When To Bring a Third Party To Your Party: Using an Outside Project Manager

When To Bring a Third Party To Your Party: Using an Outside Project Manager

The  legal profession adage that “…the lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client” initially seems so counter-intuitive. After all, who knows the “client” better than the client himself, and no one knows what happened better than the client. Further, the lawyer must be well qualified, or he would not be bar-certified. So, what’s wrong with a lawyer representing himself?

The fact is, another lawyer brings the objectivity lacking in someone who is deeply involved, and can ask questions that are outside the box or too painful to face. By the same token, most physicians would never treat themselves for a serious illness; they would seek the best board-certified specialist.

The same guidelines apply when contemplating an IT project. Knowing when to engage outside expertise, even when you have a talented team, is an important leadership skill that can mean the difference between success and, in keeping with the lawyer/physician analogies, losing the case or, even worse, the patient.

Many IT organizations have made a major commitment to professional project management and have built a team of PMI-certified Project Management Professionals. So when does it make sense for an organization to contract outside project management? Prudent IT leaders quickly recognize that solution-specific expertise is required to keep a project on track and realize the full potential of the solution implementation. Leaders also recognize that independence from corporate legacy systems, processes and politics can be gained by working with a project manager who has a fresh perspective. Finally, overall effectiveness and efficiency can be significantly improved when the project manager has strong connections and extensive experience with the solution technical team.

The most effective approach is an in-house project manager teamed up with an outside project manager. The inside project manager performs the key role of navigating the internal dynamics of the company, while the outside manager provides subject-matter expertise and quickly clears barriers to issue resolution. An outside project manager working in tandem with talented internal resources can create a stronger team that optimizes everyone’s expertise and contributions, increasing the likelihood of project success.

The next time you consider going it alone with an internal project manager, ask yourself:

  • Can my in-house project manager function as an objective advisor to our project team?
  • Does my in-house project manager have the credibility to be heard by our management?
  • Will my in-house project manager be able to effectively communicate on all levels and across all silos of our organization?
  • Can our in-house project manager ensure we have the best vendor resources with the best vendor support possible?
  • Will the conflicting priorities and loyalties of my in-house project manager adversely affect the project?

As a rule of thumb, if you believe that your in-house project manager will be challenged on two or more of these areas, it may be appropriate to include an outside project manager to help you achieve your goals.

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Thomas Koehler

Thomas Koehler, PMP, started his career developing 3D solid modeling for mini and personal computers. Over the years he developed an appreciation for the value of project management, obtaining his PMP certification in 1995. Thomas joined CA Technologies in 1998, first as project manager and in 2000 as PMO consultant. His personal mission is to help the CA Technologies team of talented project and program managers be the best they can be through education, mentoring, process improvements and data analysis. His personal passion is to advocate the value of project management as key to ensure our customers maximize the value they realize from their investment in solutions from CA Technologies.

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