Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Philosophy of Projects and Products (Part 2 of 3)

“How are you fitting in?”  Tom, the Account Manager, was conducting the three-month review with Eric, PM trainee.  “I can handle the technical aspects of the job OK,” Eric answered, “but the culture is very different.”  Eric had jumped ship from one of the clients and had joined the consulting firm for the opportunity to travel.  “My old job was all about fixing the applications.  You focus on the numbers more than we ever did.”
This is the middle of a three-part series taking an uncommon perspective on the Project Management environment.  The first entry discussed the characteristics of the Product & Service Delivery PM environment.  This entry discusses the Consultancy PM and the next entry concludes the series by reviewing the impact and significance of this subject.
The Consultancy PM is usually found in the big consulting houses:  PWC, Deloitte, Accenture, E&Y, KPMG, Tata Consultancy, etc.  The core competency of the Consultancy PM is project delivery, independent of domain, product, or service.  Whereas the P&SD environment will apply lessons learned to improve the product or service, the Consultancy PM applies lessons learned to improve project delivery.  The Consultancy PM focuses on stakeholder management, risk management, change management, and acceptance management.  Metrics concentrate on cost management and Earned Value Management (EVM) is common in Consultancy PM.  Product or service metrics are rare.
The Consultancy PM will be more attuned to deliverables rather than milestones, cost is prioritized over schedule or scope, resources are valued for their skill producing deliverables, and resources are generally exclusive to a project for the duration of their assignment.
Consultancy PMs could also be called Assembly Line PMs.  This shows the continuing evolution of the PM function, from journeyman PM, to craftsman, then to manufacturer.  In this case, the Consultancy PM aspires to complete projects like a company runs an assembly line.  In this case, however, the product or service – the target of the project – is a black box to the Consultancy PM.  Think of it like cans coming off an assembly line.  Except for the label, each can should be identical on the outside, but the content of each can could be different.
PMI’s Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) aligns best with the Consultancy PM.
Small consulting firms offer an interesting mix across these descriptions.  Some, for example, specialize in a particular product or service, operating in the P&SD model;  others are immature, competing on price, mostly clueless about the needs for PM maturity, thus operating as journeymen;  then there are the second-tier consulting firms – they aspire to join the big leagues, but don’t yet have the volume and lessons learned loop so that their assembly line is not yet operating with the smooth efficiency of the top-tier players.  For those interested, this series of articles will help identify which model describes a particular consultancy you might engage.
Are you familiar with P&SD and Consultancy PM environments?  What other characteristics describe and differentiate them?  Can you use these models to improve negotiations with consulting firms?

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