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What is Project Management Consulting?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Project management consulting is when an independent contractor with experience in project management is hired to perform a specific project. This contractor often holds project management (PM) designations that provide assurances of the level of education and experience at the appropriate level. All project management consultants have a minimum four-year undergraduate degree and at least two years industry experience.

There are different types of project management consulting, depending on the industry, the skill set required and the project to be completed. Consultants who work in construction must be professional engineers or architects, with many years senior project management experience in the construction industry. Extensive reference checking is standard before hiring a consultant.

In the software industry, consultants may be used to provide temporary support when implementing or migrating software. Their expertise and experience is typically with one particular product being used. The educational background is more varied with this type of project management consultant, with a minimum undergraduate degree in computer science or business.

In project management consulting, the consultant is responsible for the successful completion of the project within a specific time frame and on a specific budget. The firm defines the deliverable items, benchmarks and timelines. It is the responsibility of the hiring department to ensure that the scope is properly defined.

People who go into this field typically have a combination of expertise in the specific industry or software product and the ability to manage people. Excellent communication, negotiation, and administrative skills are necessary to successfully coordinate a group of people to achieve any goal. Project management consultants are usually hired for complex, large-scale projects and must have above average skills in these areas.

The project management professional (PMP) certification is an internationally recognized designation in the field of project management. In order to earn this designation, the applicant must have between 900 and 1,500 hours actual, verified, hands-on project management experience. All candidates are required to successfully pass an exam as well, which is a set of multiple choice questions based on the theory of project management, organizational behavior, scheduling, project life cycle, and accepted project management theory. There are many companies that offer exam preparation seminars to help applicants pass. A growing number of businesses are now requiring consultants to have this designation, as it provides assurances of their level of skill and experience.

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Discussion Comments

By David09 — On Jun 27, 2011

@Mammmood - You raise a good point. I think, however, that a professional project management consulting company has factored in the human equation at all levels. In other words, they know they’re coming in from the outside and part of the first job they have is to develop rapport and earn the trust of the employees.

Let’s not also forget that ultimately it’s the boss who whips the employees into submission. He’s paying those project management consulting fees; he will ensure that everyone will cooperate-in my humble (and optimistic) opinion anyway.

By Mammmood — On Jun 26, 2011

I am a little curious about project management consultancy services to determine how effective they are compared to internal project management.

I ask because successful project management is only as good as the sum of all its parts, meaning all the team players. An internal project manager has developed relationships with all employees and stake holders. He can elicit the cooperation necessary to get the job done on time and under budget.

An external project manager, by contrast, doesn’t have that benefit of established relationship with the workers. I’m not saying he won’t be effective, but I think that as a result he faces that one extra hurdle to leap before coordinating a successful project within the resources allotted to him.

By hamje32 — On Jun 25, 2011

@miriam98 - I work at a software company that is going through a period of transition. Right now we are evolving from desktop software applications to web based software, or as the current vogue term has it, “cloud project management.”

While I have never worked in a project management role, I-along with other employees-have been told that we should be gearing up for cloud project management.

Basically clients who need large scale projects completed on time will log in to our servers, the cloud so to speak, where they can upload and download their data. We will monitor their projects and provide them with a complete timeline for completion, allocate available resources to assist them, and of course provide any needed support along the way.

Cloud project management help is a big paradigm shift, but it will enable us to better collaborate and keep source and target databases in synch.

By miriam98 — On Jun 24, 2011

A Project Manager, whether in a consultancy or as an employee, is only as good as his tools. To this end I’ve found that a lot of project managers use MS Project to schedule and track their projects.

Before stepping into development I worked briefly as a project manager and I’ve used the software myself; it’s not perfect by any means but it is very useful.

It lets you define resources that you can assign to projects, with prescribed time budgets, and enables you to see the progression of your project on a Gantt chart.

It’s always good when your resources complete their tasks within their time budgets. It’s not good when they use up all available time allotted to their task, because they know they can.

In other words, sometimes people who can do their work faster than their budget allows just won’t-that’s human nature I guess.

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