Categorized | Project Management

Back Office 5.6. Project Management

Depending on your final product, your business can run one of four types of operations: a job shop (an auto repair shop is a job shop), a project company (like an architecture or construction firm), line operations (like a manufacturer), or continuous operations (like a gasoline processing plant). Almost all home-based businesses are on the job or project shop half of the continuum; if you’re marketing a product, however, you’re outsourcing the manufacturing to someone running line operations.

What, then, is a project? A project is a complex series of jobs that produces something of significance at the end. Your projects may produce the same type of product all the time, like Web sites; however, each final product is different in some way, has different specifications, and requires different inputs. Even if you’re running a manufacturing operation, you will have projects associated with your business. For instance, developing a new product is a project.

What qualifies as a project? Building a Web site, for one. Building a home. Designing a new product. Inventing a new machine. Making a movie. Making a commercial. Developing a new software program.

You get the picture.

So project management is managing projects, right? Not quite. It is the planning and controlling of various resources―human beings, materials, equipment―so that the project meets the time, cost, and technical goals set for it.

Simple, right?

Not really. Project management is also a mightily complex subject that entire books have been written about. Real math-heavy types of books. So unless you want to bury your nose in ten-pound, math-filled books, you may want to outsource your project management.

  • You stand to lose money if your projects are not managed correctly―every time I’ve watched entrepreneurs manage their own projects or product development (which is technically a project), I’ve seen costs spiral out of control and schedules go to perdition.
  • You stand to lose time if your projects are not managed correctly. One of the key capabilities a project manager brings to the table is the ability to finish projects on a schedule.
  • An outsourced project manager can have specialized knowledge suitable to the project. For instance, I always advise people unfamiliar with Web development to hire a project manager in addition to hiring a Web design firm to make sure the vendor does things right.
  • Finally, an outsource project manager can bring much-needed objectivity and level-headedness to your project. Because an outsourced project manager “has no dog in the fight,” so to speak, you’re gaining an invaluable outside, disinterested perspective on the project.

What should you look for when you outsource project management services?

  • Project management expertise―while this may be obvious, you may not know what to look for when assessing a candidate’s experience. PMI Certification is one key signifier―the Project Management Institute administers tests to prospective project managers and certifies the people who pass those tests. That only means a PMI Certified Project Manager can successfully pass a test; it says nothing about their actual ability to project manage. But it’s a start.
  • Specialized knowledge―while the principles of project management are more or less constant no matter what the project, you should make sure your outsourced project manager has the skills specific to your project. If you’re developing a product, your project manager should have experience and knowledge in developing that kind of product. If you’re developing software, someone with software development experience is required. Each type of project has its own pitfalls and risks that only someone with specific experience knows to watch out for.
  • Communication―the project manager’s primary job is communicating among all the people involved in the project, including you. An outsourced project manager should clearly communicate on the phone and through email. If the outsource vendor uses impenetrable jargon, ungrammatical sentences, or is undiplomatic, you’re headed for a fall. By far, the most important quality you should look for is promptness. Project management requires prompt communication. You can forgive almost anyone you deal with for not following up very quickly, but if your prospective manager likes to take a bit of time getting back to you, what will that project manager do when there’s a problem on your project?
  • Analysis―you should size up your prospective project manager early in the negotiation phase. Examine closely how the vendor analyzes the information about your project. Project managers are trained to take information about a project and instantly ask the question, “What can go wrong?” It’s what can go wrong that leads to cost overruns and missed deadlines. So use the initial selling and negotiation process to figure out how good your prospective vendor is at analyzing and solving problems. Once your project is started, it’s too late to find out that your vendor can’t anticipate or solve problems the project runs into.

5.6.1. Basu Technology

Basu Technology specializes in project and program management, IT development, and IT support. As you might guess, their primary project management specialty is in . . . information technology! They use off-the-shelf project management tools and systems. Services include:

  • Project monitoring
  • Project audits
  • Risk analysis
  • Project controls systems set-up
  • Extension of staff services

5.6.2. PM Solutions

Primarily servicing medium- and large-sized businesses, PM Solutions offers professional staffing and training for projects and programs. Services include:

  • On-site staffing for project management
  • Off-site project controls
  • Project portfolio management strategy consulting (medium- and large-sized companies)
  • Project management training

5.6.3. CH2M HILL IDC

An employee-owned company founded in 1946, CH2M specializes in operations management, facilities engineering, facilities management, and project management including:

  • Space-related projects
  • Operational projects
  • Capital projects
  • Relocations
  • Move, add, change programs
  • Owner’s representation
  • Building condition assessments
  • Planning and design
  • Commissioning/decommissioning
  • Vendor/supplier management
  • Asset management
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