Sunday, May 29, 2011

Failure to identify the ROI in Project Managers

IT Project Managers are expensive.  If an IT department is given a fixed budget on human resources, they might be tempted to spend the budget on 2 developers instead of one Project Manager, after all, it’s the developer that does all the coding which is pretty much what the clients are buying, so where is the ROI (return on investment) for Project Managers?



Today I am a Project Manager, but not too long ago, I was a web developer, as a web developer, it was easy to justify my ROI, after all I am doing "ALL" the work right?  A client comes to us asking for a site that needs to for fill a certain objective, I build a site to satisfy the objectives, client is happy, I get paid.  It’s simple.

Project Managers are not writing code, so they are not seen as physically building what the client wants.  Departmental Managers, Directors, HR Managers, or just about any (misguided) decision makers are failing to justify the need to Project Managers (PM), especially since they are an expensive resource.
 
So to reluctantly justify the acquisition of the PM, they hire a PM but give them multiple roles such as Business Analyst, Architectural Design, Documentation Writer and Tester.  Now hiring one person, paying one salary, calling this person a Project Manager, so he is ultimately responsible for any assigned projects, not assigning Business Analysts and Testers to the projects so the responsibility falls to the Project Manager, who has to ultimately for fill these roles himself/herself for project success and (here’s the most profitable part) stretch this “Project Manager” across 5 or more projects is seen as THE justifiable reason for hiring Project Managers.  If that’s the intended purpose, are you using Project Managers correctly?

When a true Project Manager is assigned to a Project, he automatically has many roles and responsibilities; the project manager is responsible for ensuring that the project team completes the project (and since IT projects are inherently risky – this role is essential)  – this mammoth of a task is a time consuming one (that’s why you need a dedicated resource assigned to it)  it involves the management of the following factors (based on PMBOK) …
  • Scope
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Risk
  • Communication
  • Quality
  • People
It also requires a strong Change Management Plan, a Master Project Plan, a strategy to drive success for every factor mentioned above and a strong involvement in pretty much all the phases of the project.
 
Adding more “non-PM” roles to the Project Managers responsibility list (like Business Analyst and Tester), prevents the PM from properly managing the PM factors correctly.  Also, adding too many projects to the PM’s plate prevents the Project Manager in assigning a fair amount of time to a specific project.
 
This means that we are not using Project Managers correctly, which means that the projects are NOT managed correctly, which ultimately means that chances of project success has just dropped significantly –

This means that the entire project is compromised.  This alone seems like a strong ROI reason for getting Project Managers for Project Management tasks – but it is still difficult to convince the Decision Makers, because even though I am saying that that project success is compromised, project success is still possible and that’s all the decision makers hear, and since PM are expensive, the Powers That Be are expecting them to perform miracles.

The Decision Makers that ultimately decide if a Project Manager should be hired needs to ensure that in order for the Project Manager to be successful, their roles and responsibilities needs to be limited to Project Management roles (“limited” is such a bad word here because the amount of work from this role alone is pretty high) – the number of projects assigned to a PM needs to needs to be low enough allow him/her to spend a fair amount of time on each. 

In other words, the Project Managers needs to be provided an environment that promotes success, this is often overlooked, especially since we are hiring Project Managers for the wrong reasons.

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