Why a consultant is not, and never should be, a project manager


Leyla Blakeman, Customer Service Director, discusses the importance of Project Managers.

Too many organisations are opting not to invest in a dedicated project manager (PM) when it comes to implementing new ERP solutions such as Sage 200 because they perceive, wrongly, that project management skills fall under the remit of the IT consultant. Indeed, even those that do opt for a PM often insist on one with both vertical market and product specific knowledge.

The reality is that a project manager (PM) is not a product consultant or a technology implementer but has a set of specific skills that are key to successful implementation. The PM role is all about managing risk – identifying and resolving potential problems before they cause project delay or cost.

The PM is the project anchor – and someone who can minimise the burden on the business’ project sponsor, who is usually juggling the implementation with a full time senior management role.

The PM does not need in depth product skills to accurately schedule the project plan. And those organisations demanding ERP or CRM expertise from the PM are, in reality, hoping for an extra pair of consultancy hands – and clearly missing the point of the PM.

While a consultant will be on site perhaps ten days during the three to four month implementation process, the PM provides a constant point of reference for the company.  Although rarely based on site, the PM holds the entire process together; keeps the project motivation going; and is always available to answers any questions the business may have.

The consultant also has a clearly defined set of roles – from design and development to training – and there is minimal overlap.  When on site, the consultant should be focused exclusively on key tasks such as assessing system needs to meet business requirements, creating a blueprint of system set up, or identifying tasks that must be completed by the business before the next visit – not spending the allocated hours checking up the progress of various tasks or
scheduling processes.

If the business has not, for example, undertaken the required user testing before the consultant’s next visit, the implementation will have to be delayed. Chasing and assessing the acceptance testing is not in the consultant’s remit.

This is where the skilled PM steps in. With a skill set that includes excellent organisation, facilitation and communication – and an ability to bring all strands of the project, however complex, together on time – the PM takes the pressure off the project sponsor, reduces risk and is totally focused on ensuring the project is delivered on time and on budget. And that means not being distracted by requests to add new features and functionality during the implementation – the infamous project creep – and ensuring both vendor and business are on track with the various tasks required to keep the process on course.

In essence, while the consultant’s role is to ensure the technology is deployed correctly and deliver customisation that reflects each organisation’s specific needs; the project manager is all about delivering control. And it is the PM’s bigger picture perspective, irrespective of product knowledge or vertical market experience, in tandem with an experienced consultant that is key to getting the implementation that can rapidly begin to deliver business value.

Here at CPiO we take a strong view on the role of the Project Manager and will defend attempts to hijack that resource for “consultancy” – it is counter productive to the very objectives that most of our clients state up front; low risk, easy, pain-free implementation. Read about CPiO customer, Thyson Technology and their experience of project management with CPiO.