You Simply Can’t Guarantee Perfect Work: The Future of Project Management

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Dec 3, 2015

Hiring is a fickle business.

Yes, you need to match specialized talent with projects that sharpen your competitive advantage to survive in today’s unforgiving business landscape. But, budget constraints and geographic restrictions may put high-caliber talent out of reach for your ad hoc needs.

As a result, leaders tend to assign projects to their pool of existing full-time employees who may not possess the precise skills and experiences necessary for the project at hand.

And the outcomes aren’t pretty: Some 39 percent of projects fail due to lack of planning, resources, and activities.

In fact, Gallup found that the average cost overrun for projects is 27 percent, and smaller companies aren’t the only ones prone to project failure or budget fumbles. The failure rate of projects with budgets of more than $1 million is 50 percent higher than those with budgets of less than $350,000.

Quality also suffers at the hands of ill-equipped project managers. By bringing in a pro with time-tested expertise, you can complete projects meaningfully. Thanks to the burgeoning freelance business, accessing specialized talent is a realistic endeavor for every company — regardless of location or stature.

The future of Project Management

As more companies embrace the advantages of independent freelance project managers, we’re on the brink of talent democratization. No longer will select companies monopolize the talent pool and extract heavy rents on talents’ time.

Both smaller, budget-conscious companies and those confined by geographic restrictions will have access to the brightest minds and the ability to maintain leaner head count and strong competition.

However, as candidates compete in a globalized workforce, their skills continue to diversify, making it difficult for them to identify the right fit and for companies to discern the best-suited worker from the crowd.

In fact, 40 percent of HR execs can’t find the talent they need.

New technologies and marketplaces have emerged to facilitate this growing on-demand economy, which now comprises one in every three Americans and is poised to grow to 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. The explosion of specialized freelance talent has challenged more innovative companies to look elsewhere for project-based talent, but connecting with a match in the growing freelance pool requires a certain eye.

Panning for gold in the freelance stream

Through leading a company in the talent recruitment industry, I’ve identified a few winning ingredients for matching a freelancer to a particular project:

  • Choose talent based on skills, not availability. Often, leaders desperate for talent let a candidate’s availability overshadow aptitude. Communicate the ideal skill sets and experiences necessary to succeed. If you have to wait a few weeks or months for the ideal person, do it.
  • Audit your needs. Look internally to assess whether you have those skills and experiences on hand. If you do, consider whether that team member would lead the work well. If not, find an interested independent professional with relevant expertise, strong communication skills, and a track record of delivering high-quality work on time.
  • Align stakeholders around business outcomes. HR, business units, and the C-suite must share the goal of securing the best talent for the task at hand and not let bias toward internal team members taint the hiring decision. Affecting change at a company is an uphill battle regardless of your title. Arm yourself with the facts of project management and the benefits of taking on a freelancer opposed to hiring a full-time employee.
  • Prioritize trust. When searching outside of your organization, find someone you can trust. Consult friends, family, and co-workers for referrals they’ve worked successfully with in the past to narrow your search. Focus on talent firms that will share previous customer feedback with you.
  • Take advantage of emerging online marketplaces. These resources open the door to thousands of independent professionals who can serve as project managers. By casting a wider net, you can find someone with the ideal skill set who will also fit in culturally. The pricing tends to be optimized by matching global demand with global supply.

Equipping your project manager for success

Independent project managers are coming in cold to your company. You must invest in onboarding to acclimate your short-term hire and help the project thrive.

Once your project manager is ready to take the reins, increase the project’s odds of success with the following:

  1. Share as much context as possible. Your definition of success will likely depend on context your new help doesn’t have. And without context, the final project won’t align with your broader perspective, so make sure the curse of knowledge doesn’t come between your project manager and a successful outcome.
  2. Help build internal relationships. When freelancers have a vested interest in your company beyond the project fee, they’ll likely want to work with you in the future and produce the best work possible. Find ways to integrate freelancers into your culture to strengthen this connection.
  3. Check in frequently. Remote freelancers typically work on mission-critical tasks, but they don’t have the benefit of catching up by the water cooler like in-house staff. Keeping close tabs on their progress is critical, so proactively arrange recurring meetings. This allows you to monitor progress between major milestones (or to course-correct before a project veers off).
  4. Set clear milestones. Freelancers have fewer internal touch points and are more likely to stumble on uncertainties. Outline specific milestones and dates so freelancers don’t waste time spinning their wheels.

By better matching talent with opportunities, your team won’t be bogged down in irrelevant tasks. Rather, they’ll be engaged in more meaningful work that aligns with your skills and interests. As a result, everyone can complete high-quality work faster and for less — freeing you to focus on strategic business goals.

When your company can seamlessly adjust to seasonality, market fluctuations, and changing talent requirements, you’ll gain an edge on the competition.

Don’t fall victim to the dire project completion stats. Open your mind to the freelance marketplace — discover the quality of work your company is truly capable of producing.