For SMEs, project management can seem difficult, and financially speaking, very expensive.

Indeed, project managers are often seen as an expense rather than an investment by the organization's top leadership. It must be said that a lot of project management experts and consultants like to make things complicated!

As an SME grows, the risks associated with poor execution increase, often exponentially.

Take the case of an SME that manufactures car parts and has a good handle on its processes. When everything was done in-house, process control was quite straightforward: a few follow-up meetings, several corridor discussions, and few but well communicated changes within the project team.

This SME is growing. The processes and the practices are stretched to the maximum and the good management of the projects rests on the shoulders of a few individuals who struggle to do their coordination work because they are so involved, as much as product or technical experts.

The result: projects that slip, costs that explode and project managers who are at the end of their rope!

With a minimum of effort, the company could separate the role of project management into two distinct roles: 1. The technical expert 2. The project manager.

The technical expert has a more short-term and detailed vision while the project manager has a longer-term vision, ensuring the performance of the project and the support of the project team.

The project manager is not an expense, it is an investment!

It is therefore essential to remember the importance of drafting processes as well as establishing forecasts to anticipate long-term needs in relation to project managers.

Adapt + empower

Project management being what it is, it has many tools as well as exhaustive and complex processes to put in place, which can scare SMEs.

In fact, project management should be adapted to the reality of the organization ... not the other way around.

SMEs that place more value on project management fare better financially.

Why? Simply because they manage their risks better! The project manager should be the custodian of his projects. He must master them well… but not necessarily be responsible for all the deliverables. Roles and responsibilities must be clear and precise.

For example, after a few weeks of intervention with a client, it was found that the matrix of roles and responsibilities had a major gap: "Everyone" was responsible for "everything". Result: no one is responsible for anything! No joke!

One of the symptoms of this situation: the participants in the different project meetings were pretty much the same… all the time. What a waste!

Clarifying roles and responsibilities in a project management process is therefore essential and makes it possible to optimize team meetings so that they are as effective as possible. Clarifying roles and responsibilities contributes to better project performance. If everyone knows what to do, there is less chance that a task will be forgotten or, even worse, performed twice!

Orient and prioritize

One of the success factors of project management in SMEs is the mobilization of the work team as well as the directives given by the principal(s).

Company management has a duty to mobilize teams around projects. That is, to prioritize projects, assign resources and clarify their expectations. On this point, the project manager has every advantage to press the management in order to clarify their expectations. A good question to ask is, "What will make this project judged successful in the end? "

The establishment of a Steering Committee improves the performance of projects by creating a "forum" for discussing progress and bottlenecks. The steering committee therefore has a dual role:

  1. Ensure the progress of the project;
  2. Support the project team in the face of blockages encountered.

Unfortunately, the "steering committee" approach is poorly understood. Most of the time, this is simply a forum for the project manager to be held accountable. This committee, which usually meets once a month, is a powerful tool for both management and the project team ... if used properly!

The key is then to understand that project management is done hand in hand between management and the agent, and that two-way communication is required to achieve objectives.

Change management

The words "change management" often causes concern among project managers in small and medium-sized enterprises.

Indeed, another point that stumbles in project management in SMEs is change management. We are talking here about changes in scope, where a client who requests small modifications (constantly!) here and there in the project and do not take the time to assess the impacts (budget, schedule or scope).

Any additional request in a project will have an effect on the time, cost or quality of the project. For example, the customer asks to add a small function. This will likely require programming, testing, or validation. Not to mention the impacts on the drawings, the list of components, the technical documentation, etc. A simple change can have a significant impact on the risks associated with the project. As soon as a project manager "accepts" the change, he becomes responsible for delivering!

Finally, the experienced project manager will make sure to "manage" his client well in order to temper his expectations and above all to report the impacts of the requested changes. Indeed, the impact of new requests must always be measured so as not to disrupt the smooth running of the project.

In conclusion

In conclusion, SMEs have every advantage to perform well in project management. Promoting our best technician or engineer to the position of project manager is not always a good idea! If the profile is not adequate, the individual may get caught up in the technical details and forget to go up the elevator!

SMEs that benefit from project management will quickly see benefits such as:

  • Better use of their resources (financial, material and human);
  • Better performance of completed projects;
  • Delivery on time;
  • Respect of the budget;
  • Respect of the schedule;
  • Better profit margins;
  • And finally, better risk management.

In short, the advantages are numerous.


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