By almost every metric, big companies struggle to manage the execution of the strategic initiatives they undertake. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), nearly 10% of every dollar that’s spent on corporate projects is wasted—that’s nearly $100 million for every $1 billion invested. According to PwC, meanwhile, only 2.5% of companies complete all the projects they set out to do, and one in six projects runs at least 200% over budget.
We’ve already examined the factors behind why so many corporate projects fail: inadequate planning, insufficient resources, and lack of flexibility.
Here, we’ll take a deeper look at the last two items on the list—and what flexible resourcing means not just for project management but for broader organizational agility.
What is Agile project management?
In the business world, agility has become something of a muddled concept. At one end, it’s a rigorous product development methodology. At the other, it’s a goal that’s so ambiguous no-one could possibly take issue with it. What executive would claim she didn’t want to cultivate an agile workforce to move more quickly on new opportunities?
At Business Talent Group, we bridge this divide by using agile principles to address the place where, in our experience, most big companies struggle to move quickly, let alone adroitly: resourcing. Because regardless of whether or not your organization uses agile methods or is contemplating a full-blown agile transformation, it’s hard to be agile about anything if you don’t have the right people in place. Forget about scrum masters; you can’t cultivate self-organized teams unless they have the skills and bandwidth to do the work that’s expected of them.
Which brings us back to project management. Even the largest companies don’t have the luxury of having experienced PMs on staff for each item on the corporate agenda. Nor should they, in an era when the expertise they need can change before they’ve produced a single deliverable. Adding full-time project managers is time-consuming and inefficient for short-term initiatives. Yet big name consulting firms aren’t set up to deliver the kind of flexibility executives need to execute on projects with complex, shifting demands—at least, not cost-effectively. Niche project management firms, meanwhile, can rarely match the scale and specificity of the skills companies need to drive global results.
That’s why the freelance project managers we work with are such a powerful resource. They’ve been trained at boutique and big consulting firms, and many have also held executive roles at big companies. They understand your industry and they know how to manage big projects. And, most importantly, they can be deployed, individually or in teams, for exactly the time it takes to deliver results, and in exactly the right configuration—whether that means they’re tasked with coordinating executive stakeholders, driving workstreams, supporting your PMO, or all of the above.
It’s the kind of agility you can use at any stage of your agile journey.
The F1000’s most in-demand consulting skill
Strategic priorities can change quickly. Freelance project managers make it easier to keep up with the change, not just because they can work more flexibly (part-time, say, or for the duration of a single initiative), but because they offer precise-fit skills that can be hard to find on the full-time market. Need a product launch expert with experience in biotech? A technology leader with expertise in CRM installations? Or a strategic project manager who can help you tie your initiatives to your broader business goals? Scope the project and get to work.
In fact, project leadership topped our list of the most in-demand consulting skills for the past two consecutive years. Big-company execs are clearly searching for better solutions when it comes to project management. In independents, they may just have found an answer.
Succeeding with freelance project managers
Leah Hoffmann is BTG's Marketing & Content Strategist. A former journalist, Leah worked for Forbes.com and The Economist before joining BTG. She is passionate about clear thinking, sharp writing, and strong points of view.