It is widely understood that establishing goals, objectives, communication plans and control mechanisms are vital to the success of a project. Yet, it is largely unknown that the balance between permitting autonomy and maintaining control is typically the biggest source of complication in project management and execution in a professional services engagement. This delicate balance is essential, as it is important that your resources have access to what they need, while you still need to be able to protect your business. Still, nothing is as frustrating as expensive and skilled workers not being able to reach potential on a project and provide you with value because they are being limited by the constraints of the project management office (PMO).
Like any project, getting the most out of a professional services engagement requires good project management skills and processes. However, you can take your project a step further if you adequately prepare for knowledge integration and allow fewer controls so that resources become a true extension of your own team. A common approach to adding skills to a project is to compartmentalize these resources by mentally categorizing them as separate functions with distinct responsibilities. It is a very common mistake to view these resources as self sufficient in that they do not need to be integrated within the organization. By viewing them as separate and self sufficient, expectations and controls are set to limit the activities being performed. This places enormous amount of pressure on the project manager, as it requires them to have significant knowledge overlap and interpretation skills. The cases where the project manager is unable to fulfill these new requirements results in the added resource being limited in the tasks that they can perform.
Additionally, it is often expected that adding a professional services resource is a net gain without any internal burden to the organization. This couldn’t be further from reality. In order to get the full benefit of an added resource, it is important that they be fully integrated into the team with the benefits and credentials that come with that status. Organizational team members should spend the same time to on-board these resources that would be taken if a new employee were hired. Professional Services resources should be fully integrated into the culture, processes, approach and history of the organization they are working for. While it might seem counter-intuitive to spend time and resources on-boarding a temporary employee, it results in significantly better results on the back end.
Embracing a professional services resource or team as part of the organization creates a cognitive link that allows these people to take a more personal stake in the successful outcome of a project. And, as an added bonus, this approach removes the burden from the project manager to act as a controlling and assurance function. This produces a much higher probability of the desired outcome of a project being achieved.
On your next project, ensure your project managers are insisting on effective and intentional knowledge integration and full on-boarding of your professional services resources. You will end up with more successful projects, happier employees, and people who choose your firm over other opportunities.