The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman. The contents of this book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here October 2014.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

What We Liked

Right off the bat, one small feature that we really liked is that the relevant chapter number and title is shown at the top of every other page in the book. This information is most valuable for easy reference when you are scanning the book for some topic that you know is in a particular chapter. You don't have to go to the Table of Contents to look up the page ranges. This is a detail that is so often overlooked in most books that we review. Other authors please note.

The book is well written in a clear style. It is also well laid out with ample tables and illustrations for complete understanding. The content is obviously born of much personal, practical experience. Along the way, the reader will encounter marginal icons in the form of a diamond. These are used to flag "gems" of content that are contained within an associated "box", and which the author feels should be highlighted for the reader's particular attention.

For example, the first one we encounter is as follows:[5]

The commercial project manager must also be a businessperson who operates within a business framework and follows business processes.

Robin suggests that the reader may even scan these "gems" to get a quick sense of any given chapter's content. All of this makes the book an ideal source as a working handbook.

Then there are other interesting observations in the book that caught our eye. Here are some examples.

On the subject of estimating:[6]

"All too often, estimating is a poorly documented ad hoc process with the sources of the estimating data obscured. I have come across too many situations when I have requested the estimates file and received a blank stare in return. Rather than living and breathing an intimate knowledge of the estimate, the CPM[7] cannot locate a single document (often prepared by others) showing how project costs were derived. Arguably, the success of the entire bid can turn upon the quality of the estimating process. It should be treated accordingly."

On the subject of Rate Setting, the difference between "margin" and "mark-up":[8]

"Margin is based on dividing price minus cost by price, mark-up is based on dividing price minus cost by cost.

So a 50% margin is a 100% mark-up.

Make it your business to understand the difference, unlike one salesman of my recollection who was instructed to place a margin of 20% on a one million dollar subcontract. He interpreted this as markup, underbid the contract and lost the firm significant dollars."

On the subject of executing the Project Work:[9]

"A project must be actively managed to meet the planned objectives. The prime ingredients of active management are maintaining team alignment with the requirements of the plan, accurate assessment of what has been accomplished (progress), determining what resources have been consumed and what obstacles are being encountered (status), and estimating the resources needed to finish the job (forecast). The CPM must also provide management with insight into the following questions:

  • Will the project deliver?
  • Will the customer be satisfied?
  • Will we meet our cost and schedule performance objectives?

Variances arising are resolved through action plans, if necessary using the Issue and Change Management processes."

All of that is a pretty tall order, especially because a lot of project time is inevitably spent on solving problems. But at least if anyone asks you what your responsibilities are as a project manager, here is the ideal succinct answer!

On the subject of Project Charter:[10]

"A common question that arises in commercial projects is the need for a project charter. There are a number of CPMs, usually those with a fresh PMP®, who are rightly concerned with getting the project off to a good start and seem convinced that their first task is to develop their own project charter. They might be anxious to discover that there is no charter specified in the CDM[11] ."

"An important purpose of the [project] charter [from the client's perspective] is to authorize the project and mandate the role of the [client's] project manager. This has to be written before the procurement [and] the project must be started before procurement can proceed. The project charter is therefore signed, sealed and settled before the CPM even shows up on the scene.

Now it is also probable that the references to the vendor or CPM in the charter are vague or cast in very general terms. This is because the client expects, as a part of the procurement process, that the mandate of the vendor and their entire scope and responsibility will be laid out in the future contract and its schedules."

In short, the contract terms are the CPM's charter!

From these samples, you can see that the book is not difficult to read, but the content may well require serious thought. And, when properly applied to the particular project at hand, the advice and extensive number of templates provided represent a reliable and realistic source of help.

Book Structure  Book Structure

5. Ibid, p10
6. Ibid, p75
7. Commercial Project Manager
8. Ibid, p133
9. Ibid, p217
10. Ibid, p299
11. Commercial Delivery Methodology — based on the Business Lifecycle
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