About a decade ago I worked for very large aviation and engineering firm where I specialized in managing web projects primarily for internal customers. What that means is I led internet and intranet projects for individual business units in the organization. The whole sales process was mine. No marketing involved, just the internal sponsor initiating a project request and that was my cue to go find out what their needs were, map out some requirements with them, and then turn around an estimate, or price, that we could move forward with. I would sometimes take a developer with me to help speed up the process of documenting requirements and a proposed solution if I wasn’t completely sure, and that in turn would get me to a good price point quickly for the internal client. None of these were multi-million dollar engagements – the largest was probably close to $100,000. But you can imagine then, how informed I was as I assembled my team and began to work with the client on the project. There were no gaps or cracks where information fell through. I had seen the project from inception and knew everything.
Fast-forward ten years to larger projects I was leading for a professional services organization. Sales makes the deal complete with a price and a proposed solution and starts throwing these projects over the wall to me and the rest of the project managers in the organization. We have only the knowledge we can extract from the account manager during a phone call and we have the statement of work…and not much else. No wonder when I showed up at the client site for project kickoff I was usually bombarded with questions and expectations that were different from what I was telling them was going to happen on the project.
It’s extremely important – no, it’s critical – that the project manager in such a situation be part of that sales process. There are too many risks involved – including budget and other financial risks – when the individuals who will actually be carrying the project aren’t part of the team that also prices the project and drafts a solution. The project manager should be allowed to act much more as an engagement manager – running the concept or project request from inception to deployment. When you just hand it over the wall, you create a do-over point where knowledge must again be transferred and you have too much risk for important details just falling through the cracks.
So I’ll ask the question again, should the project manager be involved in pricing the engagement. My answer is an absolute ‘yes.’ And much more than that – the project manager should be involved in that whole account management process of getting the project request to the ‘sold project’ point with a statement of work, price, draft schedule and a date on the calendar for an official kickoff meeting. By involving the project manager, you have the best chance at not only presenting the right price, but then also ensuring that your project team and the customer will be on the same page when they sit down to finalize how the project will be run during the formal kickoff session.