How Can You “Right-size” Project Management Effort?
By Kiron D. Bondale
It’s usually not difficult to know if project management practices are too light as an organization is likely to experience higher levels of project issues, baseline variances or outright failures. While the same challenges might occur when good practices are being executed by ineffective staff it is generally easy to assess which is the real root cause.
Things get a lot murkier when one is trying to decide if practices are too heavy.
Leveraging the scientific method, one could progressively reduce effort spent on project management activities and determine at what point the savings achieved by doing so are eliminated by the costs of project failure, but few organizations are likely to approve such research!
Industry-specific benchmarking may feel like a good alternative but the challenge is that the context of specific projects will impact the ability to conduct valid analysis between comparator organizations. In addition, unless each comparator uses the same approach to measure project management effort, you are unlikely to get an apples-to-apples comparison.
A better approach might be to develop an in-house model incorporating the factors which drive the need for greater project management effort.
Such factors include:
- Degree of project uniqueness – the more routine a project, the lighter the practices required to successful manage it
Extent of regulatory oversight – industries with stringent regulatory requirements will, by necessity, usually demand greater project management diligence
Alignment of key project stakeholders – the greater the misalignment between key stakeholders, the greater the effort spent in creating alignment
Number of distinct subcontractors involved – as the number of subcontractors increase, greater effort has to be spent in managing them
Project size & complexity – as project size and complexity increases, project management effort will also increase, and usually non-linearly!
To develop and refine such a model, actuals for project management activities can be compared with total effort spent for completed projects. Time spent by project managers can usually be 100% booked against project management activities but very specific guidance will need to be provided to other staff to ensure that time is appropriately allocated.
Over time, with the aid of such a model, it should be possible to develop rules of thumb to help guide project teams in tailoring project management practices to the needs of a given project.
Outside of project management process fanatics, most stakeholders will feel that your project management practices are heavy regardless of how much effort is expended in right-sizing them. An effort estimation model might provide you with an objective basis for discussion.
Kiron D. Bondale, PMP, PMI-RMP has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized technology and change management projects, and has worked in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management and project management consulting services to clients across multiple industries.
Kiron is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter for six years.
Kiron has published articles on Project and Project Portfolio Management in both project management-specific journals (PM Network, PMI-ISSIG journal, Projects & Profits) as well as industry-specific journals (ILTA Peer-to-peer). He has delivered almost a hundred webinar presentations on a variety of PPM and PM topics and has presented at multiple industry conferences including HIMSS, MISA and ProjectWorld. In addition to this blog, Kiron contributes articles on a monthly basis to ProjectTimes.com.
Kiron is a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organization change that addresses process & technology, but most important, people will maximize your chances for success. You can reach Kiron at firstname.lastname@example.org