Project Management in an Agency Model: Understanding and Leveraging the Strategic Opportunities (Part 1)

October 20, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Miscellaneous

Project Management in an Agency Model: Understanding and Leveraging the Strategic Opportunities (Part 1)
By Mark Calabrese

Simply stated, a project solves a business problem at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable amount of time. In an internal PMO model, the work is performed as part of an inter-company allocation with the “client” usually having no choice as to who will perform the work. In an agency PMO model, the client chooses the firm from among other service providers with the business problem being solved in exchange for client payment. In the internal model, the business relationship is by necessity; in the agency model, by choice. The strategic opportunity for a project manager in an agency model, therefore, is to influence this choice to the mutual advantage of the client and the firm.

Project managers in both models are responsible for managing project outcomes and for providing strong communication, planning, project control (especially scope and risk management) and regularly managing expectations. In both models, the tactical duties are the same – ensuring that the project solves the business problem in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost. To that point, clients are more likely to be accepting of a project that runs over budget and behind schedule, provided that it solves the business problem.

Understanding the nature and context of the business problem to be solved is a step toward understanding and leveraging the strategic opportunities available to project managers. Doing so will help you understand your client’s business and inherent challenges but most importantly it is a key element in earning the role of a trusted advisor to the client. Trusted advisors have an advantage over service providers, as the trusted advisor is more than just an extra pair of hands; it’s an extra pair of hands with a brain that “gets it” from the client’s perspective.

Trusted advisors and the firms for which they work get asked back, specifically because their words and actions differentiate the firm from other service providers. They do more than take orders; they add value by leveraging understanding, applying their own knowledge and making their client’s success their mission. Project managers in an agency model should leverage the opportunities below to initially and continually earn the role of ‘trusted advisor’ role the course of managing client projects:

  • Understanding The Opportunity
  • Managing The Experience
  • Knowing The Business
  • Acting As A Steward
  • How Else Can We Help?

By understanding and leveraging the strategic role of a project manager in an agency model, project managers can add significant value to their firm. They can use every email, phone call, discussion or action as an opportunity to consistently brand the firm and deliver a strong, positive experience to the client while solving the business problem as scoped in the Statement of Work.

In the next articles, I’ll cover each of the bullet points above in more detail. The end goal is to help your firm build lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships with clients, which not only helps each party in the business relationship, but helps you grow as a professional both in skill and in personal brand.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

Mark Calabrese is an IT leader, speaker, blogger, mentor/coach with over 20 years of experience in a wide variety of leadership roles in appliction development and maintenance, infrastructure, vendor management, PMO/project management, IT finance, and IT solution/service delivery. Mark is currently the PMO Director for Hubbard One, the leading provider of marketing, business development, and practice management solutions for law firms. You can read more of Mark’s writings at or can contact him directly at

3 people have left comments

[…] my first article on this topic, I talked about how project management in an agency model differs from project management in an […]

Project Management in an Agency Model: Understanding The Opportunity (Part 2) – PM Hut wrote on November 9, 2011 - 8:45 am | Visit Link

[…] my first article in this series, we discussed the agency model paradigm and how it differs from the internal PMO […]

Project Management in an Agency Model: Managing the Experience (Part 3) – PM Hut wrote on November 21, 2011 - 8:55 am | Visit Link

[…] we continue to explore Project Management in an Agency Model, we’ve reviewed the various opportunities for project managers in this model and we’ve […]

Project Management in an Agency Model: Knowing The Business (Part 4) – PM Hut wrote on December 6, 2011 - 6:46 am | Visit Link

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