Is a Consultant Project Manager Truly Necessary?

Thoughts on the pros and cons of a dedicated PM.

Estimated reading: 2 min

On almost all projects, clients look for ways to minimize costs. This is even more pronounced during The Great Recession. Clients might question the need for a full-time consultant Project Manager. This is often a mistake. As a general rule, the need for a full-time external PM is a direct function of the following:

  • The size and scope of the project
  • The number and expertise of the client’s internal resources

Two Extremes

At one extreme, a 50,000 person organization hires an external consultancy to implement a full ERP (from soup to nuts). The consultancy brings ten full-time consultants from all functional and technical areas because the client has limited or no internal expertise and no PM with remotely experience with the new system. As such, the client would be foolish not to employ a full-time PM from the consultancy. Too much coordination exists among the different areas not to have someone with a global view.

Most IT projects fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

At the other extreme, a small 2,000-person hospital hires one consultant to implement a new module within its existing ERP. It probably can make do without a devoted PM. In fact, the on-site consultant can often serve as the de facto PM. In reality, most projects fall somewhere in between these two extremes, making the presence of a full-time PM a murkier matter.

Simon Says

Of course, most IT projects fall somewhere in between these two extremes. While times are tight, fight the urge to skimp on resources. Try to find a hybrid resource. If the project is relatively small in scope, see if one person can serve as the de facto PM while handling other responsibilities.




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