Finding the Right Project Lead

You are the PMO director.  A big project is coming up and you need to figure out who is going to lead it.  It’s complex, highly visible and valuable to the organization…and by that I mean it’s worth big dollars.  It’s also critical that this customer be well-cared for as they may have many other projects to throw your way. 

Who do you entrust such a project with?  How do you go about selecting the right person to lead this engagement?  Do you also go into it with a back up plan?  And how much are you going to baby-sit it?  Do you maybe run it yourself because you feel it’s so important?  These are all important and difficult things that you have to consider whenever a highly critical project comes up that you know will be heavily scrutinized from the top of your company leadership on down.

Let’s consider four steps or considerations that the PMO director must go through on a project like this for finding the right, available project manager for the engagement and getting it started on the right foot.

Should the PMO director lead it?

The first step is to determine if the PMO director should lead this.  Unfortunately, in many PMOs the PMO director is really nothing more than the most skilled customer-facing project manager and therefore ends up leading many of the most visible projects – or at least participating heavily in them.  They may be the most skilled user of the web-based project management software the company uses to manage projects or they may have the most experience on multi-million dollar implementations.  Either way, I’ve long contended that this is a very bad idea.  PMO directors should lead the PMO.  They should be a strong and experienced leader of resources – project managers in this case.  They should not be spending a majority of their time actually leading customer projects.  In fact, the only time they should become involved – other than maybe a high-profile customer kickoff session – is when there is a major issue to resolve.  Other than that, it should be hands off.  So, no, the PMO director should not lead this project. 

What PMs are available?

If the PMO director can resist the urge to take over the project himself, then the next step is to look at who’s available for the assignment.  Likely, no one is sitting around without any project work, but who has the most availability to work a demanding long-term engagement for a very important customer?  Are they skilled enough to pull this off without a major incident?  Big customers paying big money for a major software implementation rightly expect the right kind of care, attention, and treatment.  You can’t just pick the most available; you also need someone who is up to the task.  Make sure it’s someone with a good history of using online project management software to effectively and routinely manage detailed projects and someone who is good at keeping the customer up to date on project status.  You must find a very good customer-facing resource for this project manager role.

What experience/skill set is a best fit?

Next we need to consider any special experience that this particular project might require.  Is there a specific database technology that will be utilized where some previous experience with that database technology would be especially helpful?  Is the project for a customer in a particular niche industry where some experience with that industry would help the project move forward more smoothly?  These are important considerations when tabbing the right project manager for the client implementation.

Getting the resource ready

Finally, once you’ve found the right resource – or at least the best possible available resource – then you must get them ramped up as quickly as possible to take over the reins of the project and run with it.  They need to take the project schedule from Day 1 and update it in the project management software package of choice and manage the project effectively from that point on for the customer.  Regular contact with the high-profile customer is a must and it will likely be a good idea for the PMO director to remain available during the early phases of the project.  This will help ensure that everything is going smoothly and that customer satisfaction remains high through those critical early project-planning activities.

Add comment