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I'm sure other PMs have run into this issue, which is explaining the benefit of a PM to a client. Here's a typical question I hear: "Why am I paying extra for someone who is not involved in the analysis, design, development or support of my project?"

I've come up with a few responses to this:

a. You need someone to make sure each of the project's phases adhere to a certain level of quality

b. You need to talk to someone who is aware of all the phases and of the project's scope (as opposed to talking to 5-6 different people with different communication styes)

c. The PM ensures that the project is delivered on time.

d. Not client-facing responses: a PM allows other team members to focus on their work. The person also manages the budget and scope (what client wouldn't mind a project going out of scope and not having to pay for it?).

I found an excellent and related thread here: What value do project managers provide a software development team?

However, I'm looking to see how other PMs have dealt with this from an external client facing perspective, i.e. how do you relay the benefits to a client directly?

Note: I'd like to add that this hasn't been a problem for larger, complicated projects. But when the stakeholders are few (1 to 2) and the budget isn't that large, this seems to come up more often

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True...but you can't ignore the question when it comes up. –  TechWire Feb 20 '13 at 16:22
    
Linking to related question. pm.stackexchange.com/questions/6795/… –  CodeGnome Feb 20 '13 at 16:46
    
PMs do not make sure or ensure any result. –  David Espina Feb 20 '13 at 18:42
    
can you elaborate on that, David? I don't want to set off a chain reaction as this should be another topic. But if delivering a project on time (i.e., a specific deadline) is considered a result, isn't the PM supposed to ensure this? –  TechWire Feb 21 '13 at 15:49
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Think of the PM as the Master Trouble-Shooter

The analysis, design and development resources are functional specialists and they are all very busy working on tasks for multiple projects. Their focus is on technical excellence. They neither have the time nor the mindset to follow-up with others to get prerequisite work done, manage contingencies, for example, when needed resources are out sick or come up with alternate plans for completing the project when they run into unforeseen blocking issues, such as when server resources get maxed out.

You need me, as the Project Manager, to navigate through all these uncertainties, make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and get your project completed successfully and on time.

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Makes me think that I need to tailor my responses to "what if" instead of "here's why". Thanks! –  TechWire Feb 20 '13 at 16:58
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TL; DR

The bottom line is that you're using a project manager for a reason. Assuming you feel the need to explain at all, the reason you provide to the client should be substantially the same reason you provide to the rest of your organization.

Fixed-Price or Internal Process

If a project is fixed-price, or the customer is inquiring about your internal process, the only reasonable answer is that it's irrelevant to the customer. Why do they care how you manage your project internally? Unless it's a fee-negotiation tactic, I'd recommend not engaging on this particular issue since it has no direct bearing on the client's costs or deliverables.

Resource-Based Costs

If the client is paying by man-hours, or otherwise paying directly for the project manager's time on the project, then the client may have a legitimate question. You then have a couple of choices.

  1. Turn the question around.

    Ask them why they need a CEO, CFO, or similar role. I mean, can't the guys in the mail room manage themselves? If not, why not?

  2. Offer to let them manage the project.

    Let them create the schedules, work breakdown structures, and project milestones. Have them create all reports, track deliverables, and manage project resources. Someone needs to do those things, so if they're willing to accept the responsibility, by all means transfer that risk to them.

  3. Ask them who will be responsible for quality or cost control.

    Force them to think about whether asking the QA guy or technical writer to manage the project's budget is a reasonable thing to do. Maybe they have someone else in mind for the job; as long as you aren't left holding the (financial) bag, let them try it and see what happens.

  4. Tell them "that's our process" and leave it at that.

    Do you really want to be held accountable for a project that has no formal controls? Probably not.

    If they're engaging your company's professional services, then presumably they want the results you can deliver. If having a project manager involved has nothing to do with your process or the way you deliver results, then why is this even an issue?

Value Has a Cost

The question, as posed, isn't really about the value of a project manager; it's actually about the cost of the project management resource. Identify the value, then tie it to the cost. What could be easier?

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Fantastic response. Good point about helping to identify value and then tying in the cost. I wish I didn't have to ask the question, but it comes up a bit more often than I like. –  TechWire Feb 20 '13 at 16:57
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Why do you add TL;DR at the beginning of every post? It seems superfluous and pointless. –  Andrew Clear Feb 20 '13 at 17:13
    
TL;DR generally means "here's a summary of the longer version", but you just added a fluffy statement rather than a summary. It adds no value to the answer as a whole. –  Bryan Oakley Feb 22 '13 at 14:59
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