Articles / Who’s managing this project?

You’ve signed the deal with your new technology provider and their project manager gets started organising meetings, creating risk registers, writing Project Initiation Documents etc. It’s all great.

But who is that person working for? When there are resourcing conflicts who’s interests are they going to be looking out for?

It’s not that you can’t trust your vendor. Not at all. After all, they need to keep their customers happy if they want to keep their contract. I know… For part of my time I work as a project manager for vendors.

But it’s not an ideal situation. In a project run along Prince2 (a project management framework common in the UK and EU) principles, the general guidance is that …

… the Project Manager will normally come from the customer organisation, with the suppliers’ Project Manager(s) fulfilling the role of Team Managers for the project. … There can only be one Project Manager.

Managing Successful Projects with Prince2™ (2009)

The Project Manager has responsibilities to the Project Board to ensure that the project products will meet a business need that justifies the expense. If the PM has a line management responsibility to the supplier and a project responsibility to the board, there is a risk of conflict of interest.

As the Prince2 manual says, there are situations when a customer decides to allow the supplier to manage the project – but, in this case, there must be additional Project Assurance (ie. checks and balances) to keep the responsibilities clear and to lower the risk of conflicts.

It’s important though, that the Project Manager has a good grasp of what the supplier is about, what they’re trying to achieve, and how that will be done. That means, in a technology implementation context, that they’re often going to need to be able to interpret the supplier to the customer, for whom this may be very new, and quite daunting.

So, what do you do when embarking on a new technology project? Do you find someone from inside your organisation who can manage it? Do you give them enough time to do so? What do you do if they don’t have the skills or knowledge to understand the project in depth?

Of course, where I’m heading is to get you to think about whether you should employ someone that is only responsible to you – like an architect on a building site. Someone who knows the project inside out; from your perspective. But someone who also understands completely what the suppliers are being asked to do.


Posted: 09 October 2012

Tags: Projects