Published here May 2006.


Musings Index

Virtual Management and Cost or Time to Projects

From time to time we receive interesting questions from visitors to this web site. We try our best to give a useful answer though recipients should view the responses in the light of their own particular circumstances and exercise their own judgment. Here are two such questions, edited slightly for web presentation.

Virtual Project Management

On 2/2/06, Doug L. wrote:

Mr. Wideman, I have a good candidate I want to hire. However this candidate wants to remain where he is and manage the project remotely. I'm trying to wrap my arms around this in a timely fashion and was wondering if you could assist me?

I would like to understand your view of how you would take on, and effectively manage a major project, without residing near the customer. For example:
  1. How would you propose to meet deliverables and customer expectations, and build relationships with customer and team members?
  2. How do you see costs being allocated?
  3. How would you manage project reporting and problems?
I thank you for your time and also look forward to your answers, as they are always great!

Regards, Doug


The answer to your question depends on a number of variables. It is true that today we do have "virtual teams" and often have to work in a "virtual project environment". However, the research and understanding of doing that successfully, rather than by necessity, is still in its infancy.

Further, I suspect that it depends on what type of project it is, how large and long it is, the reaction of the various stakeholders to such an arrangement and the amount of "management" you want the person to perform. If the project is large and long perhaps a local delegate could perform most of the duties with your candidate taking an overarching view. Even so, I would still expect your principal manager to conduct fact-to-face meetings from time to time.

Personally, I would be very leery of undertaking, or have a project undertaken, on the basis you have described. In my traditional career, it has always been accepted that you have to go where the work is. You might offer as an alternative that the person in question has temporary residence at the site of the work and a travel allowance to return home at some suitable intervals.

Those who have practical experience will be well aware that when a problem arises, the situation on the ground and its most appropriate solution is typically very different from what may be deduced from remote reporting.

So I do not believe that it is realistic to rely entirely on electronics and tools to manage a project. At least 50% of a project management effort requires "people management" and that means personal face-to-face contact.

Hope that helps,


Project Manager's Time Allocation to Projects

On 2/2/06, Valerie K. wrote:

Hi, I have spent most of this morning searching for some kind of best practice regarding the allocation of a project manager to a project e.g. in a development project the time allocated to testing would be double the development time. I have heard that a project manager's allocation to a project should be about one third of the budget.

If at all possible, please could you help point me in the right direction to be able to do some valuable research?

Kind regards, Valerie

Dear Valerie:

I am sure that a lot of people would like to have such a quick estimating fix, but I am not aware of any such data. The reality is that the ratio of time of a project manager to the time for the whole project depends on a number of variables. For example, the area of project management application, the size and pace of the project and its complexity, the number of stakeholders, its visibility, the phase that it is in, and so on.

At best you might get a handle on how much by looking at previous similar projects in the same organization. After all, consider the case of the one-person project done by the project him/herself. That would require 100% of the project manager's time. From this you can see that the larger the project and the more people involved in the project team the more delegation that is possible and hence the lower the percentage of time by the project manager. However, the more people involved the higher is the relative cost of the total project management effort for that project simply because of the increased number of communication channels.

A further complexity is that some organizations expect their project managers to do a lot more than others.

Hope that helps,


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