The Necessary Evil: Project Management ConsultantMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
If you want something to be done then why not use a specialist for this purpose? I have also previously discussed the importance of having an independent consultant in my articles “The Futuristic Project Manager” & “3rd Party Project Governance”. I firmly believe that Project Management Consultant is the “Necessary Evil” that is the key to project success in future.
With more industry standards being formed and old ones being improved and getting matured with each passing day, the industry has already realized and started to embrace the importance of having a proper and strong PMO structure and processes related to that. It is common for large organizations to have an internal PMO and use internal Project Managers. It is not a bad practice or something that they are doing wrong but when you are looking to build a competitive advantage, then you would need to have something extra to provide you with an edge. This something “extra” in this case is hiring the services of the Project Management Consultant.
Also, as I have discussed in my article “The Planned Mistake” that just setting up PMO or hiring a Project Manager can complicate things rather smoothing things out if not done properly. The most obvious reason to have a Project Management Consultant is the experience that they bring in with them. The internal manager is generally experienced and exposed to a single domain of the employer and thus is limited in vision and creativity.
A good consultant brings in experience from different domains and different sectors. Also the experience of working with different clients, around the world, induces more dimensions to the regular work and they are much more familiar with cultural norms and jargons. Due to working with a large number of projects, they have been through a lot of different situations facing different and unique challenges which have helped them build a very good list of “Lesson Learned” regarding what to do and what not to do in such situations.
The good thing about consultants is that they possess knowledge and experience of practicing different methodologies and following different Industry best practices so they can implement processes that are suited to support the project based on the ground realities. The internal manager may lack this vision or might just be implementing a methodology or process just for the sake of company policy or his/her lack of knowledge.
Another good thing about engaging a consultant is that actually you are hiring services not resources. It means that you get a team of experts to perform a work rather than engaging a resource in the same manner as having the internal Project Manager. This aspect provides you with a lot of flexibility in terms that you can add any services, as per need, whenever required and only for the required timeframe without increasing any head-count. Even in terms of cost, the services are “Pay-As-You-Go”, means that you pay for only services you used for only the duration of services.
One of the biggest difference and advantage I have noticed between hiring a consultant and internal project manager is in documentation related to the project. The consultants are much more skilled and comprehensive in preparing documentation. This is mainly due to the reason that there is a team of experts at the consultant’s disposal that involves reviewing each piece of work at each phase. In case of an internal Project Manager, this review is limited to a single person for most of the case and often proves a bottleneck and can overlook important information.
Apart from the skills’ aspect, hiring a consultant, the other important advantage is the psychological factor that comes in of having a support in execution and decision making. No matter how much experience, the internal Project Manager has, he/she will always be influenced by company psychology and will always be inclined towards its employer. This results in often making Project Manager to “Sugar Coat” maily to avoid displeature from the top management. In the case of consultants, this “influence” is missing as they follow standard processes and practices. In my experience, this helps most in highlighting any risk or issue at its earliest stage and also keeping things transparent to all stakeholders.