A screenshot of two people working at a desk, representing a project management consultant.
What Is a Project Management Consultant?
A screenshot of two people working at a desk, representing a project management consultant.

What Is a Project Management Consultant?

Project management is no joke. Whether you’re renovating your office or launching a new product, there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate, deadlines to meet, and money on the line. If you don’t have an in-house project manager, someone’s going to have to take on all that work. Unless you bring in a project management consultant!

Project management consultants know this field inside and out. They’ll get to know your organization, your project, and its goals. Then, they’ll give you trustworthy guidance on how to run it effectively.

What is a project management consultant?

A project management consultant gives businesses advice on how to handle their projects. It’s strategic, big-picture stuff — they aren’t the actual project manager, and they won’t be executing the plans they create. 

A consultant is any external expert who’s brought in to give organizations guidance and make recommendations. There are consultants in all different disciplines. But obviously, a project management consultant gives expert advice about project management!

PM consultants are proven experts in the project management field. They’ll likely have worked as project managers in the past, and have professional training and certifications

Project management consultants often have specializations, too. They might focus on a certain type of project, like events or renovations, or on certain industries, like healthcare or natural resources. 

What does a project management consultant do? 

Project management consultants help companies run their projects more effectively. They come up with project plans, goals, budgets, and timelines. Then, their clients can carry out these plans, with the confidence that they were designed by an expert! 

However, exactly how they go about this will depend on their specialization and their client’s unique needs! 

Depending on their scope of work, the PM consultant might come up with a plan that’s more generalized or a super-detailed one, including the budget, timeline, and all phases of the project lifecycle

A consultant might be brought on to plan and launch just one project, or they might establish repeatable workflows that clients to use on many future projects. They might start by auditing the management strategy that’s already in place, or craft a new one completely from scratch.

Finally, a project management consultant could also train or brief the team who will be working on the project. They might even be brought back periodically to monitor progress and address scope creep. 

Essential skills for a project management consultant

Most importantly, a project management consultant will have deep knowledge of the project management field. They also need a strong understanding of budgeting and resource allocation. Clients are trusting them to help their project finish on time, within scope, and within budget! 

Project management consultants will be well versed in methodologies like lean, agile, Kanban, and waterfall, and might even specialize in one or two. They’ll also have fluency in different project management tools like Trello, Jira, and Asana, so they can help companies decide which is best for them. 

Like other types of managers, soft skills are crucial for project management consultants. They’re dealing with many different types of people, and helping them cooperate towards a common goal. Good PM consultants are well-organized, with strong communication and interpersonal skills. 

Depending on their specialization, PM consultants will have industry-specific experience and knowledge, too. For example, a consultant who focuses on opening restaurants will understand zoning and bylaws in their region. 

Should you work with a PM consultant or hire? 

There are many situations where you’re better off working with a consultant, than hiring a new employee. 

If you’re a small team or a small company, hiring a full-time project management expert might not make sense. Instead, a consultant could help you choose some project management tools, set them up, and create strong workflows you can rely on over and over. 

Another situation where you might need a consultant is if the project (or type of project) is a one-time thing. In that case, a great consultant could help you prepare, and make sure the unfamiliar project is a success. 

Finally, keep in mind that choosing between a consultant and employee doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. The advice and strategy a great consultant will give you can be a huge asset to your in-house staff. If you don’t have anyone in-house, you could even contract a freelance project manager to execute their vision!

How to get the right project management consultant

So you’ve decided to work with a project management consultant. Great! Here’s a step-by-step process for finding the right consultant.

  • Properly identify your needs: Before you start reaching out to potential consultants, you need to know exactly what you need. Are you looking for a consultant who can help you with a one-off project? Or are you going to build a longer relationship?
  • Have an idea of your budget: You don’t need to have specific numbers — those will be figured out in conversations with the consultant — but have an estimate of what you’ll be able to pay.
  • Reach out to your network: Before you start prowling the internet for a potential consultant, try asking your network! Odds are someone is probably already working with a consultant they can recommend.
  • Get a few options: Even if you get a glowing recommendation from someone in your network, you’ll want to reach out to more than one consultant. That’s because you never know if a potential consultant is available for work or if they’ll be a good fit for your organization.
  • Meet with your potential consultant: Before you set up a potential project with a consultant, you’ll want to have a quick call with them. Usually, you can quickly get a sense of whether a consultant will be a good fit in a face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) conversation.
  • Try a test project: Once you find a consultant that seems like a good fit, come up with a small project you can use as a test. This will help you find potential problems in your collaboration and work out solutions so you can work together more effectively.
  • Hammer out the details: After you’ve finished your test, it’s time to write out a real contract that will cover the work you need from your consultant. Make sure the agreed-upon remuneration is clearly outlined, as well as deliverables and the specifics of your project.

Manage your projects like an expert

There’s no reason to be unsure about your next project. Big or small, every project matters, and you deserve to have 100% confidence in how it’s moving ahead!  

There’s a wealth of project-management expertise out there, and thousands of consultants to help you tap into it. Get the expert support you need and prepare to amaze everyone with your project’s fabulous outcomes!