Engagement Management vs. Project Management

Posted by Brad Egeland

Based on my experiences (read: frustrations!) within various organizations’ Professional Services groups, I’d like to take the Project Management concept further and discuss it more in terms of the entire ‘Engagement Management’ scope. I believe that most organizations miss the boat these days by separating Project Management and indeed, the entire Professional Services group, from the Sales process. PMs are not salesmen – except when trying to ‘sell’ necessary change orders – and salesmen are not PMs. I have never had a customer who’s expectations were adequately set by Sales heading into the Professional Services portion of the initiative.

Basically, Engagement Management is a systematic approach that initiates with the sales process and ends with the engagement closing. This typically has an accounting component associated with it – overseeing the profitability of project engagements within an organization.

Engagement Management provides direct oversight of Project Management within an organization. Additionally, it should have touchpoints with Sales, Legal, Technical Professionals (developers, business analysts, network administrators, etc.), Accounting, and others as necessary. The processes that Engagement Management follows should support an organization as a whole in delivering products and business capabilities, not just the individual groups.

Project Management is a more narrow focus of providing management of an
organization’s internal/external projects while remaining an underling to IT, executive management and sales. Engagement Management should include Project Management, but should also focus on providing the organization’s Enterprise-wide capabilities and services to internal and external customers from conception to delivery thus maximizing customer understanding and satisfaction as well as the company’s revenue and profitability.

Engagement Management should provide the tie between Sales and the actual
technical solution at an organization. It should be the glue that holds the delivery process together with the intent of avoiding many of the disconnects faced by organizations when Sales, IT, and PM are all working under their own assumptions and priorities. Currently, many organizations are experiencing frustrating disconnects between Sales and Delivery. Some organizations experience these frustrations on a weekly or even daily basis. An Engagement Management structure helps to “standardize” the sales process and how that “sold” solution is translated into a “delivery” solution. When PMs and BAs are involved in the sales part of the process with the customer – whether that’s an internal or external customer – then expectations for that customer are more likely to be set appropriately thus avoiding delays, resetting of scope, and adding additional customer training that could have been taken care of before the engagement started.

Proposed General Organizational Structure


  • Sales
  • CIO
  • Engagement Management
  • Operations
  • Etc.

The Benefits of an Engagement Management organization:

  • Customers see a standardized and professional engagement
    process across all implementations
  • Brings all of PM together and allows for future growth
  • Allows for the ability to standardize the PM approach and
  • Ability to define standardized PM templates and processes
  • Not hindered or biased by a reporting relationship through
    Operations or IT
  • Ability to define a change management process and change
    order/scope management process
  • Engagement Management provides general oversight to all
    inputs and deliverables in the delivery process
    - Business Requirements Document (BRD) delivery and signoff
    - Statement of Work (SOW) delivery and signoff
    - Project Plan/timeframe definition
    - Solution or product implementation
    - Post implementation reviews
    - Customer satisfaction

The bottom line here is, many PMO’s are well meaning and have useful process in place, yet continue to fail because they are not meeting the organization’s or the customer’s big picture need – and that’s a unified project delivery system that helps sell the product up front, implements the product, and then ensures proper training and support upon go-live.

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22 Comments to “Engagement Management vs. Project Management”

  • Brad, thanks for the post. Seems interesting. But, aren’t all areas that you are talking about covered by product life cycle management process? From my experience, organizations that have product management introduced,have good oversight of all areas that you are mentioning in the last paragraph:
    “…Engagement Management provides general oversight to all
    inputs and deliverables in the delivery process
    - Business Requirements Document (BRD) delivery and signoff….” So, engagement management will be product management?

