Who is the project co-manager?

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In this post we go back to describing the professionals who live around a BI project. My ambition is to be of help to all those who actually have a project to be brought over the line.

Under the term co-manager, we actually classify two different characters, depending if we are in a client-consultant setting or the project is internal in an end-user company. I purposely do not use the terms “client side project manager” or “business side project manager” because, there can be only one project manager/leader; the weight of command must never be a shared burden..

In a project run by a consulting firm for a customer, the co-manager is the client liaison officer. She is the person who is the official contact point with the customer; every query and every communication must pass through the co-manager unless there’s a specific different arrangement in place. A consulting project should not even start without a well-defined point of contact, its absence guarantees that the project will soon head toward some pointless direction, overstating some goals and understating equally important others. At the root there is the fact that a BI project is a business project that requires some direct involvement from business people. The project manager, usually, does not have any direct authority on those people and must not appear to be begging for their help. Often the co-manager does not have the authority to take all the project decisions but she must have enough knowledge of the organization and a personal contact network to identify, for every specific case, the correct course of action.

So, the desired characteristics for a co-manager in client-consultant arrangement are:

* Personal empathy between the project leader and the co-manager

* Good general knowledge of the issues connected with a BI project

* Excellent knowledge of the organization affected by the project

* Good network of interpersonal relations within the organization

Her principal tasks will be:

* Arranging and coordinating all the project activities involving people from the customer

* Manage the communication between the consulting team and the client at every level

* Manage the project internal communication, expectations and change, with the help of the consulting team.

For an internal project, though, we will likely have a different arrangement. The project manager/leader will be likely the company BI manager and the co-manager may be either:

* The manager whose unit will benefit the most from the project

* A professional outside the hierarchy which is tasked to act as a coordinator

The first case is the easier to deal with. The relation between the project manager and the co-manager will resemble the relation with a customer. Since the co-manager has full authority on the business resources being involved, if the two succeed in having a good personal interactions, few problems are to be expected. If the co-manager is some sort of professional, actually outside of the hierarchy, the situation falls back on an arrangement with similarities with the one described above for the consulting.
In the meanders of company’s organization charts, sometimes, you can find people of exceptional value in low ranking position. This is due to the fact that, broadly speaking, networking and affiliation are much more relevant to career than competence. These people, though, make the ideal co-manager because they are generally well known and esteemed, but are low enough in the ranks not to be seen as a potential menace by decision makers.

An experienced project manager does not spare any effort to set up the best cooperation possible with the co-manager, who may become a terrific asset.

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