~ By Brad Egeland
We're living in some of the worst economic times in 60-70 years. Businesses are closing. Analysts are estimating a possible 20% vacancy rate for businesses across the country by the end of 2009. Here in Las Vegas the once flourishing hotel and casino industry is seeing bankruptcy filings and halted construction projects throughout the valley.
So what does this all mean for project managers? Customers sometimes think of project managers as the 'extra' expense on an IT project. If you are a project manager, then you know that's ridiculous. The value added by even a mediocre project manager is undeniable, keeping the status reporting, formal calls and project schedule up-to-date and in front of the key project personnel helps to ensure that the project stays on track. No one else on the delivery team is going to do that. But a customer on a limited budget may have other ideas.
I was leading a project last year that involved a difficult customer on a limited budget who did not value project management highly at all. The customer side director level sponsor was a self professed project manager hater. When I was assigned the project and made aware of this fact by the PMO Director, my first thought was definitely not - "Thank You!"
This was an approximately six month long project and I fought very hard for the first couple of months to show value and win them over. I found that the key to acceptance was to show them value and understanding, strong decision-making, and as minimal an impact on the project budget as possible. A couple of incidents arose on the project where I was able to step in and get some higher-level technical assistance where normally the project would have floundered without a strong project manager, and then I was considered "OK." He still hated all other project managers, just not me anymore.
Many customers, though, think they can get all of the PM expertise they need from a knowledgeable business analyst. On a very small project, that may be true. But on a larger-sized engagement, the BA will be too consumed to deal with the administrative processes and the decision-making that would usually be handled by the project manager.
To really ensure that an engagement stays on track and that the diverse mix of very talented individuals remains focused on the end goal and moving forward in a straight line, you must have an experienced project manager steering the ship. There's no one better to co-ordinate the communication, manage the budget, produce the status reports and lead the status meetings. Bottom line, if you want your IT engagement to run as smooth as possible, it is imperative that you pay for the project management effort.
IT leaders are smart. Customers are ultimately smart, too. Even in these troubled economic times when companies are cutting workforces in record numbers, project managers still will remain key resources on initiatives. The bigger concern for PMs is that there are and will continue to be fewer of these engagements taking place. Companies are maintaining and reducing, not undertaking new work. Fewer new projects are starting so the overall need for project managers is dwindling just as it is for resources across the board. Project managers must dig in, keep themselves current and relevant, and maintain strong connections within their organisation and continue to show value on each and every engagement they lead.
Brad Egeland is an independent IT Consultant with 23 years of IT industry experience as a software developer and manager including 17 years of Project and Implementation Management experience. He is married with 7 children and lives in Las Vegas, NV. For further information Brad can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit BradEgeland.com