Sawaya says he’s not surprised that this is as widespread a problem as it is, because managing multiple jobs has become a necessity as more firms take on smaller projects to stay competitive or simply to keep their revenue streams up. “For many companies there are fewer $1 million jobs and many more smaller ones,” he notes.
Another challenge keeping PMs from focusing has been the increase in the number of stakeholders in each project, ranging from clients to end-users, subcontractors and inspectors. Sawaya estimates that there are between five and six external stakeholders involved in the average project, which means that a project manager might have to deal with as many as 25 or 30 people over the course of a year’s workload.
Like Malone and others, Sawaya casts an arched eye at sales departments, which he says often over-promise and fail to clearly define the scope of projects they bid on. He’d like to see some kind of standard set of documents emerge that would ask key questions about scope, exclusion/inclusions and timelines, but before that happens, he’d like to see executive management step up with more support of project managers, a point he says comes up regularly as a sore spot among students in the classes that he teaches.
He suggests that PMs would benefit from a larger and more clearly defined administrative infrastructure behind them at the home office that would include people to whom some peripheral responsibilities on projects can be delegated. “If you can get the project manager doing more core PM stuff – communicating with the customers, scheduling, cost management and interfacing with subcontractors – I think you’d see more efficiency introduced to the process,” he says. “That kind of support has to be put in place from above.”
One thing experts seem to agree on is that the pressures on project management are not solely, or even largely, induced by the economic climate. In fact, the economy is an easy scapegoat for what they will tell you is more of an organizational problem, one in which the very definition of what comprises project management varies from company to company, but also sometimes from project to project and even month to month.
Perhaps that’s not too surprising, given that many A/V integrators are moving into new market sectors, many of which have very specific management requirements. But, says Sawaya, market specifics aside, the bottom line is all about defining the role of the project manager and not letting him or her have to extend themselves too far beyond that prescription. “When someone knows exactly what has to be done, that’s when they can do it best.”