When you use a systems integrator, who should supply the project manager?

Both you and the integrator might want to supply the project manager -- and these aren't mutually exclusive alternatives

This came up on a LinkedIn discussion group on project management. The question was whether, in a vendor-driven project, the project manager should come from the vendor or the client. What follows is my answer. -- Bob

The discussion makes it sound as if having a client project manager and having a vendor project manager are either/or alternatives. I've been on both sides of this and have always done my best to insist there be one of each.

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This wouldn't be necessary if all project managers were always highly competent at their jobs. But since they aren't ...

When the vendor project manager is weak, the client needs its own pair of eyes on things to recognize the problem and insist on a resolution. Take, for instance, this actual dialog:

Client project manager: When will we see a project plan?

Vendor project manager: We don't usually create project plans for this sort of project, but if you want one, I can put one together for you.

Client project manager to vendor sales rep: Get this idiot out of here!

When the vendor project manager is strong and the client project manager is weak, it's an opportunity for skills transfer -- a benefit beyond the project deliverables.

Meanwhile, regardless of the client project manager's strength, the vendor project manager has an inside partner to help navigate company politics, provide insights into How Things Work Around Here, cajole internal project participants to show up, and so on.

The one-or-the-other debate is just a false dichotomy. Both is far better than either.

- Bob