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The Importance of an Internal Project Manager

I was meeting with a potential client recently, discussing their need for a new association management system. During the conversation we talked about the services I would provide and the responsibilities they would have. One thing I emphasized to them was the importance of having an internal project manager.

Frequently associations (especially smaller ones) want to "outsource" the management of an AMS implementation to a consultant, or worse yet, to the AMS vendor. In this case, I think outsourcing is actually an abdication of responsibilities. Sure, there are project management services I can provide, but my most successful clients have always had someone inside who was responsible for managing the project from the staff perspective, in addition to my services. The simple fact is that there are some things an insider can get done that an outsider can't.

And keep in mind that project management, especially for implementation of a new AMS, is not something you add to someone's already full plate. If you want them to be the project manager, then you need to remove other responsibilities for the duration of the project. And you should expect that a minimum of 50% (yes, HALF) of their time will be spent on managing the AMS implementation. For larger implementations that could run to 80-100% of their time.

I can't overstate it: Those associations that have a dedicated project manager on staff are far more likely to succeed with their implementation than those who add it to someone's already full plate or expect the AMS vendor to do it for them.

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  • Hi Wes,

    Nice Blog and I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that most associations have limited resources and as such are hesitant to remove any responsibilities from the “internal” project managers plate.

    This then puts a lot of pressure on that person to manage everything they were already managing, and now an AMS. I know from experience, this is not an easy task. This person will naturally put more attention on what they’re already familiar with – their everyday job and the AMS project will suffer.

    I also think the person needs to have solid project management skills to successfully manage an AMS project. These are skills learned through experience and if they’re lacking, the association could be in for a long and painful experience.

    If associations have someone with the technology project management experience and is willing to make an adjustment to their workload, then I think it makes sense.

    If not, then I think partnering closely with an outside project manager (not the AMS provider) is a better alternative.

  • Wes Trochlil

    Welcome, Joe! You make good points. Project management skills are important, but making sure one has the time to manage the project is even more critical. And yes, if this is ADDED to one’s plate, then the staff person will default to doing what he or she is comfortable with.

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

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Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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