Project Management

Organisations often engage Juniper Innovations to supply project managers as a third party, with the aim to leverage their expertise, objectivity, and specialised skills. The success of this approach however depends on several factors. Here’s our view of why organisations use our project managers, what typically works well, and what we’ve seen fail (from afar).

Why Organisations Use Juniper Innovations Project Managers?

Expertise and Experience

Specialised Skills: Third-party project managers often bring specialised skills and extensive experience in managing specific types of projects, applications, platforms and products

Best Practices: They are knowledgeable about industry best practices and standards. They have experience of applying different methodologies and frameworks to different organisational environments and across different IT landscapes 

Objectivity and Impartiality: They give a neutral and balanced perspective. Being external to the organisation, Juniper Innovations can provide an unbiased perspective, free from internal politics and conflicts.

Resource Optimisation

Flexibility: Hiring a third-party project manager allows organisations to scale resources up or down based on project needs without affecting internal staffing.

Focus: Internal teams can remain focused on their core responsibilities while the project manager handles the specific project.

Time and Cost Efficiency

Reduced Training: External project managers come ready to start without the need for extensive training. They can also help train and mentor internal resources.

Efficiency: Their experience can lead to more efficient project execution, potentially reducing time and costs e.g. enabling what works well as well as avoiding potential failures.

Risk Management: Providing experienced risk handling. Experienced project managers are adept at identifying and mitigating risks, which can be crucial for complex projects.

What Typically Works Well

Clarity of Scope and Objectives

Defined Goals: Success is more likely when the project scope and objectives are clearly defined from the outset.  This can be very difficult. Experience shows us how to keep getting better and better clarity.

Alignment: Ensuring that the third-party project manager’s goals align with those of the organisation.  Experience shows us how to set better aligned goals across numerous stakeholders.

Strong Communication

Regular Updates: Frequent and transparent communication between the project manager, stakeholders, and internal teams.  Communication speed, management, type of communication, timing, recipients, frequency, and techniques that are used, all matter.

Effective Channels: Establishing clear communication channels to address issues promptly.  This includes understanding what is important, who can help, whether problems and concerns have been effectively root caused and problem-solved.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Role Clarity: Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the third-party project manager, internal team members and key stakeholders.  Being polite, firm, keeping alignment and buy-in is also key.

Authority: Agreeing through roles, responsibilities and governance structures the right levels of authority and escalation points. This enables the project manager to make the right levels of decision and helps establish effective escalation. For the latter, this is so blocks get removed or practical workarounds found.

Stakeholder Engagement

Involvement: Keeping stakeholders engaged and informed throughout the project lifecycle.  From cradle to grave this includes highlighting the important themes and topics, not just staying on a “everything is green and happy path” (to avoid buried problems being found as complete surprises later). It also involves creating options papers and keeping stakeholders informed so that even more effective decisions can be made.

Feedback: Incorporating stakeholder feedback to adjust project plans, assessments, quality reviews, learning to improve, as and when needed.

Performance Monitoring

Setting appropriate targets: Establishing an understanding of the appropriate type of targets, agreeing levels, forecast deviations, course corrections as well as making data collection and regular reporting easier.

Regular Reviews: Building in feedback and learning to assess progress and make on-going adjustments and improvements.

What Can Potentially Fail

…types of issues we’ve seen from afar over the years.

Misaligned Expectations

Expectation Management: Failure to align the expectations of the third-party project manager with those of the organisation can lead to dissatisfaction and project issues.  This can happen for example where key stakeholders are missing, not aligned and unable to effectively be involved (due to other priorities and commitments, different geographic locations and time-zones, or having to resolve urgent issues).

Scope Creep: Unmanaged changes to the project scope can derail progress and lead to conflicts.  This happens often where there is no or difficult mechanisms for establishing and adjusting scope, struggling to align and agree scope across different parties and groups, different suppliers / sectors / functions working to different targets.

Communication Breakdowns

Lack of Communication: Inadequate communication can result in misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and unresolved issues.  This happens when key stakeholders are unavailable too often, suppliers or functions work in silos, there is inadequate resource available, not all stakeholders have bought into the project, projects compete for time and money against each other on an on-going basis, or other organisational change or communication unintentionally derails the project.

Cultural Differences: Differences in organisational culture between the third-party manager and the internal team can create friction.  Classic examples are where 3rd parties and internal organisations use different methodologies (have different ideas), communicate in different ways (social behaviours on communication platforms, how team meetings are conducted, different ways to communicate e.g. from instant teams updates to publishing Jira content or MSWord documents). Where internal teams or stakeholders resist the involvement of an external project manager, it has led to conflicts, lack of cooperation, or resistance to implementing new processes or methodologies.

Insufficient Integration

Team Dynamics: If the third-party project manager is not well-integrated into the internal team, it can lead to a lack of cohesion and collaboration. We’ve seen instances where 3rd party project managers (PM) are given insufficient integration time (e.g. don’t have the bandwidth to bond or meet), set different communication expectations (e.g. timing, frequency, platforms..) or isn’t in tune with the pace of a client environment (e.g. how clients want to learn and feedback). Where the 3rd party PM lacks a deep understanding of the organisation’s culture, internal dynamics, and historical context, it can lead to misalignments or misunderstandings.

Access to Information: Limited access to necessary information and resources can hinder the project manager’s effectiveness. This can be from not receiving timely shared access to portals and platforms, being unable to open security controlled documents or being missed off key communications.

Control and Accountability Issues

Lack of Authority: If the third-party project manager lacks the authority to make critical decisions, it can delay the project.  This includes not knowing what the right level of authority is or even worse making decisions that are outside the scope being delegated.

Blame Shifting: Accountability issues may arise, with parties blaming each other for project failures.  Sometimes the willingness to get started or commit to inflexible approaches causes far bigger quality, cost, time and resource issues further down the line…

Cost Overruns and Delays

Budget Management: Poor budget management by the project manager can lead to cost overruns.  Sometimes this is because it is difficult to track finances (committed and actual spending).  Other times it is because what is being procured isn’t well enough understood at the time of contract signature or at the points where on-going call-off of licenses or project resources is made.

Timeline: Delays in project timelines can occur if the project manager does not effectively manage the schedule and resources.  Common issues occur when the project manager’s resources is shared across multiple teams and there is more than 1 function owning the resource allocation; resource is late being released or procured due to stage gate or governance decisions being made; or scarce skilled resources become unavailable to fix software bugs that weren’t picked up because quality reviews were missed (cutting corners) earlier in the development lifecycle.

By carefully selecting a third-party project manager with the right expertise, ensuring clear communication, and aligning expectations, organisations can leverage the benefits of external project management while mitigating potential risks.  

If you’d like to get in touch, we’re happy to share ideas and chat..

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan