth the transition. Employees can be more inclined to agree with an ‘expert’ than if a colleague is in charge of implementing change.
What’s the key to making it work?
The first stage is making sure the external project manager you choose has the appropriate technical project management experience to assist you. One of the biggest concerns about hiring external help is that you’re sacrificing industry-specific knowledge. That doesn’t have to be the case. Here at Padgate, for example, we specialise in managing engineering projects.
The second stage is giving the planning stage the attention it deserves. Agreeing clear objectives, outcomes and measures, results, timeframes, budgets and spending authorities up front is vital. It’s also important to give the project manager a good brief on the company so they can understand the culture. Make sure they get to speak to all key stakeholders, not just the CEO.
Ultimately, the right route will depend on your organisation and the skills of the team you already have in place. But getting the right external project manager on board can be worth every penny.