The key to successful PM as a Service is knowing the elements that we, as organizations, either don’t want to do or don’t do well.  

Who develops the integrated project schedule?

Who can I find to update the program documentation?

Would someone please figure out a way to generate a dashboard for these projects?

What is the answer to all of these questions? YOU!

If you don’t plan ahead for the challenges of truly integrating projects into a program, the default setting in any organization for all of these questions is YOU.

Carl, you don’t even know who I am!

Yes, I do. You’re someone who has the professional get-up-and-go to read a blog about program management. That means you actually care. And, if you happen to think of these questions or hear these questions in your environment, you’re the go-to-person for these kinds of questions. And quite frankly, that’s wrong.

The problem is that by the time we figure out what we want in each of these roles, we don’t have anyone to delegate them to or we fear it would take more time to explain what we want, than to do it ourselves. The time for PMaaS is now.

PM as a Service (PMaaS)

The key to successful PM as a Service is knowing the elements that we, as organizations, either don’t want to do or don’t do well. Maybe it’s the archiving of documents. Perhaps it’s the integrated schedule development. It may be the hiring and onboarding of new team members. Could we develop these skills in-house? Absolutely, there’s no doubt about it! Do we want to invest the skills of our highly prized internal personnel in such efforts? That’s the better question.

I’ve been a full-time, on-my-own, at-my-clients-whims consultant for over 20 years. The joy of being me is that I am constantly learning and constantly doing what one of my horse-y friends refers to as “mucking other people’s stables.” I love the concept of PM as a Service, since it means that I’m doing the jobs that other people don’t care to do. I thrill at a consistent, well-constructed Work Breakdown Structure. Others might find that tedious. When someone suggests organizational risk structures and governance, it makes me smile. Others sometimes find themselves looking up the terms.

The point of hiring out the “stable-mucking” of program and project management is to allow experts to be experts—both internally and externally. In most of my classes, I use the example of painting the room and ask how long it would take people in the room to paint the classroom that we’re in. Once we get past the assumptions, the durations range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I had one student claim it would take him three days to apply a single coat of paint to a 20’ x 10’ room. Another student said she could do it in three hours. When pressed, each had their own explanation. The slow painter confessed he hated painting. The fast painter expressed her love for the effort and her joy at doing something similar just recently. She considered painting a rather “Zen” experience.

Could I paint the room? Yes. Could I make it look just as good as theirs? Yes. But do I want to? Heck, NO! And if I were hiring a painter, I’d want the fast painter that enjoyed painting. I want someone who cares about his or her craft enough to relish the opportunity to do it.

We should seriously reconsider the arguments about project and program managers best grown from within. If we want to nurture growth internally, we need an environment where they can grow first. And if we want to nurture growth internally, let our internal personnel get the better aspects of the job while a service provider (who actually likes the job) can muck the stables.

Picking the PMaaS Options

I think the biggest challenge for most organizations that consider hiring out their program management efforts is determining what to entrust to a consultant or a firm specializing in this, such as Apex Systems. It’s a fair question. That’s why that question should be tackled in other ways.

  1. When we’ve established a firm relationship with someone providing PM as a Service, how do we want the world to look different?
  2. What work do we prize so highly that we would never want to delegate it to an outside organization?
  3. What deliverables (administrative, organizational, etc.) do we perennially sense are sub-par or life-draining?
  4. What areas could someone else provide, just long enough, to get our people up to speed on how project and program management are done properly?

With questions like these, we have the opportunity to grow internally and externally, without the culture shock of suddenly importing permanent new talent on the roster. Furthermore, we have the ability to see certain professional areas conducted well and long enough to determine if we really do or don’t need to develop those talents amongst our staff.

Learning from the Best

In my years as a consultant, I’ve had the honor of working with some of the world’s top project and program management professionals. Not a day goes by that I don’t name-drop one of these people as having a gifted insight that I didn’t have until I met them. This includes Connie Emerson and her gift for managing student groups and facilitation, as well as LeRoy Ward and his staggering capacity to share credible information in a credible fashion. I am honored by the companies that allowed us to cross paths. My past employers made relationships like those possible. And though my employer’s intent was not to prepare me for a few decades of consulting, they did prepare me to be among the top in my field, by hiring in some of the top in our fields.