I took a flight today after a while, and I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the airport staff working at the bag check-in. You know how you never notice these things until they are relevant to you? Well, this is what happened to me today, and it got me thinking.

Working as a project manager, I have noticed that not every organization sees the value of having a project manager or a couple of them involved in the project. I'll elaborate on the "couple" part shortly, but most importantly, some projects have no project managers. I keep asking myself, why is that? Probably mainly because of the additional cost, the project manager brings. We all understand the budget constraints and all other reasons, but surely at the point of setting the budget, a conversation is had or at least should be had.

Let's look at the benefits a project manager brings to the table. First, let's talk about the customers' perspective and internal project managers. The value proposition is different when the project manager comes from the consultancy firm you chose to deliver your project. The learnings here come from SAP ERP implementations and specifically SAP Business ByDesign.

An internal project manager should be a resource that understands your business and the dynamics between different departments & people; it can be a contractor; doesn't have to be a full-time employee, but this person should be brought up to speed before the project starts. This way, you will always have one point of contact for the business and the partner working with you. Also, having a project manager internally reduces the risk of scope creep & missed functionality that was agreed in the outset. The project manager is also there to help plan, organize, communicate, and manage tasks, people, responsibilities, or even foresee any new/potential risks. The latter is probably on my top 5 of the responsibility list a project manager has.

Let's have a look at the perfect comparison I've discovered while waiting in the queue to check in my bag. Usually, in the bigger airports, one airline will have multiple check-in stations used for several different flights, so you join one big happy (or unhappy, depending on where you're going) queue. It will be easier for you to follow if I describe the airport, so imagine this wide space like a hall. From left to right, you'll see a space stretching for about 50 meters. The side on the left and the side on the right both have your typical bag check-in stations. Only the left side is open for check-ins. When I arrived, space was divided perfectly in half, left half full of people, in a zigzag type of queue, and the right-side empty, as it was simply not in operation. Slowly the queue started to get bigger, so the airport team had to move quickly to manage the situation as it could get out of hand. Near one of the check-in stations on the left, I've noticed two women overlooking the situation from an elevated view. And you know what they were doing? Managing the team and the queue at the same time. Shortly their colleagues got directions on what needs to be done, and the zigzag started extending. And, most importantly, they put more people on the ground to help with the higher demand, so the queue started moving faster! What a delightful outcome this was for me, as I was running a bit late for my flight!

An ERP project is no different from your standard operations in the business; if you see a manager's value for a team of people in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, or any other industry, there is a value of a project manager for your implementation.

"The P in PM is as much about 'people management' as it is about 'project management'." - Cornelius Fichtner

Now let's talk about the value of having two! It sounds a lot, but it's equally as important. A project manager from your partners' side will help coordinate activities, keep the project on track, manage resourcing, anticipate upcoming risks, and help mitigate them before they become an actual problem. A partner project manager brings experience from other implementations and the best practices to guide and to keep the project on the right path. Also, this individual becomes your main point of contact and will pull the weight on the other side to make sure your implementation is a success. Remember that an internal project manager is mostly concerned about the internal activities where the partner project manager is not only concerned about the partner side of things but also is motivated to make the project an overall success and ensure a long-lasting relationship!

I've seen successful projects without an internal project manager, but this is more of an exception rather than a rule. Projects that are small in scope and only involve 2-5 key users (people who will be the primary users of the new system) from the customers' side can live without an internal project manager. Most often, the main finance user absorbs that responsibility. But the responsibility and the need for the fulfilment of the role does not go away.

So maybe, next time, when you are planning for an ERP implementation and deciding on the budget, you should strongly consider investing in the success of the project and not just in the tool.

"Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised." - Denis Waitley

This is hopefully one of many blogs around ERP projects and the way to make them a success. I hope you enjoyed the read, and please comment, like & share! Your support is appreciated, and feedback always welcome!