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Is a Consultant Project Manager Truly Necessary?
By Phil Simon

On almost all projects, clients look for ways to minimize costs. They might question the need for a full-time consultant Project Manager. This is often a mistake. As a general rule, the need for a full-time external PM is a direct function of the following:

  • The size and scope of the project
  • The number and expertise of the client’s internal resources

At one extreme, a 50,000 person organization hires an external consultancy to implement a full ERP (from soup to nuts). The consultancy brings ten full-time consultants from all functional and technical areas because the client has limited or no internal expertise and no PM with remotely experience with the new system. As such, the client would be foolish not to employ a full-time PM from the consultancy. Too much coordination exists among the different areas not to have someone with a global view. At the other extreme, a small 2,000-person hospital hires one consultant to implement a new module within its existing ERP. It probably can make do without a devoted PM. In fact, the on-site consultant can often serve as the de facto PM. In reality, most projects fall somewhere in between these two extremes, making the presence of a full-time PM a murkier matter.

Phil Simon is a seasoned independent systems consultant and a contributor to different technology media outlets. He’s a dynamic public speaker and writer for hire focusing on topics related to organizations’ use of technologies. Phil is the author of the acclaimed book Why New Systems Fail. Phil can be reached via his professional website, Phil Simon Systems, and can be followed on twitter @philsimon.

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