Project Management as a Service: The New Model
Elizabeth Harrin 11-14 minutes
– December 15, 2014
Elizabeth is a freelance writer and project manager living and working in London. She runs The Otobos Group, a project communications consultancy specializing in project management.
You’ve probably noticed the trend toward things “as a service”. In your company, you might already have infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), desktop as a service (DaaS) or, more commonly, software as a service (SaaS). They are all ways for businesses to outsource elements of their IT environment to third parties, revolving around the concepts of cloud computing.
But what about project management? Isn’t that a service you offer your internal or external customers?
What is PMaaS?
Let’s start with what project management as a service (PMaaS) isn’t. It doesn’t mean you have to outsource all your project management to a third party who provides you with a scaleable black box solution.
Project management as a service is a shift in the way we think about project management and how we do it. If we accept that project management is about getting new things done through people for other people, then we can start to see that there is a service provider (the project manager and team) and a customer (the person who gets the benefit from the project, normally the sponsor).
To explain more about what I mean, let’s look at how SaaS and PMaaS measure up.
Many businesses lean toward cloud-based solutions and software as a service because it helps reduce costs; you don’t have to buy and maintain expensive infrastructure. As databases get bigger–with the trend to storing everything in huge repositories to access via Big Data projects–all that server space is a drain on operating expense. In a SaaS model, the vendor funds hosting and infrastructure costs.
Project management as a service can help you reduce costs. By changing your mindset to one where your sponsor is a customer of the project management process, you’ll end up working more effectively with them. It sounds like only a small thing, but I’ve seen this shift in thinking have dramatic results on project teams. They create real partnerships with the sponsor and business unit receiving the deliverable, and that results in fewer change requests and happier stakeholders.
Change it up: Make time this week to do two things that will improve working relationships with your project stakeholders with the aim of saving you time or money in the future.
SaaS models provide an on-demand service. The software is there, and it works. You can hit the ground running as soon as you pay your first bill–sometimes even before that as many online software tools offer a free trial.
Project management typically involves a range of processes and workflows to follow, whether you subscribe to agile delivery or waterfall methodologies. What would happen if you worked through these processes at the customer’s pace instead of your own? Does project initiation really need to take that long? What if you could do it in a two-hour meeting?
On-demand project management relies on flexing your processes to the needs of your customer. Sometimes they’ll need a lot of project management support to navigate a tricky issue; other times you can get away with being hands-off. And it goes without saying that good customer service means that they have on-demand access to you as the project manager (within reason!).
Change it up: Take one project management process and see how you could take out the latency and make it available “on demand”.
SaaS applications are updated more regularly than in-house hosted software. You can expect quarterly releases, and often you’ll get feature and stability improvements far more regularly than that. And even better–as the customer, you don’t have to do anything except read the release notes.
When was the last time you revisited how your project management processes work? You probably don’t review them monthly because you don’t have time. The customers that receive project management services from you will have feedback about how well those processes work. Even small non-process things can be tweaked based on customer feedback, such as changing the time of regular team meetings or the format of reports to ones that are more suitable for them. Make changes more manageable by doing them in small, iterative steps like the SaaS vendor.
Change it up: Ask three of your stakeholders what they would do to improve the project management processes from a customer perspective. Then implement the changes.
SaaS solutions are scalable. You can add thousands more users with a few clicks (and an extra payment) or scale back when you need less from the software. This is one of the main benefits as I see it as it enables companies to start small, try something out and then roll it out in a measured way, scaling up as the software gains traction in the business.
Project management can be scaled as well, and your customers will thank you for it. On small projects, scrap techniques like earned value that offer more benefit for larger projects. Put the customer at the heart of your project management services. Do they understand why you’ve opted for the heavy processes on this piece of work? If not, explain what value they add and why your project is better as a result of following tried-and-tested approaches even if they seem bulky.
Change it up: Review the paths your projects take. Do they all go down the same route? Introduce parameters for small, medium and large projects and offer scalable process options that keep your project management processes appropriate for the size of the initiative you are working on.
Search for “PMaaS” online and you will find people using this term, but they generally mean outsourcing all your project management needs to a third-party consultancy. That, in my view, isn’t in the spirit of servicing your customers. All you do when you outsource an entire function is to shift the processes and workload, not the mindset (although I’m sure they do a good job).
You can provide project management services to your internal customers. In fact, you do already–although you might not look at it that way. A small shift in your mindset is all it takes to frame your sponsor as your project customer. After that, it’s just a matter of thinking about what good customer service means to you and adapting the way you work to put them at the center of everything you do.
I like your statement “All you do when you outsource an entire function is to shift the processes and workload, not the mindset”
This (PMaas) is something I am looking at !! Nice article and great insights.
Hi Elizabeth, PM, Program Manager and PMO is definitely needed on board despite having a framework like PMaaS or any SaaS available to support the processes. So, I personally see this is as a “medium”. Now, how “easy”, “user friendly”, “customer centricity”, “agility” and so on…the model/framework can evolve…
As Michael Dell says – “Idea is a commodity, however how you execute it matters a lot” – so it is all about “execution” – which truly requires solid experience where you need skilled PMs on board.
In my opinion, we all will see more and more such model and concepts proliferate in the market, which helps in doing certain administrative and mundane tasks easier or automate…tomorrow Robots and AI will take over apart from “chatbots”…so, we are all prepared for a change and it’s for good..
Great to read something about an established approach. Works fine if you know how. 😉
Dear Elizabeth, this is a great article. Thanks for sharing. As we move into a new dimension of thing and outsourcing, PMaaS definately needs to move into the same space. It is not to shift thinking of the project sponsor as a customer internally and not necessarily looking at the outsourced model. thanks again
Thank you for sharing this article, it can tickle any brain who is just starting PMaas in the organization which is as bing as 120,000 people. The only challange that I as a project manager face is making a shift in thinking process of the people! keep up the good spirit of sharing knowledge! looking forward for more such reads.
Elizabeth, Great article. You do have a group of like-minded people here operating out from Singapore. Visit us at www.EmpowerPM.com.
Great article. We’re a PMI-REP and a PM consulting firm that is offering PMaaS to our clients in Singapore and South East Asia. We work with corporates but is currently focussing on small-medium enterprises (SMEs), which we see would benefit from these services as well. SMEs are very cost conscious and while they need professional PM services, it’ll be costly for them to put project managers on the payroll. As Elizabeth has pointed out, the service offers a form of scalability to the client. While the client gets to pick the PM of their choice, we work as a team when there are issues or additional workloads that needs to be alleviated. The clients are pleased with this arrangement because they are not charged additional fees as the scope of work is unchanged. It’s not just the physical headcount but the service implies we bring along project management’s best practices, tools such as WBS Schedule Pro, MS Project, things they would have found it difficult to apply on their own. We have a client that runs a LED manufacturing/sales operations from Singapore as its base. They needed a PM to help them select and implement an ERP system when they did not have any IT personnel in their team. We were engaged and did exactly what was needed including obtaining government funding as such projects are entitled for grants as part of the government’s push to improve the SME’s productivity. However, there are challenges as the SMEs needs to be educated on this model of working as it is a very new concept to them.
ePM Consulting, Singapore.
Good concept. I am introduced to something new. Thank you.
“Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
– William Shakespeare