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An Elevator Pitch for Project Management

If you have been involved with project management for any length of time, you likely have been asked to explain or justify the value of project management.  The challenge in answering this question is that while it is fairly easy to provide a comprehensive response, you may not feel that confident if you are put on the spot to answer this question in a stereotypical “elevator pitch” of thirty words (or seconds) or less! 

A reasonable assumption is that the answer will be role-specific based on who is asking the question so let’s evaluate this from the perspective of key stakeholders.

Project sponsors provide financial and influence funding and support for projects.  In this capacity, they act in a similar fashion to investment managers in a brokerage. To be successful, they need their investments to provide guaranteed returns.  While a project manager cannot be held solely responsible for the successful realization of the benefits of a project, application of project management practices can reduce the surprises and increase the likelihood of projects being completed within established constraints.  This in turn helps to reduce uncertainty for the sponsors so that they can focus on ensuring that the benefits of the project are achieved.

For resource managers, gaining better visibility into the demands on their staff while simultaneously reducing resource contention is a key benefit.  Without knowing when resources are needed, for how long, and with what skills, as well as knowing when changes occur on projects that can affect these commitments, it is very difficult for them to do their jobs as resource providers or to motivate their staff.  Project management can extend the knowledge of planned resource allocations and can improve visibility into those factors that could affect the planned allocation.

For senior executives, projects are a means to an end. They help to deliver the strategic plan for the organization as well as supporting other objectives, including regulatory compliance and maximizing shareholder value.  In the absence of project management practices, the likelihood of success for large initiatives rests solely on the skills, motivation and dedication of staff. This is certainly a critical success factor for any project, but insufficient to assure executives that long running projects will complete on time and on budget, while providing the expected “bang for the buck”.

Finally, let’s consider project resources. They might perceive project management as an administrative burden.  However, with appropriate project management skills being applied to their projects, they should have a better understanding of their short and long term task lists as well as how the work they are doing will benefit the organization.  The issues they encounter on their projects will hopefully be escalated and resolved in a timely fashion, and the expectations for how they perform their work, as well as the performance evaluations they receive, should not be unexpected.

While each role may experience slightly different benefits from the use of project management, a commonality to all of these value propositions is improved predictability.  The advantage of using this simple statement is that the focus of the predictability is in the eye of the beholder. For a sponsor, it is about having their project completed when they expected at a price point they had justified. For a project resource, it could be knowing what they will work on this week and feeling confident that hurdles they encounter will be appropriately escalated and addressed.

So the next time someone puts you on the spot to “sell” project management, counter with “improved predictability.” Of course, when those elevator doors open, you might be invited to deliver a more comprehensive explanation!

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