What Value do Project Managers Offer?

I have seen companies deal with the down turn in the O&G market in different ways. The commonality is project cancellations and resource reductions, but the difference is the WHO when it comes to reducing head count. We are way past the point of getting rid of under performers and I have seen where organizations cut across the board regardless of function. But I’ve also seen a strategy where certain functions are targeted, usually related to support functions such as accounting, finance, and project management.

Specifically with regards to the PMO (project management organization), I’ve found out that many people do not appreciate or understand the real value Project Managers bring. Sure, they may support PM’s in theory, but usually it’s a very passive or indifferent attitude. “Yeah, I’ve heard about those guys”, or “eh, we don’t need these guys let the engineers do it“. And while engineers are great at creating things, given free reign they will over-deliver almost every time and you’ll end up with potentially significant scope creep. I’ve seen this time and again. Say good-bye to your budget and the fact that you might end up with a product that’s too expensive for your customers to buy. Product managers on the other hand are focused on working with customers to provide the team with requirements that result in a product they will buy. So PM’s have a very distinct role that ties it all together.

But here’s the thing, the role of the PM is ambiguous at best and can vary drastically from one company to the next. Most smaller companies will never think to establish a PMO and larger companies have varying levels of PMO maturity. Where technical and sales positions tend to be clear cut job descriptions, I’ve found different companies have differing job descriptions for PMs. One major O&G company I worked for treated  PMs as true product champions who took ownership of all things whether technical or project management related. This company had very high expectations on their PMs who had empowerment of their projects and where expected to deliver technically as well. In another O&G company, I started out more as a Project Coordinator (though I was called a Project Manager), tracking budgets and schedules with little influence in team execution. In this particular case, as I helped established the PMO and became an advocate for growing the organization, it began to have a solid foundation in the company and PMs began to have more authority and empowerment to drive the difficult conversations on strategic execution.

So with the (not always positive) feedback, I asked myself how I fit in the organization and what value I really bring to the company. After reflecting on my experiences, accomplishments, and challenges I came up with an answer.

What value do I bring as a PM? Simply stated,
I drive team execution to efficiently deliver a quality product.

To me this phrase embodies all facets of what I do. I drive the team by keeping the momentum going and focusing on the tasks that need to get done on a daily basis; usually a cross-functional team that has different needs/requirements that requires focus on stakeholder management. Monitoring execution (budget/schedule) will ensure that the team is on track based on the baseline plan to ensure we hit our on-time delivery goals. And as far as efficiency is concerned, ultimately it’s my job to save a company money. I do this by focusing on lean development and ensuring the team is on track. In doing so, I reduce the time to market and work to meet the goals of the initial project business case and strategy. Lastly, by focusing on risk and it’s implications to the product and project execution, we can reduce the probability that the team will have to do the same things multiple times (i.e. do it right the first time), and have a quality product at the end. So Gantt charts, budget variance analyses, task & risk registers, cross functional team meetings, etc. are all simply tools to help me achieve the ultimate goal of driving the team to deliver a product.

What are your thoughts on project management? Would love to hear from you on any key things that I may have missed.


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