Role of an external PM in PLM Implementation Projects

With two recent experiences (in fact bad experiences) of working with external project managers, I thought it is worth sharing my observations on this topic. By external PM, I mean a part-time project manager hired by the customer, other than primary implementation partner, to manage PLM implementation project. These observations apply to small to medium size companies which have limited resources to establish full-time PMO office and usually have small Document Control teams.

Companies hire external PM, primarily due to following reasons:

  •  They lack expertise/confidence to manage PLM projects
  • They don’t have capacity
  • They want to mitigate vendor related risk and involve third person to protect themselves against vendors

Before discussing external PM, let’s see what is really expected from a PM. He should be someone who:

  •  has long-term stake in the success of the project and gives highest priority to customer’s interests
  • is deeply involved in the project on day to day basis
  • understands the dynamics of the PLM implementation projects
  • can spare enough time/attention for the project

Whenever customers hire an external PM,

  •  It creates extra overhead in the communication. PM wants vendor to report to him/her instead of talking to primary project sponsors and users
  • In creates conflict of interest, remember vendors are interested in building long term trusted relationship with customer, they simply get frustrated due to this middle-man.
  • Due to part-time availability, PM can not engage enough with internal users, his/her availability becomes an issue.
  • Since PM is not a functional and technical expert (implementation partner is supposed to be expert) , he/she does not understand the dynamics of the project and focuses more on reporting aspects, meeting with deadlines, saving pennies, and justifying his/her role.

Instead of hiring external PM, what is recommended is to identify somebody internally in the organization to play this role. If internal person lacks prerequisites skills, he/she should be trained and enabled. You should look around in Quality, Engineering or Document Control teams to identify suitable person, someone who will live with project results for many years to come, not someone who will be out of the door in few months.

Remember, nobody else can take care of your interests except you.

Alternatively, if internal PM is not possible, then implementation partner should be trusted with PM role. Due to their prior similar experiences, Implementation partners can add a lot of value to the project by sharing industry insights. Clear expectations and success criteria should be set with vendor at the beginning of the project.

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