When to Assign an Internal Project Manager

Ready to start a new project? Do you have someone internally who you can assign as the Project Manager? Like anything else, there are pros and cons to “doing it yourself” (DIY) when it comes to Project Management.  Here are somethings/areas for consideration when deciding whether this approach is right for you.

ExperienceDo you have anyone who has successfully managed projects before? If so, are they of a similar size/scope as the one you are planning to do? Does your company have a Project Management methodology complete with tools and templates to help execute the work according to your standards?
SkillsetRegardless of experience, do you have anyone who has the skillsets of a great Project Manager? Specifically, someone who is organized, disciplined, will not let things go (even if it means being the “bad” guy), and is willing to be both Responsible and Accountable for the project.
InterestComplementary to both experience and skillset, and potentially the most important consideration – do you have someone who has interest in being the Project Manager for this work? When discussing with that person, make sure they understand the full implications of your expectations, as well as what taking on this work will mean for their current and future career with your organization.

Someone who is understands the full implications and expectations of doing the work, and remains interested, will likely work harder to do a good job than someone who has experience and/or skillset but is disinterested in doing what it takes to be successful.
CapacityArguably the second most important consideration after interest, is whether the person you are thinking of assigning to the PM role has capacity given his or her other responsibilities. In some cases, you may be able to re-allocate or pause those responsibilities to gain capacity, but simply piling *more* work on someone’s plate who is already in a full-time role, does not always make for a sustainable solution, especially if the project has an extended duration.

Also, if you do re-allocate the person’s responsibilities so she or he has ample time to Project Manage this work, what will happen to the person once the project is over? Will they resume the work, go on to bigger and better things, or will they suddenly find that there is nothing for them to do? If you value this employee, ensure that you are transparent with them about the future, even if you do not know precisely what their role will be.

Finally, what will not be done if you do free up capacity for someone internally to take on this work?  Especially if this person fills a unique or high-value role, can you estimate the opportunity cost of reassigning them to this project?
DurationHow long is this project expected to take? What is your confidence level in that duration, and can you estimate a realistic range for completion dates, given holidays, vacations, the inevitable Law of Murphy, etc.? Are you able to allow the internal Project Manager to stay dedicated if the project does go on longer than anticipated? What does that extension do to the opportunity cost you considered with regards to capacity?

After reviewing these considerations and determining if there is an internal team member who can act in the Project Manager role for you, there is always the cost trade-off to consider. Direct costs are largely un-noticed when using an internal person, though as implicated in the capacity consideration, there is often an indirect or opportunity cost to assigning an internal project manager.  

Since AJC offers results-oriented, flexible hours outsourced Project Management as a service, we may be biased. The considerations addressed in this article, therefore, will allow you to judge for yourself whether the potential direct cost of hiring outside support is worth the expense to your organization.