How can you make the case for Project Management? Sometimes we need to marshal the arguments for why our clients or sponsors should invest in our skillset. So, what are the benefits of Project Management, and what counterarguments do we need to prepare for?
It’s far too often the case that, when faced with the challenge to set out the benefits for something we value highly, we go way over the top. Before you know it, you’ve listed five, ten, twenty, or more good reasons.
As a persuasive argument, this is a disaster! Once you get past the magic number three, every new item on your list risks diminishing the strength of your argument, rather than enhancing it. Why? Because you’ll start with the best reasons. And you carry on. So now, five, six, or seven in, they can’t recall the first couple. So you are now making your case on your sixth or seventh best argument.
How We’ll Discuss the Case for PM
So, in this article, we’ll not be compiling a long list of the features, advantages, and benefits of Project Management. We’ll keep our argument tight. And, as a result, it will allow you to adapt this argument to create your own case for PM that has real power.
- How to Make the Case for PM
- The Three Big Benefits that Make the Case for PM
- Countering the Counterarguments to the Case for PM
How to Make the Case for PM
If you want to make the case for PM, then use PM. Use your project management knowledge to create a Business Case that follows all the ‘rules’.
We have a full article: Project Business Case: How to Create the Perfect Project Proposal. But, if you want a shorter video, take a look at: Project Business Case: Write an Effective Project Proposal | Video
And, when you need to present your business case, then it’s time to hone your Presentation Skills – and possibly even learn some basic selling skills.
Start with our article: Project Management Presentations: The 3 Expert Elements for a Great One
And we have a full (FREE) course on selling skills on the website of our sister channel, Management Courses.
A good business case sets out the benefits of the project or scheme under consideration. It sets these against the costs and risks involved. These costs include:
And the consideration of risk needs to take some account of:
- What can go wrong
- The impact of each risk
- And how likely it is to occur
If you want to make the case for PM, you must do the same.
And, once you have your business case, you will need to advocate for Project Management. A good salesperson will start by identifying the:
- problems their audience needs to fix
- benefits that are most important to their audience
- fears and concerns their audience has
- objections their audience is likely to field
Selling may feel unfamiliar – even unappealing – to a Project Manager. It’s not what we have chosen as a career, nor what we are trained for. But most of any sales skills course (like my own) will have a huge overlap with what we learn about stakeholder engagement.
Listen more than you speak, select carefully the messages with the greatest potential impact, and handle resistance with respect.
The Three Big Benefits that Make the Case for PM
As I have already indicated, you should not build your case for PM on too many spindly legs. A three-legged stool is completely stable, despite its simplicity.
Equally, in simple terms, there are three big benefits that Project Management offers the organization that uses it:
We’ll take them one at a time.
Project Management Delivers Confidence
The first benefit of Project Management may not seem important. But, in fact, it’s huge. Project Management is a means to inspire confidence in your sponsor, owner, boss, client, users, and all stakeholders. Without Project Management, the outcome of the endeavor they believe in will be uncertain. Project Management gives a sound basis for confidence. Let’s unpack some of the main reasons for this. I will address three main elements:
- Clear Definition
The very earliest work we do on a project is to define clearly what our project is – and what it is not. Without a clear definition, there is a great risk that no one can have confidence that the work will deliver the right outcomes. In simple terms, this means articulating, in unambiguous terms:
- The goal of your project
- A set of measurable objectives
- The scope of what you will do – and also what you will not do (exclusions)
OnlinePMCourses has a lot of Resources to Help You with Project Definition:
- What Goes into a Project Definition? | Video
- Robust Project Definition: How to Build it and the Components you Need
- Project Definition: Three Big Questions about Your Project | Video
- What is Strategic Project Definition? | Video
- Define Your Project
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that Project Management will magically make outcomes predictable. But, some types of projects are well-suited to the careful planning that leads to a highly predictable process, where we can manage deviations effectively.
And it is also true that, within an adaptive paradigm, there are tools like velocity measurement that do allow us to make reasonable predictions with some measure of confidence.
The final concept I suggest that creates confidence in our projects is governance. I know that governance is not the most appealing topic for many Project Managers. And I am also aware that I do rather hammer home its benefits, despite this. Good governance offers us confidence for three reasons:
- Reliable direction-setting
At the outset of our projects, good governance ensures that a project is carefully configured to address the right strategic priorities.
- Robust decision-making.
During our projects, good governance provides a framework for an accountable and rigorous approach to important project decisions.
- Conscientious oversight
The third role of governance is to provide a constant assessment of the probity of the project and the integrity of its processes. Is the project doing what we commissioned it to do? And is it doing it in a way we are wholly comfortable with?
- What is Project Governance? | Video
- What has Project Governance Ever Done for Us? [Ans: A Lot]
- Agony Angels: Setting up Project Governance – with Rich Maltzman
- 5 Project Governance Tips | Video
Project Management Offers Control
The second big benefit that Project Management offers is control. I have often used the phrase:
‘The one thing a Project Manager craves, above all else, is control’
Projects operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. A ‘VUCA’ environment, where:
- Volatility means things can change quickly and often.
