The reality at many corporations is that project management is relegated to engineers, scientists, or researchers; it is assigned
on the basis of availability; and it is often added on to a technical staffer's other daily tasks. The problems can multiply:
if internal staff members (even internal project managers) are spread too thin, execution suffers as commitments are missed
and timelines get pushed back. Companies of all sizes can suffer from this misalignment between their staff's skills and the
requirements of the roles they are asked to fulfill.
However, if you hire a professional, full attention will be paid to your project without the encumbrance of other responsibilities
or internal politics. Professionals also bring business management expertise to the table, along with tested protocols and
facilitation experience. Facilitation depends on leadership — character, behavior, and attitude — which is as important as
methodology. Leadership is a different skill than organizational ability — one more reason that project management should
not be left in the hands of the untrained.
Project management is a means to an end. Fully developed, the knowledge, tools, skills, and protocols necessary for successful
coordination and completion of any project make project management a profession in its own right — especially when practiced
as a core competency.
LOCATING THE RIGHT PROJECT MANAGER
You can find general information about project management service providers on the Internet, or you can consult professional
publications and organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI;
http://www.pmi.org/). Your network of colleagues can be a good resource as well.
Because the vast majority of firms provide project management as one of many services, there is currently no freestanding
listing of project management companies under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Search larger categories
if you are interested in hiring a firm for a particular type of project. For example, for a construction project, research
data on architectural and engineering firms. For help with a product launch, seek consultants that offer project management
services as part of product development. But be advised — this method will help you find an engineer or a consultant, not
a project manager in the purest sense.
Next, narrow your search to your geographic location and other basic criteria, such as experience and type of clients. Then
dig deeper. Many companies stop their evaluation too early, asking only about costs and experience specific to their industry.
Additional criteria are discussed below.
Values and Philosophies. The firm you select should have a culture, values, and philosophies similar to those of your own company. This aspect of
the evaluation is frequently missed because many companies view project management one-dimensionally, as a skill. Project
management is a leadership role, and you are bringing in a new resource who will significantly influence and catalyze your
team. Certainly, this new resource will have to work effectively within your culture. Therefore, your search for a project
manager should extend well beyond technical competence. Much like your choice of caretaker for a child: you would not hire
someone strictly based upon their educational or theoretical grasp of child psychology. You would most likely place great
emphasis on their values, character traits, and other behavioral factors that will undoubtedly influence your child.
Quality and Experience of Personnel and Management. You'll want proven project managers at the helm who are backed by a strong management group and a solid support staff — all
of whom will take responsibility for the success of your project. Ask how the firm assures it has the right personnel. How
does it evaluate potential hires? How many "leaders" has it hired within the past five years? Next, check hiring and retention
rates. Companies that hire and fire based on the amount of work available likely aren't interested in nurturing and retaining
qualified project managers. Look for firms that focus on long-term retention of their project managers. You'll need consistency,
especially once a project is started. Finally, consider staff development. The firm you select must invest in its people to
provide leading-edge services.
Processes and Protocols. Choose a firm with a well-defined business process guide that explains how the company operates on every project, from start
to finish. For example, what are the first steps taken on a project? A formal process should dictate how you will work together
to identify your objective, your business justification, and the project scope — all in measurable terms. Next comes developing
your strategy, budget, and resource plan. This process should address assumptions — factors outside of the project that may
influence its success.