How to Contract a PM

PME_StandardYou have a project and now you need someone to lead it, a project manager.  Unless your business is project management or you have an in-house solutions group with project managers, usually called the Project Management Office (PMO), your best bet is contracting for your short-term need.

There are several questions you might ask when considering spending money to contract a professional project manager, this is especially true if you implementing new software and have engaged a ‘partner’.  By the way, your partner will often advise against this route as they have assigned their project manager to lead the effort, their RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) Chart will show your Business Lead in the place of a Project Manager. My advice to you, despite your ‘partner’ is as follows:

  • You need a professional project manager to support your efforts and represent you in the review and execution of all activities you are responsible for during the course of the project.
  • You need a professional project manager to review all work products, deliverables and tollgates represented in the SOW (Statement of Work), on the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) and translated to the project schedule for which both you and the ‘partner’ are individually or jointly responsible.
  • You need a professional project manager to identify and resolve issues and risks as they occur during the project, especially where there are disputes between parties.
  • You need a professional project manager to work with the ‘partner’ to resolve resource loads, schedule updates, project delays and other activities, which may translate into, budget changes.

The right project manager should come with several credentials and fit your organizational culture, remember this person will represent you and will be speaking for you.  Finding the right project manager will require tenacity and a plan.  Settling for what you can find that fits your budget will not serve you in the long run as this will only lead to unmitigated risk.

Here is the plan for contracting project managers:

  1. Define the high-level project scope.  This provides you with an understanding of your internal requirements and business expectations.
  2. Document your Steering Committee and other key players within your organization who will be associated with the project.  This is a critical step as the personality of the PM will be a critical success factor.  Trite?  Maybe but ultimately their ability to interact successfully with different people will make or break the project, the last thing you need is to replace your PM mid-stream.  Remember, the PM is part of your team.
  3. Research the market; find a trusted adviser who can support your search and who doesn’t sub-contract their search.  There are thousands of fly-by-night organizations out there today.  The last thing you want is three layers between the organization you pay and the organization that pays your contractor.  There are far too many stories of contractors walking off jobs for non-payment of invoices.
  4. Establish your minimum acceptable credentials for the Project Manager.  The following are what any project manager should have: (a) Certification in at least one of the accepted standards (PMI, PRINCE2) (b) Minimum of 3 full life-cycles of project management experience within project type you are proposing (technology, construction, etc) (c) Some business management experience is helpful (d) Minimum of BA/BS degree (e) References from past clients, Team Members, Peers
  5. Set an interviewing process including situational interviewing.  Provide candidates jugglespecifics of the project and request they solve a problem or issue as part of the interview process.  This provides you with insight into how candidates approach problem solving and pressure situations: (a) If your goal is to stay within your budget +/- 10% ask the candidates for an example of where they worked with specific constraints and how they managed partners and internal budget reporting, ask for result orientations; (b) Everyone has failures, ask about a failure and gauge the answer.
  6. If your organization does not have a mature PMO include requests for examples of templates, strategies and tools.  This is another critical success factor for the project.  You will want to ensure the candidate has a thorough understanding of project management from initiation to close.
  7. Have a Project Management Statement of Work prepared prior to initiating interviews.  If you have never contracted for project management you will want to consider the framework of the project and your requirements for this document, another reason to work with a trusted adviser as your contract agency.  My recommendation would be the PMI framework; however Prince2 is equally good for defining the Project Management deliverables.  Key to ensuring the Statement of Work is sound is working with the final candidate to agree on the deliverables, work-products and timeline that will get you the end result you desire.

You should be looking for a project management candidate that fits your culture and can perform a function that no one in your organization today is able to provide.  The candidate should be able to drive tasks to completion, report on deliverables, lead teams, and deliver a successful project.  Ultimately a professional project management consultant will leave you with knowledge, skills and intellectual capital that will enable the organization to perform the tasks in the future.

Last but certainly not least, project management is equal parts science and art; look for a project manager capable of thinking outside of the box and juggling multiple activities during the course of work day .

Consider how well they communicate with you during the interview process is their answer rote? Do you feel as if they are reading from a script or are they considering your questions and providing answers with some thought behind them? Did they ask questions of you, offer suggestions during the interview? Did they provide information about their background or experience you didn’t ask for but gave you insight into how they work?

All of the techniques, tools and strategies we learn over the years; all of the science of Project Management does not make a great project manager.  Our ability to apply these, with humor and sensitivity in even the most high-pressure situations, that is what makes us good if not great at our jobs.  When looking to bring a project manager into your organization, look for those gems who love what they do and despite how hard their jobs can be, still invest and keep coming back for more.

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StandardImageAre you are new to the ERP world or maybe you already have an ERP solution and you are upgrading or expanding the footprint, you likely will be looking for outside help.  Whatever the case is, there are things you should consider when putting together your team to give you the best opportunity for success.  There are a few options, assuming you do not have an in-house solutions support team.

