Wednesday, 08 May 2019 12:27

Project Management as a Service; challenges and key considerations

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Discussion of PMaaS is growing online and in project management communities.
Smart PMaaS providers have begun marketing very effectively to firms looking for project management services. But are PMaaS providers all they are cracked up to be? What do PMaaS solution providers offer, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of engaging in such an arrangement? Are some project types better for PMaaS than others? Here I will consider these questions and help you with everything you need to know about these types of solutions. 

What is PMaaS?

PMaaS stands for Project Management as a Service. It refers to the situation where companies can buy in project management services on demand. They do this from organisations that specialise in project management and who can offer skilled and talented professionals that can jump in and hit the ground running. PMaaS providers offer the Project Management Office, carrying out assessments, providing guidance and governance and additionally the people and the tools to improve project delivery and success. 

Why use PMaaS?

So, what are the benefits of using project management on demand services? One of the main ones is that if you purchase PMaaS you are buying in professionals that specialise in project management. In a PMaaS firm, project management is the company’s core competency. For your organisation it is likely that project management is not a specialist competence in the same way that it is for a company that does this all day every day. This type of service offers access to qualified and talented people who know project management inside out. What is more, they are quickly and easily accessible through PMaaS provider companies, just when you need them. 
There can also be a cost benefit associated with PMaaS. Just like other “as a Service” offerings, with PMaaS you pay for what you need. This means that you don’t run the risk of being understaffed when you need a great project manager, or overstaffed if projects dry up for a while. You keep control over the process, which helps you to also control costs in this area. In addition, providers of PMaaS state that they can help to make project management costs more predictable because they can all be factored into the agreed contract. For many, this may be seen as a low cost model when compared to other options such as recruiting project management staff, or bringing in a contractor. 
In certain cases there may be types of projects that are more likely to require PMaaS solutions. For example, some projects are very agile and changeable and they are more likely to lead to the requirement for scaling up resources very quickly – and scaling down again equally as rapidly. Recruitment of staff is not really an option in such a scenario, as this is wasteful and inefficient. In addition, projects that require specific types of governance or compliance may also benefit from an expert in a specific area. In this case too, it is not the best use of resources to hire a permanent member of staff. Given that the PMaaS solution can be cost effective as well, this can make it a good option in these types of situations. Other situations where PMaaS may work well are on large scale projects where there are a lot of stakeholders and where time is tight.

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The Challenges

Project Management as a Service is not without its risks. Unlike some other “as a service” offerings such as Software as a Service and Platform as a Service, with PMaaS you are buying in the help of people. While people may be very effective project managers, they may not necessarily be a good cultural fit for the organisation. Some proponents of PMaaS argue that when these solutions are good, then the provider will take cultural factors into account and place an individual that is a good fit, but this seems at best, a very complex undertaking that could be prone to failure. This aside, people working within the culture already are likely to have a better idea of the “way things work around here” and how to get things done. With this in mind, in some cases it might very well be preferable to gain the required project management competencies in-house. 

Key Considerations for PMaaS use

There are some recommendations that can be made for the use of PMaaS in any organisation. In the first instance, it is essential to be clear about your own requirements from the very start. Come up with a wish list of what you need from your PMaaS provider, and vet these companies against this. Secondly, it is important that the people brought in are a good cultural fit – so check with your potential providers what they do to achieve this. Thirdly, contracts should be underscored with KPIs within the service level agreement, so that the contract can be carefully managed. 
Some PMaaS solution providers offer a contractual agreement whereby you can retain a certain percentage of the monthly service cost, pending the KPIs being met. If the PMaaS provider meets the KPIs, they get the money, but if not, you retain it instead. This type of arrangement can be beneficial because it helps keep the PMaaS provider on their toes, making sure that they do indeed meet the KPIs.
It is worth noting that PMaaS is a relatively new idea. As such, there is not a lot of evidence to show either way whether it is effective or not. Following the recommendations above will likely help you avoid any of the major problems that may arise, but you should certainly be aware and on the lookout for the possible drawbacks, just in case. 

Summary

PMaaS has the potential to solve the age-old problem of project management resourcing and skills within organisations. The service may be cost-effective due to the ability of the organisation to scale resource up and down as needed. Yet, the concept is unproven, and there are risks that cannot be overlooked, such as corporate culture challenges. If you do your due diligence when selecting a PMaaS partner, you may minimise some of the risks involved in utilising these types of services.  
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Paul Oppong

Paul Oppong is a management, strategy and business transformation consultant, specializing in digital transformation and program management. He has over 15 years of IT experience, several academic degrees, and industry certifications. Paul has helped clients ranging from multinational financial institutions to government agencies to navigate the ever-changing landscape of business technology, using his expertise to deliver evidence-based solutions that exceed their performance expectations.

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