PMaaS: Time to Think from Within the Box

Jiwat Ram 10-12 minutes

– September 12, 2016

Jiwat is a seasoned professional with proven skills and varied academic- and industry-based background in project management. Jiwat brings in contemporary skills and knowledge of current trends in PM.

Project Management as-a-Service (PMaaS) is an emerging approach that signifies a shift in thinking and mindset on how project management can be carried out. It has been touted as a new business model in line with a series of other on-demand, cloud-based service offerings such as Infrastructure as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform as-a-Service (PaaS) and Desktop as-a-Service (DaaS), to name a few (Harrin, 2014).

But the question remains: What exactly is PMaaS, and does it have any practical utility? The answer does not yet seem clear. Apparently, one perspective is that it is a suite of cloud-based solutions that support project planning and assist in project execution, monitoring and control (e.g., PMaaS software solution by Clarizen).

In trying to develop an understanding, we can define PMaaS as an approach to improve the effectiveness of project management within an organization by integrating internal capabilities with expertise and technological solutions from external service providers for demand-driven resource procurement, utilization and management; and real-time project monitoring and on-demand troubleshooting of issues and known risks throughout the project lifecycle.

PMaaS is effectively a contractual arrangement that could be expected to achieve cost and investment efficiencies on projects by reducing the overhead of having to assemble an army of project management professionals and development of internal project management capabilities—something that an organization may consider a non-core business activity.

The proponents of the PMaaS approach claim a number of benefits from adopting this approach. These include, but are not limited to:

  • providing correct resources at the correct time
  • trimming down the number of project management staff
  • getting staff with varying level of experience and skills based on the needs of specific tasks in the project lifecycle
  • cutting costs on having human resources staff and capabilities for hiring and maintaining project management staff, and instead using the expertise of a PMaaS provider for hiring project staff on an on-demand basis
  • enjoying the flexibility of initiating a wide-range of projects with little in-house expertise to execute them
  • reducing risk by not having people on the payroll but still working for the projects (Connexxion n.d.; Harrin, 2014; Habibi, 2015)

From a practical implementation and operationalization perspective, PMaaS-based arrangements could be complex and complicated. Organizations could outsource the tactical or operational parts of their project management efforts and concentrate their attention on the strategic part of project management.

Strategic management of projects could include decisions on launching new projects and setting criteria for benefit realization, choosing the level of involvement and coordination with the external on-demand PMaaS provider and setting the acceptable level of inputs and feedback of the PMaaS provider into the decision-making process of the top management project committee (e.g., steering committee) in the project lifecycle.

However, given that the level of maturity of project management in a typical organization is not very high, the adoption of PMaaS could be challenging. Even those organizations that are project management mature may face resistance from their internal project management staff, who may see the embracing of PMaaS as a threat rather than an opportunity.

In addition to operationalization challenges, organizations involved in a PMaaS arrangement will face other challenges. These include, but are not limited to:

  • ownership of project data when a PMaaS provider is involved
  • issues related to the abandoning of projects midway through the project lifecycle by the PMaaS provider
  • legal and project-related ramifications of such occurrences
  • legal issues when the PMaaS provider is outside the geographical jurisdiction of the sponsor organization
  • security of project-related data, data privacy issues, etc.

While the concept of on-demand project management seems appealing, there is no doubt that a lot needs to be done before it can realistically take off from a practical utility perspective; there are more unknowns than knowns at the moment. However, the current situation offers opportunities to build up knowledge on the concept and document the experience of those who have used PMaaS to make sense of things and tease out potential operational bottlenecks.

As Michael Dell of Dell Inc. said, “Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” Perhaps that could be a starting point to develop some thought leadership around the value proposition of PMaaS—and to build knowledge-based confidence for use of this new concept into future project management developments.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to input and review by Roger Tagg.


  1. Connexxion (n.d.), Project Management as a Service
  2. Habibi, B. (2015), Why project management as a service makes sense
  3. Harrin, E. (2014), Project Management as a Service: The New Model
  4. Clarizen (n.d.), Project Management as a Service (PMaaS)

Reviews (19)

Thanks Andrew, I agree. Yes developing internal capabilities is always preferred, but where management prefer flexibility over collecting dead wood (PMO can become dead wood at times), PMaaS can provide a relief.
PMaaS is handled effectively can help transfer project risk and minimise burden on organisation, but technology is not mature enough for sensitive or capital intensive project use.

Thanks Eduin, Shankar, Karthik and Gerison. Hope the article helped in further discourse on this developing paradigm in project management.

Thanks Tobe, I agree it is tricky. It has to be carefully managed. Once companies started having confidence in cloud based solutions and technology becomes more mature, I think PMaaS can become an important cog in organisational machinery.

PMaaS is a tricky topic. It can be a great resource if implemented right and managed. It can also destroy a company if left unchecked. Great article!

Sorry. One little thing. You dont build a 2017 motorcycle to make money for foreign companies. You manage projects for profit and the consumer. Start outsourcing large scale and you enterprise finances will be paying for new governance and legal and foreign policy regulations. Schedules will bottleneck waiting for that felliw in Taiwan to get back from 5 day vacation in Dubai. See mt point? Thanks for reading my inexperienced opinion!

PMaas can easily devastate new companies and leaves them vulnerable to selfish exploitation. I agree above that this is all though-provoking. But ALL of you who are established and experienced should spend more time investigating ways to convince existing corporate culture to enhance and develop their existing resources and stress appropriate requirements handling for their own strength and competiveness in their market. Otherwise we will have enteprises composed of nothing more than secretaries and upper management, and all the untraceable workloads going to foriegn companies that add no revenue or personnel to state and national GDP.
We want to create useable and valuable corporate products, not increase unemployment rolls.
A great article would be a study of existing companies and what they need to have a successful project wiithout foreign sourcing of personnel. Keep and develop inhouse talent rhrough investment and cross-training.

There may be use cases for this with varying businesses, but from an overall perspective, I don’t yet see this as beneficial to an organization. Having an internal, strategic, PMO, can increase its own value, providing strong internal relationships, adding a strong foundation for success. Concerns were notably addressed in the article. I look forward to seeing further expansions on the topic.

Nonetheless, a thought provoking article. Thank you for your contribution.

Each organisation must be aware that when a project manager is familiar to team members because he or she is part of the same organization, there is immediately a foundation of comfort to build the team upon. This poses a big challenge to PMaaS – pm resources from outside. A good PMaaS solution must have a component that engenders familiarity to offset the risk of resistance from internal project management staff. The acquiring organisation must also place more emphasis on organisational change management, communication, governance and compliance before adopting this new approach.


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