  • You could issue an RFP (Request for Proposal).
  • You could contact your auditing company for recommendations (most of the big ones have a consulting arm and offer these services).
  • You could act as your own solution partner and sub-contract independents in the market.
  • You could use the software provider as the implementer, assuming they offer these services.
  • You could use your outsourcing organization, expanding their services to include your additional requirements.

How can you help yourself and your organization have a successful project no matter where you are on the life-cycle spectrum?

Keep control in your hands!

This means, whether this is your first implementation or you are a long time user of your current solution but undertaking an upgrade, expansion or significant overhaul, do not hand over the reins to outsiders without someone in your court.  No matter how sophisticated your IT organization might be, it is imperative you remember ERP solutions are not IT solutions they are Business (Enterprise) solutions, intended to assist in making business decisions, communications and interactions with the outside world run more smoothly.  All too often Partners forget this goal, far too many ERP solution providers are quick to say yes to modifications to core ERP solutions, quick to say yes to customizations that will harm the underlying reason you selected an ERP solution and future upgrades and support will become costly.

Why you should always have a knowledgeable Project Manager on your side:

  1. They can help you define your requirements before you go to the market.
  2. They can help you identify opportunities to expand or contract scope for better solution management.
  3. They can help you manage expectations around timelines and budgets if you intend to go to the market for a partner to assist in your implementation.
  4. They can assist in the development of your RFP and the review of responses.
  5. They can assist in the development of the SOW (Statement of Work) once a selection of Partner has been made, giving you the best opportunity for a balanced and fair contract.
  6. They can help manage deliverables, Risk, Issues and Quality Gates from the partner over the course of the project.
  7. They can act on your behalf and represent you during specific Change Control, Change Management and Scope definition discussions.
  8. They can help you define a future roadmap that makes sense for your organization based on your business and your requirements.

When should you start looking for this paragon of virtue? 

The earlier the better, you want the Project Manager to be part of your organization from inception if possible.  If you have a PMO (Project Management Office), you want them to know your processes and where there is a need to expand those processes to include specialized ERP methods or standards your new PM can assist the PMO in doing so seamlessly.

Now to the hard issues you will have to consider when you are looking to add a specialized PM to your team.  Unless you plan to become an ERP shop, plan on contracting for the duration of the project rather than hiring full-time.  Use a reliable and known national search firm, they are out there and will serve you far better than the fly by night firms who sub-contract through multiple layers, alternatively you can become your own agency and post on reliable sourcing sites such as LinkedIn, or even Dice.

Some reality checks;

  • Expect to pay between $90 to $125 per hour for an experienced ERP Project Manager; this rate is exclusive of travel.  Expect to pay between $130 to $170 inclusive of travel for an experienced ERP Project Manager.
  • Expect your traveling contract Project Manager to work a four (4) day on-site workweek, usually Monday through Thursday with availability on Fridays for conference calls.  Most traveling consultants work this schedule with Fridays reserved to catch up on paperwork, reports and other work they cannot complete during the hectic office hours.

You do yourself a grave disservice when you try to combine roles or as I call it, go for the twofer and now we are back to the beginning.  The twofer is that non-existent resource who claims to be both a technical or functional expert and a Project Manager, all too often the Partner positions the Twofer as just this prototypical resource, billing them at a rate they do not deserve while you languish in the desert of low or even no information.  Keeping in mind a project manager from a partner, even a mid-tier partner, will generally bill at $200 per hour and 18% travel.

Do yourself a favor; get yourself a real Project Manager one with experience and knowledge in the solution you are working with.

This is not a Project Manager, this is a Technical Resource or a Twofer:

Scraped from Dice

Scraped from Dice

Finally, Project Managers are not industry experts and do not need to be.  Many of us have worked across industries for years, our experiences and knowledge across industries have benefited our clients because we can talk about what works and doesn’t work from a project management perspective, everything from qualifying resources to qualifying deliverables and risks.  Project Managers need to be able to communicate in a variety of circumstances and across organizational chalk lines, we need to be able to present to boards and walk manufacturing floors; to capture requirements, ask questions and deliver information, including bad news.  What we do not need to know is the specifics of how energy is delivered, airplanes are flown or chemicals are stored.  This is why we have functional experts and solution architects; this is why we are positioned to ask the right questions of the right people.  You do yourself and your organization a huge disservice by narrowing your search to project managers within your industry.

Do yourself and your organization a service, when you are ready to take on your next or your first ERP project find a Project Manager with the skills, competencies and experience necessary to make you successful. Be willing to pay the market rate to get those skills in-house, make this resource part of your team early. Don’t short change yourself, you won’t regret your decision.

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