Choosing IT Project Management: In-House vs. Outsourced Solutions

Rolling out major technology initiatives takes skilled leadership to transform plans into reality. But organizations face a common question – is it better to provide project management (PM) oversight internally or hire outside experts?

This guide examines the pros and cons of both IT project management models across factors like costs, expertise, flexibility, accountability and alignment. Read on to gain clarity around optimal scenarios for leveraging in-house vs. contracted PM talent based on initiative needs and team strengths.

The Case for Relying on In-House IT Project Management (PM) Talent

Leveraging existing managers as project leaders offers three potential advantages:

  • Deep Company Knowledge: Internal staff understand processes, people and technology pain points intrinsically after years onsite obviating ramp up.
  • Tight Stakeholder Alignment: In-house talent likely has formed working relationships with sponsors and end-users ensuring seamless collaboration.
  • Developing Institutional PM Expertise: With repeated assignments, an organization can strengthen PM muscles and methodologies tailored to environment versus one-off outside help.

In essence, keeping initiatives managed internally aligns planning deeply with company culture and realities on the ground for the long run.

The Value of Outsourced IT Project Management

Yet despite the appeal of leveraging in-house staff, contracted external PM services offer unique pluses:

  • Multi-Industry Insights: Expert third-party PM consultants bring experience governing initiatives across sectors providing innovative ideas to challenges.
  • Flexible Scaling: Specialized PM firms allow rapidly ramping up and down management bandwidth helping handle fluctuations in workload beyond fixed internal capacity.
  • Shared Accountability and Objectivity: With skin in the game, contracted PMs have extra incentives and independence guiding suggestions unaffected by office politics.
  • Reduced Stress on IT Teams: Handing off complex PM tasks allows IT teams to keep heads down delivering versus organizing milestones.

In summary, outsourced PM expertise fuels enterprises lacking specialized skillsets with flexible leadership and multifaceted strategic wisdom.

Key Differences Between the Internal and External IT PM Models

How do the two approaches fundamentally differ?

  • Cost Structure: Internal PM means fixed ongoing payroll expenses while external partners represent variable operating costs scaled to demand.
  • Focus Horizon: In-house PMs possess intrinsic familiarity with company needs but can lack visibility into innovations shaping wider industry directions useful for transformation initiatives.
  • Accountability: External PM consultants share risk in delivering outcomes spelled out in contracts while internal staff stay shielded from failures.‘
  • Resourcing Spectrum: Contracted services allow smoothing resource constraints with on-demand talent from virtual oversight to staff augmentation while in-house means fixed headcount capabilities.

Examining tradeoffs guides optimal allocation.

When External PM Services Make Sense

Common scenarios where outsourced IT PM talent assists:

  • Large Transformational Initiatives: Major modernization efforts like ERP overhauls or campus-wide Wi-Fi 6 refresh that may only occur once a decade demand supplemental capacity.
  • Growing Mid-Size Firms: Scaling companies may lack formal PM practices making outside process rigor and technical project leadership a imperative.
  • Bringing Outside Perspective: Sometimes only an impartial external specialist can convince internal factions to accept certain innovations and change needed.
  • Bridging Unexpected Leadership Gaps: Contracted overseers fill voids left suddenly due to departures or leaves rather than leaving projects orphaned.

Just as individual coding assignments leverage the gig economy, engagements with fractional PM consultants provide targeted governance.

Making Any Staffing Model Succeed

Regardless of inner versus outer resourcing, a collaborative dynamic and relationship sits at the core of PM achievement:

  • Open Communications: Prompt transparency into timelines, budget impacts, risks and milestones prevents surprises plus ensures swift issue resolution.
  • Visibility to Work: Consolidated dashboards and reporting into tasks, deliverables and tests/approvals facilitate remote oversight and coordination.
  • Stakeholder Facilitation: Bridging connections between project manager and affected teams smooths alignment through changing requirements and feedback.
  • Outcomes Focused: Mandating success metrics around end goals like technical capability improvement, risk reduction and ROI cements shared priorities.

While no formula supports all situations, deliberate resourcing aligns execution resources to initiative specifics and in place competencies.

Internal staff offer intrinsic company insight. External specialists provide multifaceted experiences. Leverage both strategically.


What key expertise should outsourced IT PM consultants have?

Successful IT PMs blend soft skills like influence plus technical know-how on systems integration, security considerations, and disaster recovery. Demand both.

How are external IT project management fees and billing structured?

Models range from fixed bid pricing to time and materials engagements. Define terms aligning payment to milestones achieved to ensure mutual accountability.

What sorts of IT projects are best suited for external PMs vs keeping oversight internal?

Complex initiatives like Wi-Fi deployments, cable plant upgrades, data center moves, network overhauls or massive cloud migrations warrant external oversight. Minor projects suit in-house PMs leveraging intrinsic organizational wisdom. Consider hybrid teams too on large efforts.

Picture of Hitesh Patel
Hitesh Patel
Hitesh Patel is an engineer turned business owner of WPG Consulting. He is a techie enthusiast who believes in finding creative IT solutions to solve consumer problems.

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