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How to Document a Project Plan: When Do You Need a Professional
By Glen D. Ford

Small business people and entrepreneurs are often faced with two competing conditions. Their organization has grown to the point that implementing strategy is no longer a case of simply saying “Let’s do this” and watching it get done. On the other hand, the company isn’t large enough to hire specialists who will not be kept busy. As a result, tasks are often handed off to individuals who may not be properly qualified. The result can often be stellarly unsuccessful.

This is when a consultant can be the best choice. A consultant allows you to hire specialized talents for only as long as you require them. At first glance, their rates may seem high. However, the cost of hiring a full-time employee – after factoring in vacation, benefits, employment taxes and unproductive time – is often almost as high.

Project managers are one example of such a specialist.

Unlike a typical operational manager, they have tuned their management skills to assembling a team, pointing it at a new target, guiding it towards the target and monitoring its progress. All with tasks that the team may never have performed previously. On the other hand, a typical operational manager has tuned their skills towards keeping a team together, keeping it productive and performing the same task repeatedly. Asking one to perform the duties of the other is seldom successful.

But when exactly is a professional project manager required? In this article, I hope to assist you on deciding when the time comes to hire a professional project manager to run your project. So, when might the project need a professional?

There are four principal reasons to engage a professional project manager:

  • When the project is complex
  • When the project is strategic
  • When the project is pervasive
  • When failure is not an option

Firstly, is the project too complex or too large for you or your partners to handle? If the project requires part A to succeed, whilst part B is simultaneously being prepared with part C starting, then you have a complex project. Most complex projects require multiple phases to work properly, and sometimes there may simply be too many for a single person without much experience to pull off to your satisfaction. Or, maybe there are multiple tasks that need to be undertaken at the same time; time is limited, and a single person can only get so many things in a day done. By hiring a professional you can more than double your time, as someone who does this for their job is likely to work much faster than someone who has not had much experience with whatever the project involves. Basically, if the project is very complex, with multiple parts you are unsure you can handle effectively; it would likely be a good idea to hire a professional project manager.

The second situation is when the project is strategic to your business. Typically, the benefits from these projects are quite sizable. They may also involve overcoming threats to your business. They normally involve massive change to your people and the way they do things. Projects of this type frequently involve a high threat of failure. A professional project manager will almost certainly have experience with implementing change in an organization. And will be able to manage the threats and opportunities involved in this type of project.

You may have a large company already established, with secularized jobs for separate groups. Projects which involve several of these groups are especially difficult. In this case it would be best to bring in an outside professional simply to prevent unproductive competition. Whenever there are several groups of people who perform separate jobs and have little to no interaction with each-other there will be some power plays, “We’re better than those guys”. Unfortunately this almost always ends badly, but the easiest way to prevent this is to bring in someone who is completely unaffiliated with any of the different groups, preventing any favoritism from occurring or the person being placed in a position of authority favoritism. Simply, if you have different groups of people who need to all come together to work on a project when they would normally not work together, outsource a professional.

Sometimes you simply cannot allow the project to fail. Maybe the opportunity only exists for a short time; therefore, you cannot allow it to slip through your fingers. Maybe this is your last chance to make it big, after this, you won’t likely have an opportunity. Or maybe it’s as simple as you believe it is important to complete the work quickly. Whatever the reason, you simply can’t let the project fail due to in-experience. This is when you should hire a professional, someone who knows how to get the job done in a timely manner. No matter the cost to hire the professional manager, it would be more costly for the project to fail.

Perhaps it’s as simple as you want the project done right. Maybe it’s your reputation on the line? You might be dealing with a valuable client who is influential and vocal in your market. You may need the job to be done right the first time. In this case, it would likely be a good idea to hire a professional project manager to make certain the job is done correctly.

Glen Ford is an accomplished project management consultant, trainer and writer. He has over 20 years experience as a project manager in such diverse projects as Construction, IT, Software Development, Marketing and Business Startup. He is a serial entrepreneur who quite literally learned to be an entrepreneur at his great-grandfather’s knee.

Check out his newest book available on Amazon at http://vproz.ca/books/how-to-document-a-project-plan. You can read more from Glen on his blog.

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