- Uncertainty means we have imperfect knowledge of what will happen.
- Complexity means that the interdependencies of people, actions, and choices mean that decisions can have unexpected outcomes.
- Ambiguity means that we often struggle to interpret the meaning of events and the intentions of stakeholders.
Project Management offers us a toolset for operating in a VUCA environment and for creating control amongst the potential chaos.
A Toolset for Delivery
The project management body of knowledge (I’m using the term generically and not referring to any one ‘Body of Knowledge’ like those of the PMI and APM) has a big bias towards tools that help us plan and deliver projects. And the balance has shifted in recent years, as Agile methodologies and frameworks have given us more and more delivery management tools.
Alongside this toolset are a wide range of frameworks…
Frameworks for Project Delivery
Every methodology and many of the PM ‘frameworks’ offer structured ways to go about setting up and managing a project. These give confidence, but they do so by providing a structure for controlling our teams, activities, risks, costs, and other elements. All of them are subject to the vagaries of our VUCA context.
The two broad categories of framework are, of course:
- Traditional, predictive project frameworks, which set out a structure of stages by which to manage the project
- Agile, adaptive frameworks, which create structures that allow us to build, test, learn, and adapt in regular and frequent cycles
Management of Risk
Of all the areas where we need to create control, risk is the single biggest. It can affect everything else, from schedule, to quality, to reputation, to cost. Risk is the manifestation of uncertainty.
Happily, Project Managers have access to a wealth of methods, tools, and approaches to:
- Identify risk
- Evaluate and prioritize risks
- Manage the risks
- Monitor and review risk status
These cover the basics:
- Risk Management 101: An Introduction to Project Risk Management
- Ultimate Guide to Project Risk Management
- Project Risk Management – How to Manage Project Risk | Video
- How to Do Risk Management in Agile Projects | Video
- How to Create a Risk Management Plan | Video
- What to Put in Your Risk Register (Risk Log) | Video
There are very many Problem-Solving processes and toolkits available. And none are proprietary to our profession. So, perhaps it seems odd to claim problem-solving as a benefit of Project Management. I do so because the general mindset that Project Managers bring to our profession is oriented toward solving problems and fixing things that aren’t working.
So, we scavenge ideas, approaches, and tools where we can, and bring them into our day-to-day Project Management practice.
OnlinePMCourses has a lot of Resources to Help You with Problem-Solving:
- Problem Solving: A Systematic Approach
- Solving Problems in the Gray Areas of Projects | Video
- Could You Survive on Mars? Problem-Solving | Video
- Two Approaches to Solving Project Problems | Video
- What is Design Thinking? Human-centered Problem-solving | Video
The last resource I want to highlight, which can help bring control to a project environment, is Quality Management. Project Managers have a three-fold set of Quality Management processes:
- QD: Quality Design
- QA: Quality Assurance
- QC: Quality Control
Rather than describe these in detail, however, I will refer you to our comprehensive article, Project Quality Management: Principles and Practices You Need to Know. And, by the way, if you are wondering how important this topic is, I recommend you watch my short video,
Project Management Enhances Coordination
There are a lot of ‘moving parts’ in even the smallest project. There are lots of things to get done and a great number of team members, users, and stakeholders all with their own priorities, preferences, and ideas. Therefore, if you are to have any success in delivering a project, you need to coordinate the people, processes, and communication.
But, once again, Project Management comes to the rescue with the tools and processes you need.
And Aside: Simplify First
However, before trying to coordinate your project, first ask whether you can simplify it, to reduce the work of coordination. This video will explain…
The first thing project management can do to help coordinate people is offer tools and approaches to foster collaboration within and between project teams.
Management and Leadership
But a spirit of collaboration is not always enough. Particularly when you are:
- starting out
– and team members do not know one another
- under pressure
– and team members are keen to be led
And day-to-day, you also need to allocate and oversee work, and motivate and develop your team members.
OnlinePMCourses has a vast number of Resources to Help You with Management and Leadership
So, this is just a short list of some particularly relevant pieces
- LEAD Your Team: How to Use Your Top 4 Project Leadership Skills
- The Single Best Team Effectiveness Tool | Video
- Project Team Leadership: 5 Tips for Leading Your Project Team | Video
- How Servant Leadership can Deliver Better Results from Your Project Team
- How to Get the Best from Your Project Team with Situational Leadership
- The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership
Customize Your Team
One way we lead is to craft the team we want and empower it to lead itself. Getting this right means thinking carefully about things like culture, mindset, processes, habits, and rituals. But here again, the Project Management body of knowledge is full of great insights and tools.
OnlinePMCourses has a lot of Resources to Help You with Customizing Your Team:
- What You Need to Know about Building a Great Project Team
- How to Support Diversity and Inclusion in Your Team | Video
- How to Set a Clear Vision and Mission for your Team | Video
- Real Project Team: What Will You Do to Create One? | Video
- Build High-Performing Project Teams – Conversation with Charles Vivian
- Team Ground Rules: Creating the Right Framework for Team Success
- Effective Teamwork: Do You Know How to Make it Happen?
