Every project office has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. As time goes on, the needs of a Project Team routinely change and additional areas of necessary expertise often emerge. New projects may require different or more advanced skills than the organization possesses in-house. Key members might have left the team or they could be assigned to other projects and unavailable to lend their assistance.
Because project management is always evolving, it may not always be clear if or how an outside expert can benefit the team. Being familiar with the skills these external firms offer could mean the difference between getting the help the team needs or facing failure on an important project. No matter the situation, there are many different competencies an experienced outside partner can bring to bear on your project.
Communication. A consultancy can help your team implement an appropriate communication strategy for even the most complex and high-profile projects. That doesn’t just mean improving the quality and timeliness of data that is distributed across the team’s stakeholder groups. It also refers to the ability of an external partner to help the project group communicate more effectively internally as well. They can work to identify bottlenecks that prevent information from flowing while creating protocols to better support the communication needs of the Project Team and its sponsors, the organization’s executive team, and other key stakeholders.
Facilitation. The productivity gains possible through skilled facilitation are staggering. Project teams may find themselves struggling to make difficult decisions or to compile necessary information, resulting in a lack of progress. An external expert will help pinpoint those critical steps that must be prioritized and carried out to get the project moving forward again. That may be evaluating staffing needs, determining resource requirements, negotiating support from internal departments, identifying waste, crafting realistic implementation strategies for new practices or protocols, and troubleshooting other complex problems.
Training. Knowledge transfer is another competency held by outside consultancies that is often overlooked by project teams. External firms hold a tremendous amount of expertise in-house, and the classes they offer can help bolster the Project Team’s skill set in many areas. Strong project management methodologies is just one topic a consultancy firm is likely to cover. Other skills include communication strategies, project controls, resource allocation and management, project schedule development, activity breakdowns, analysis and benchmarking of key metrics, and risk management.
Scope definition. Setting the parameters for a project can sometimes be the most challenging phase for a Project Team. It requires the team to bring together stakeholders’ needs, sponsors’ expectations, and the organization’s resources. Ideally, those factors will meet at one point that suits everyone, but more often there is pushback on what can be allocated, what’s required, and what can actually be accomplished (not to mention when everything must be and can be completed). An outside expert can guide the team and its stakeholders in locating that intersection between needs and capabilities, without over committing resources or under serving end users.
Neutrality. One crucial role external partners play is that of an objective, neutral party. They aren’t stymied by internal politics or power struggles. Their estimation of what success looks like doesn’t waver because of pressure from above or below. Because they are unencumbered by the baggage that typically weighs on those in the Project Team—which may not only color the view of project team members but also of stakeholders—outside consultants are able to present information and solicit ideas in an objective way. End users and sponsors also may feel less threatened by external experts, prompting them to provide candid feedback and more energetic support.