Is it worth hiring a project manager when any seemingly knowledgeable employee might do?

The truth is, project managers can be a valuable asset to any business. Whereas the average employee who is only familiar with certain tasks might be overwhelmed by the complexity of major organizational assignments, project managers are trained to handle programs with elaborate factors such as high budgets, increased manpower and layers of duties.

An Astounding 97% of Organizations Believe Project Management Is Critical to Business Performance and Organizational Success. (Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers)

However, some professional bodies would disagree, arguing that professionals like marketers and accountants are able to manage projects just as well as any project manager with some effort.

Barely over Half (56%) of Project Managers Are Certified (Source: Wrike)

“It’s a raging debate,” said Tony Marks, author of the 20:20 Project Management guide.

“Some industries, such as oil and gas, are hesitant to hire outside project management specialists because they may lack industry knowledge. Instead, these industries prefer to employ technical experts and put them through project management training.”

“The danger is that these people are more likely to get sucked into their comfort zone dealing with the nitty-gritty and technical detail they understand and are fascinated by when they should be managing the project,” said Tony Marks.

In addition to being trained to juggle tasks efficiently, project managers spend an enormous amount of time honing their skills. Much more goes into the craft than obtaining Prince2 or APM certifications.

According to Mike Savage of Thales Training and Consultancy, the International Project Management Association requires its professionals to have at least 15 years of experience and training. The association has four grades from D to A. At the A level, project managers must have a minimum of five years project management experience, five years of program management and five years of portfolio management.

So to Say That Anyone Can Be a Project Manager Is like Saying Anyone Can Be a Brain Surgeon, Said Savage.

But just because there are individuals specializing in project management doesn’t mean non-specialists can’t learn the techniques as well. Ian Clarkson of training course provider QA encourages everyone to learn project management practices.

“The skills, leadership, planning and stakeholder engagement techniques are vital to all disciplines,” he said.

“Projects which are run by engineers with project management training are less likely to be successful than the reverse,” said Lloyd’s Register energy program director Roger Clutton. “If there is a lack of technical expertise that will show up in the risk assessment. But a lack of project management skills is much less likely to be detected.”

With that, it seems that the argument on whether or not hiring an outside project manager is necessary will continue. But the debate only seems relevant to rival professions as there is projected to be 15 million new project management jobs within the decade. (Source: Project Management Institute).

No matter how you look at it, though, it seems that trained and experienced project managers must be worth their weight in gold.