- Building Inclusive Teams: A Conversation with Anita Phagura of Fierce Project Management
- Onboarding a New Team – with Elizabeth Harrin | Interview
Stakeholder Engagement and Communication
We don’t just need to coordinate our team. We need to coordinate our disparate stakeholders and stakeholder groups. And this is about stakeholder engagement and communication. Happily, this is a real strength of modern Project Management. Indeed, if I do say so myself, [perhaps the most advanced book on Project Stakeholder Engagement is my own: ‘The Influence Agenda: A Systematic Approach to Aligning Stakeholders in Times of Change’.
Here are some of the most general ones:
- How to Do Stakeholder Engagement Management | Video
- Stakeholder Engagement: How to Make it Work Effectively in Hybrid Work Environments
- Stakeholder Engagement Strategies: Don’t Miss 40-plus Ways to Power up Your Project
- Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area: A Guide to Stakeholder Engagement
- How to Plan Your Stakeholder Engagement Campaign
I have discussed how we coordinate the people on your projects, but PM also offers a wealth of tools that help us coordinate the physical resources our projects need:
- Assets: buildings and capital machinery
- Materials, components, and other consumables
- Equipment, tools, and systems
Aside from the obvious resource management processes and toolsets, we also have at our disposal bodies of knowledge about:
- Contract management
- Budgeting and cost management
OnlinePMCourses has a lot of Resources to Help You with Resource Management, Procurement, Contract Management, and Cost Management:
- Project Resource Management: Part 1 of Your Comprehensive Guide
- How to Deduce Project Resource Requirements | Video
- Project Procurement Management [All the basics you need to know]
- Competitive Procurement: How to Run a Tender Process | Video
- Project Cost Management and Self Preservation | Video
- Project Cost Management: What You Need to Know and Do
- How to Deliver Effective Project Cost Management | Video
A big thing that is often overlooked it PM’s set of tools for gathering, storing, and disseminating knowledge and learning. From retrospectives and lessons learned reviews to sophisticated knowledge Management and Document Management systems, when you implement Project Management, you get access to the tools needed to coordinate new and prior knowledge and bring them to bear effectively.
OnlinePMCourses has a lot of Resources to Help You with Knowledge Management:
- Project Management: How to Get Better with Knowledge Management and Knowledge Transfer
- How to Get Your Next Lessons Learned Meeting Right
- Lessons Learned Meeting: How to make it Excellent | Video
Summing up – Pick a Solution
There may be many ways that you could deliver a given project. What often matters is not that you can find some ideal ‘right’ solution. Rather, you need someone to select one approach that is reasonable and then craft an environment and a team that will allow it to succeed. More than anything else, this is what Project Management – and a good Project Manager – can bring to the party.
Countering the Counterarguments to the Case for PM
As with all business cases, it’s not good enough to simply articulate the benefits. We need to also accept the costs and risks that come with implementing Project Management.
However, this article is about the ‘Case for’ Project Management. Our focus needs to be on the benefits. And anyway… [enough words!]
So, all I propose to do here is articulate the main elements of cost and risk that you need to be aware of. These, you must prepare for, ahead of making the case for project management. And, of course, you must also assess the people to whom you will be making your case. What other objections and concerns are they likely to articulate/ You need to prepare for those too!
The three primary costs that I am aware of, for implementing Project Management, are:
The cost of securing skilled Project Management resources and of developing them. Whilst a carefree approach to delivering initiatives will need people, as Project Managers, we have a commitment to investing some of our time and some of theirs into their learning and developing their professional skill set.
- Organizational Infrastructure
Project Management takes time and invests some money in creating infrastructure. This might mean little more than governance structures, but it could also include a Project Office, a full PMO – Project Management Office, and a bespoke methodology, along with templates, processes, and checklists.
- Technology Infrastructure
Modern Project Management thrives on collaboration and access to up-to-the-minute information. Inevitably, these days, this is facilitated by software. Buying, hosting, maintaining and training people on this software has a very real cost.
Finally, is there any risk attached to using Project Management? I would, of course, argue that the risks of not using PM are massively outweighed by the risks associated with not using it. And I expect you would too.
However, there are some distinct risks:
- Wrong People
A poor Project Manager or poor key project personnel can do more damage than good – both to your project and to the reputation of Project Management as a discipline. We can counter this risk by requiring the right level of experience, knowledge, and certification. But nothing beats a rigorous selection process that focuses on achievements and attitude.
- Wrong Paradigm
Project Management is no good if you do it wrong! And that usually means picking the wrong paradigm; choosing the wrong approach. We counter this with a strong understanding of a range of frameworks and methodologies spanning predictive and adaptive approaches. And, from there, by tailoring our approach and remembering that ‘all Project Management is Hybrid Project Management.’
- Wrong Politics
Perhaps the biggest risk of all is that the Project Management team gets the politics wrong. They either misconstrue the organizational political alignments or, worse, they fail to engage with the politics at all.
The Game of Projects: How to Win at Project Politics
Get to Grips with Project Politics | Video
What are Your Arguments for the Case for Project Management?
As always, I’d love to read and respond to your comments, below.