The opportunity to work with an outside consulting firm can sometimes prompt PMP®s to worry that the external project expert will replace them. But that’s not how the collaboration works, and it’s a concern that could potentially stop a project team from getting the support they require just when they need it the very most. Outside consultants work alongside the manager already overseeing the project, not as a replacement for them. If your Project Team is considering a partnership with an external expert, be sure you understand how the arrangement works so you can focus on achieving success rather than worrying if your position is safe.
First, remember that the knowledge your project team holds is crucial to success. An outside consultant brings important expertise to the project, but the information that resides within the Project Team is the other half of the equation. Your external partner will rely heavily on your team’s expertise—not just about the industry and its regulations and requirements, but also about the company itself. There are nuances surrounding your organization’s processes and expectations that may be obvious to those in the project office but will be completely unknown to an outside consultancy. Navigating everything from approvals to end user feedback sessions will require internal PMP®s to help the external partner understand what’s normal and where operations can be adjusted.
Acknowledge that it’s a true partnership from start to finish. Outside consultants work with internal lead project managers, not independent of them. One strength a skilled external partner can bring is a communication flow designed keep everyone up to date and aware of recent and upcoming progress milestones, potential issues, and priority questions and requests from sponsors or other high-level stakeholders. This focus on communication ensures that internal PMP®s will continue to be involved in the information flow. They can then work with the outside consultant to implement specific communication practices that fit the needs and culture of the Project Team and its broader organization.
Partnering with an experienced external consultant provides ongoing benefits to the Project Team after the project is finished. The outside consulting team should be looked at as a tool to make the internal lead project manager (and the rest of the Project Team) look good. For example, post-project data will help to boost the Project Team’s profile within the organization. Outside partners who employ a strong project methodology will track project delivery dates along the life of the project. The team will then be able to use that information to compare and contrast pre- and post-consultancy updates and completion rates. This important data gives the internal project manager the reports and insight necessary to communicate in a proactive way with executives and other stakeholders.
Remember, though, that the project team must employ the right mindset. An adversarial relationship—commonly adopted when the project office fears the involvement of an outside firm—is almost certain to poison the project and ensure that no one is satisfied with its final results. Another frequent tactic is to simply ignore the consultant’s connection to the project, essentially creating two disparate groups that are trying to carry out the same actions. It’s a wasteful and ultimately damaging way to manage what should be a useful and productive point of support.
Instead, a candid approach can help PMP®s leverage this external resource without worrying about their own position. A project office that embraces a positive view can more effectively take advantage of the consultant’s suggestions and feedback. They can use the experience to improve their internal processes, boost their performance, and set the Project Team up for repeatable project success down the road.