Transitioning from a Consulting to Project Management Role?
Are you among those SAP Consultants who are asked to lead a Project suddenly and you, having spent whole your SAP life in Consulting, are reluctant to take the new role ONLY BECAUSE you don’t know exactly what it’ll take to deliver the assignment successfully? If yes, I suggest you to accept the assignment. You already have been performing some of the project management activities even in your consulting career and therefore it shouldn’t be so difficult for you in transitioning from Consulting to Project Management. Since I have experienced it already, initially with very small assignments few years ago and now with large-scale (and different types of) projects, I am convinced even the Project Manager role is as exciting as is the Consulting. Regardless of challenges (which you have anyways even in consulting roles), you learn a lot being a Project Manager. Here I’m summarizing the key activities which you as a new Project Manager would, mostly, be performing.
Planning: To start the project work you break it down in phases & work streams. As a consultant you’ve been doing different activities in different phases of the project; from Arranging for Workshops to Blueprinting to-be design, Configuring & testing the system to Implementing & Deploying Solutions. Now as a Project Manager, your scope would be wider; you’re not responsible ONLY for your domain but also for overall team work. In this case you just need to develop a good plan. To do so, you need to coordinate with team (of consultants) involved in the project to contribute to master plan. Previously you, as a consultant, was participating in plan by giving dates of individual activities you had to perform. Now you would be asking your team to do so. Once you have all the feedback, you may need to ADJUST the plan by allocating resources from one to other activity. The project plan would be foremost tool for you to run the project and you’d need to be proficient in it. There are many tools which can help you in your project planning, MS Project being most common and easy-to-use.
Execution: To practically start the project, you’d need your leadership skills most in addition to effective communication abilities. You’d be arranging for kick-off meetings in beginning and status meetings later to keep stakeholders informed of the project timeline. Previously you were the participant in such meetings as a consultant. Now as a project manager you’d be organizing such meetings. And as an organizer you may some time find it challenging to settle on common timeline which suits everyone’s schedule.
Monitoring: Keeping eye on all of the project activities at the same time is among those good skills which you learn only on project management role and not in consulting role. Therefore accepting such role means you learn high-level picture of the overall scenario. As a consultant, previously your view was limited to the area of your expertise and thus you were not really sure how you contribute to the success of the project. But as a Project Manager, while monitoring all of the activities, you can now understand how the project add value to customer’s business.
Controlling: As project goes on, new requirements may come in. The initial agreement for the project scope may differ during the life-cycle of project. You may need to maintain log of new requirements just as you do for project issues. You may note as soon as scope of the project changes, time, cost & quality among other factors are also impacted. So you, as a Project Manager, have to exercise your negotiation skills now, in addition to leadership and communication, to clearly describe the consequences to control the project scope.
Closing: At end of each phase of the project, you make sure each activity within the phase is completed and accepted. As a consultant, previously you were concerned your blueprint document is signed before you started configuring system and moving on with next steps. Here as a project manager, you’re concerned with various work streams (mentioned below) and not only the solution aspect. So closing a phase (and ultimately the project) means delivering number of things which give broader understanding of SAP solutions.
In terms of work streams you may be involved in following activities during the lifecycle of your project, in addition to typical project management.
Organizational Change Management: Ensuring all the stakeholders embrace the change.
Training Management: Making sure right training is given to right users of your solution and they’re equipped with required knowledge to perform their activities.
Business Process Management: Aligning SAP Solutions with Business Processes and transforming the processes where required.
Technical Solution Management: Providing required landscape for the new solutions.
Integrated Solution Management: Ensuring the solutions is well-aligned and integrated in overall environment.
Data Management: Maintaining confidentiality of data while migration from legacy to new systems.
Obviously the involvement in any of these activities and the extent may vary from project to project, depending on the type / size of the project but as a general rule, the exposure is larger than working merely as a Consultant. So I’d suggest you not to hesitate and take-up the new role as it may give you another vision. Here on the forum, we have many SAP Project Managers and Consultants and I welcome them all to comment on my thoughts to encourage to-be project managers to deliver value to their customers.