Do Small Projects Need Project Managers?

project integration management Oct 04, 2020
Do Small Projects Need Project Managers?

Organizations face the temptation to call everything a project. Then, they apply a project manager and a lot of overhead to manage them. So while the formal definition of a project includes "temporary" and "produces a unique result," smart managers apply some additional rules.  These may consist of complexity, the budget amount,  team size, or a combination to determine if an actual project manager is necessary. I've personally used the rule of requiring at least three months to complete, a budget of at least $25K, and a team of 4–5. You can set your own parameters based on your circumstances.

In our article, 8 Best Practices for Managing Smaller Projects, we looked at some important considerations for project managers and smaller projects.  These activities may or may not occupy them full time.  It may also be possible for the project manager to manage multiple projects (assuming they are not also doing the work). There was a time in my career when I would manage 3–4 projects simultaneously, I had a team of 4–5+ in different roles, and project budgets ranged from $50K to $300K. In addition to being the project manager, I was responsible for requirements. Once the needs were identified, a plan was developed with the team, and I stepped back to manage. The projects had some similarities, so I was able to juggle the tasks and resources and schedule everything appropriately. Every Friday morning, for example, was time to prep the client status reports for the week. If I had to travel that day, I did it over the weekend or on Monday morning.

But now, let's look at even smaller efforts that may not fit our project definition.  While an actual project manager as a separate team member may not be necessary, I always make sure the practice of good project management, especially with respect to time, is involved. I'm nearly complete with a new book.  While writing, I informally scheduled my time and the time of others involved in the project. I have a budget for the book's launch, and there is a communications plan. In fact, I considered all the knowledge areas.  Maybe not all written in stone or even on paper, but I am watching and managing these activities.

In summary, project management is always necessary, even for small projects. A separate project manager role may not be required.  But good project management practices increase the chance of success.  The tools and techniques applied must be scaled to the project - a small project shouldn't require change requests in triplicate and lots of red tape. An actual project manager is something you need to decide based on the benefit (e.g., your projects may be more successful because you protect the developer from management or other overhead work) or a need to have someone facilitate a plan.

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