by David Cotgreave

Why you should outsource your IT Project Management

Aug 04, 2015
BudgetingIT Leadership

There are plenty of great reasons to outsource the PM function. But first, let's re-examine the outsourcing conundrum and take a fresh look at Project Management as a Service – the new kid on the block.

For outsourced Project Management to work, to really work, your external contractor must fit with your business culture.

This is something that I have been evangelising about for some time, so an article published recently by really chimed with me.

In her feature, “Should you outsource your Project Management?,” Moira Alexander evaluates the pros, the cons and the risks of outsourcing PMO and in her closing paragraph she writes, “Make sure the decision fits your company culture and that outsourcing allows all project outcomes to effectively align with the business goals and strategic objectives.”

Herself, a Project Manager and co-founder and director (information systems and technology advisory) at Conture Business Advisors, Moira identifies the factors that might motivate you to think about outsourcing Project Management, examines the benefits and shines a light on the risks. It’s a cracking read and is worth a minute or two of your time if you are considering this as an option as it will give you some powerful thought starters to help you make up your mind.

But does it give you all the options?

Perhaps not … because there is a new kid on the block.

PMaaS 101

Born out of the success of multisourcing (true multisourcing where your partner sits “client-side” and acts in your best interests), comes a new concept. Rather than just outsourcing the services and capabilities that contribute to the smooth running and successful (or not) outcome of your project – have you considered outsourcing the very Project Management function itself?

Think of your PMO as a world-class orchestra, in traditional PMO outsourcing scenarios your internal Project Management talent has played the role of conductor, waving their baton to bring in the outsourced string, brass, woodwind, and percussion sections at just the right moment, tempo and duration. Now by outsourcing Project Management, as a service itself if you like, you outsource the role of conductor – or your conductor works with and is complemented by an outsourced conductor.

It’s a natural evolution really and entirely consistent with the mindset shift towards the increased commoditisation of IT and “chunking” of both supply and demand. Beyond merely outsourcing Project Management utilities, which can sometimes leave you with a feeling that you’ve lost control – you buy in a service that is thoroughly transparent, congruent with your business case, values and overall culture, and matches appropriate talent with the right projects to ensure successful outcomes.

It’s that cultural fit.

A brilliant freelance Project Manager can do an amazing job for one organisation, get a glowing recommendation that secures them an identical project with another company, then crash in ignominy and fail to deliver spectacularly.

The two projects might be of the same scale, same scope, require the same skills, have to be delivered within the same time frame, but they can deliver markedly different results. In many cases, it’s down to a cultural divide between the contractor and the organisation. Usually, the right Project Management as a Service provider would not have given both projects to the same manager. Outsourcing PMO is a very effective filter against the risk of poor cultural alignment!

Like multisourcing, outsourcing Project Management gives you access to the best in class talent, whose skills and experience match your project and therefore its goals and who will prosper within your business culture.

With more productive and more profitable partner relationships, effective governance and control, service excellence and most impressive flexibility garnered largely through a more “on tap” approach to accessing resources, you can expect to make gains quickly. Indeed, flexibility is a probably the greatest benefit of an as a service approach to Project Management. But that costs more, right?

Dollars and sense

Gartner states runaway budget costs are behind 25 percent of project failures, by outsourcing the Project Management service you can take advantage of predictable monthly billing models and by being able to turn up or turn down the service you hire in, as easily as you turn your gas hob from rolling boil to gentle simmer – you are in complete control – and you don’t need to increase your internal headcount to achieve it! Identify and agree your service needs with your partner and they provide it – for as long as you need it too, so no contractors on retainers, or salaried PMs sitting idle on the bench. Simple!

Whether you’re suffering a short term skills shortage, seeking to improve in-house capabilities (often with the holy grail of no net increase in your overall portfolio costs!), or looking for a more long-term Project Management solution – exploring broadening the concept of outsourcing Project Management to include the Management function service itself could pay you back big time – so long as you find a partner who will work on your side, within your values and towards your commercial goals.

I loved Moira Alexander’s assessment of outsourcing Project Management. Project Management outsourced as a bought in service addresses all the issues that she raises, and can offer your organisation access to project management staff, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost via a fully structured Managed Service, underpinned by KPIs and SLAs.

Today, read Moira’s article, make your own checklist of wants, needs and doubts. Pick a partner who will promise to understand your culture and check your wish list against what they offer.

Your business can secure consistently high-quality project delivery, without increasing internal headcount and best of all, in my view, achieve that IT PM nirvana of business/cultural alignment.