Can a client-side project manager really improve your rates of project success?
Updated: Jul 24
What are the benefits of hiring a project manager in 2021? The rapid pace of market change and disruption globally is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations. Senior executives are under immense pressure to keep up, ensuring that their organizations are agile, innovative, and execute projects exceedingly quickly.
The risk is that many IT projects, whose objective is to keep pace with technological demands or surge ahead of competitors, fail. In a Harvard Business study examining IT change initiatives, data showed that, on average, projects that went over budget did so by 27%, while one in six projects had a 200% cost overrun.
With this level of exposure, it’s worth taking a hard look at some of the factors contributing to project failures, and why other businesses have a high rate of success launching new projects.
The critical role of a client-side project manager
The number one differentiator between project, program and portfolio success or failure, as reported in a PwC Global survey, is strategic initiative management. This is the process of translating an organization’s vision into practice by a project manager (internal or contract) or project management office.
One of the main reasons that projects fail is the lack of alignment between the organization’s strategic objectives and the execution of the change activities. An experienced project manager acts as a bridge between the executive team and staff who deliver projects, so that the strategic direction and purpose is communicated clearly.
The project manager also provides a critical support function to C-suite executives by offering operational insights based on milestones reached, as they compare to pre-determined objectives. This allows for timely course correction, or even the termination of projects that aren’t delivering.
Planning to succeed
In the 3rd PwC Global PM Survey of 1,524 respondents from 38 countries, the study revealed that one of the key contributors to project failures (32%) was poor estimation occurring in the planning phase. Both project budgets and timelines were negatively affected by poor planning and scope changes.
A top-performing project manager (PM) will insist that sufficient time is allocated to proper planning from the outset – to avoid unrealistic expectations, poor estimates, budget overruns and missed deadlines. And with a focus on seeking clarity around the strategic objectives from the beginning, the PM will have a sharper picture of the overall project, and be better equipped to react immediately and correctly when changes come up mid-stream, as they inevitably do in any project.
The experienced PM has the vision and expertise to go beyond focusing on immediate tactical tasks of the project, and understand how the new strategic initiative will be implemented over the short-, mid- and long-term period.
Even if executive teams recognize the need to implement change and have provided direction, few organizations are truly prepared for delivering on change programs.
People within the organization must be supported with the appropriate tools, resources and training to accomplish each project’s goals.
An effective PM will help identify any lack of skills, resources and training, and strongly advocate for prioritizing the development or enhancement of a skilled workforce within the organization. If new initiatives are not allocated the appropriate resources, or are executed by staff without the requisite skills and expertise, projects are bound to nose-dive.
Measure the data to stay the course
One of the greatest threats to the success of new program implementation is the lack of an organization’s follow-through on measuring progress. Of course, this demands establishing specific objectives from the beginning, against which to measure the outcomes.
By having a set of defined deliverables, the project manager can effectively identify and minimize any risks and threats as the project progresses on its timeline. By consistently measuring progress as a disciplined part of the management process, a project manager can report on whether meaningful objectives are being reached. Finally, there will be concrete evidence to determine if the program has maintained alignment with the strategic objectives of the organization and, ultimately, has made the investment in the project worthwhile.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing fractional CIO and digital transformation services. As Principal, he leads the implementation of various programs and projects that increase innovation across businesses. Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
If you are curious to learn more, reach out to us for a chat.