Where Do Project Managers Provide the Most Value?

Project Manager ValueNot everyone believes in project managers. Some people say project managers are simply bureaucrats that push paper and don’t provide value to the project. Other’s think they know about useless processes but not about the real work of the project.

There are many fine and capable project managers. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is competent, or that even the capable ones are perfect. Poor project management can still negatively impact the success of the project.

I think poor project managers are in the minority. Project management is a tough job, but it does not take too long to see what makes project managers valuable. Here is my perspective.

  • There are many reasons why projects are less than totally successful. Many projects are successful based solely on the skills and talents of the project team, but it seems these are in the minority. It seems intuitive that major work initiatives will be more successful if they are planned ahead of time and managed proactively. (Versus projects that are planned poorly and managed reactively.) The person that plans and manages that project is the project manager. So, it seems like the project manager is valuable at a basic level.
  • Some people believe that a good project manager can be successful on any type of project, regardless of whether they have any subject-matter expertise. Other people believe you cannot manage a project without prior subject-matter experience. My belief is that a skilled project manager with no subject matter experience is better than a subject matter expert without project management experience. The project manager provides a value to the project based simply on applying their project management skills.
  • The project management processes used on a project must be scaled based on the size and complexity of the work itself. Small projects need less rigor and structure. Large projects need more. A good project manager knows how to apply the right processes based on the size of the project. This provides value.

All projects build things. This is the purpose of the project. If you have the best project manager in place, but you are not delivering products the customer needs, you are not going to be successful. Project managers are important because they ensure project deliverables are completed successfully. This is where the real value lies.

So, here is my bottom line. Project managers that know what they are doing, implement proactive project management practices and apply processes scalably can contribute significantly to the success of the project. Do all project managers meet this criteria? No, of course not. Those that do are the real rock stars of project management. If you are a project manager strive to this level of knowledge and performance, and then you too can rock on!