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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Winslow

Six things to consider when selecting a project manager

One of the first things that needs to be considered when a new project is initiated is who the project manager (PM) will be. There are a few options to consider, including using an internal resource, hiring an external resource, or a combination of the two. The option you choose depends on several factors:

  1. Project complexity - The more complex your project, the more experience your PM is going to need to be successful.Some superstar PM’s can probably manage any kind of project, but those individuals are the exception rather than the rule. Extremely complex projects may need a PM, an assistant PM, and administrative help as well.

  2. Project Goals – Scope, Schedule and Budget are always the 3 main considerations in any project, but they are seldom all equal in importance to the project.When considering whom to assign as the PM, look at which of these 3 things is the most important to a project.If budget is tight and extremely important, you may have no choice but to use internal resources.If schedule is important, assigning a novice PM is probably not a good idea.If scope creep must be kept to a minimum, and the quality of the outcome is the most important aspect, a seasoned PM, with no already formed constituencies will produce the best result.

  3. Experience - Whether the internal resource has the right experience to do the project should also be considered. An outside firm can be chosen for a particular expertise (e.g. construction) and interviewed to ensure that they have the requisite experience. Someone who has managed projects to bring a new product through clinical trials may have some of the skills and experience to manage a construction project, but they will certainly lack some skills as well. A PM experienced in the particular type of project that needs to be managed can more than pay for the financial cost of hiring and in headache reduction.A good dedicated PM will not get sidetracked by another task or get bogged down in unnecessary detail.They will know when a problem needs a little attention, or a lot of attention based on experience.For example, suppose the contractor comes to the project manager and says that the flooring lead time is 2 weeks longer than expected.An inexperienced project manager might think “no big deal, we’ll just put more people on the installation” and thus not react to that news, while a PM with experience may know that the flooring is a process not dependent on manpower, but on cure times, so adding people is not a solution.He will look at areas of the project where time can be gained and then rearrange the schedule.Or an internal PM might get overly involved in color selection because they have an art background or they just like interior design.

  4. Politics - Another factor that should not be overlooked when looking at project management is the influence of the organization on the PM.While an internal PM is going to be more familiar with the culture, politics, process etc. of your company, the downside is they can be biased by internal culture and politics. An experienced external PM will know what questions to ask of the organization to get to the desired endpoint.They will be well versed in dealing with internal politics of their clients and can help avoid the pitfalls that can bring.An internal project manager has their own constituencies to satisfy and may compromise project quality or cost based on the wishes of that constituency rather than the overall good of the project.The external PM’s goal will be the overall good of the project, and not any one user. If project efficiency is important and you need to get your project in on time and budget, a professional project manager is well worth the expense.

  5. Availability – Let’s face it, when an internal resource is tapped to manage a project, they generally do not have the luxury of delegating their normal day job to someone else for the duration of the project.This lack of full time availability could be a detriment to the project, and the project manager, instead of being the task master that keeps everyone else on schedule, could themselves become the project bottleneck.Outside resources are being paid specifically to manage the project, so that will be their focus. For less complex projects, you may get away with a part-time PM, but for more complex projects, a full time PM, or a PM that is supplemented with an outside resource or an internal assistant is a better choice.

  6. Career Development – Some project managers are given the opportunity to manage a project because they are already superstars at their normal job.They are often selected because they are seen by the organization as someone who can handle additional workload, someone who the organization wants to invest in by giving them more opportunities, or someone who they want to groom for a higher-level job.These are all noble and good reasons to select an internal resource as the PM.If they have not managed a project before though, they may need a mentor, or they may need some training prior to being thrown into the fire.External PM’s should not have this consideration.If your company is outsourcing the PM role, you deserve to get someone who has managed numerous projects in the past and has the experience and education to do a good job without any handholding.

As with most things, there is no one right answer when deciding on who would be the best person to manage your project.Decide what is important to the project, review the complexity, examine what resources are available and what the project budget can afford, and then look at whether you want to use this project to develop your people. In any given project, one or more of these aspects is going to be more important than the others.Using these criteria will help ensure that your project is a success.

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