  • Good point, Billy. What I’m trying to point out here is that many organizaations miss the mark with their customers in their overall Project Management approach. I’m trying to push across the concept that the Project Manager – who generally has the bullseye on his forehead during the whole project – needs to be involved in the sales process. Countless times I’ve taken the handoff from Sales, met with the customer and started the engagement only to have the customer say things like “Sales didn’t tell us we needed training first” or “Sales said we’d be able to seamlessly integrate with our ERP system”, etc. You get the picture. And all of these customer expectation reset points result in:

    - extended project timelines
    - customer dissatisfaction (often before the real work even gets started)
    - cost overruns
    - and in the worst cases, the plug can get pulled on the entire project

    I take pride that my customer-facing skills are one of my greatest strengths. However, when the project starts out on the wrong foot with the customer because of incorrectly set expectations or poorly identified requirements, it’s very difficult for the PS team to come in and be successful.

  • Seems interesting. I’ve found some valuable thoughts in your post. It’s a good thing to integrate your efforts in different directions under one philosophy. It’s also useful to integrate project efforts and corporate strategic planning. Here’s what I mean: http://www.wrike.com/projectmanagement/03/25/2008/Bridging-the-Three-Gaps-in-Project-Management (the 1st point of the article) Would be nice to get your feedback too, btw.

  • Brad mentioned something about “… not meeting the organization’s or the customer’s big picture need…”.

    I believe understanding the big picture requires PMOs to invest significant resources into broadening their horizons. More importantly, the organizations may consider supporting this education and awareness process.

    Especially for the intersection between highly competitive environments and technology-intensive customer interaction points, such as telecommunications, software, automotive and finance, I believe this is crucial for project sucess.

    Brad, what’s your take?


  • Alek, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve seen many PMOs plan, organize and start functioning only to fail miserably or work to re-organize…mainly because they continually fail to truly meet the origanizations needs. Customer satisfaction is not as high as it should be in these cases because the PMO is not structured to be an all-encompassing entity and therefore customer needs are not fully met. The PMO organization and, therefore, the PM leading the customer’s project, appears weak or ill-equipped to make significant decisions or obtain the right resources. The PMO, and the PMs, need nearly an all-access pass the organization and resources – within reason and budget – in order to exceed…especially when supporting external customers who are paying big dollars for the PM, the technical team, and the ultimate solution that is being implemented.

  • I agree with your fundamental idea that Professional Services should work closely with Sales, Operations, Finance and Development in the preparation and submission of a proposal.It does not necessarily require the creation of a new organization called Engagement Management. I must admit that initially I was drawn to your idea, but on further examination I walked away from it.

    My experience has shown that not only is Sales interested in “bagging” the deal, but sometimes others in the organization are also interested, even though the proposal may not “make sense” financially or from a customer service perspective. It seems organizations get caught up in the idea of winning the bid and then perhaps somehow making it work. That is when the Project Manager is left with a lose-lose proposition … either losing money for the organization by delivering a quality solution or ending up with a disatisfied customer whose expectations were not met in an attempt to meet timeline and budget constraints.

  • Ghani, I think we may be on the same wavelength. I don’t necessarily mean there has to be a separate ‘Engagement Management’ organization. However, by referring to it as such I was trying to distinguish from a standalone PM organization that is isolated from Sales and the rest of the company’s key units. The PM org needs to be fully integrated into the process of engaging the customer, winning the deal and then acting upon it. By referring to it as Engagement Management I was trying to identify it as more of an Enterprise organization rather than the PM org most of us are used to. One company I worked actually did refer to it as Engagement Management and tried to realize this enterprise position within the organization, but they still missed the mark somewhat.

  • Brad,
    Thank you for your explanation. I agree with you completely. Ghani.

  • I have just read your piece on Engagement Management which is quite interesting though it does appear close to other disciplines such as business planning/process engineering open planning.

    I take issue though with one of the benefits listed “Customers see a standardized and professional engagement
    process across all implementations” because a lot of organisations are finding that discriminatory services in addressing their painpoints and touchpoints are particularly beneficial.

  • Hi Brad,

    This is a powerful concept, particularly for service organisations.

    I think it’s power comes from the shift in mindset that it requires. It lifts the idea of project management above the basic project delivery level to a realm that is concerned with how the whole organisation delivers true value to it’s customers.

    In progressive organisations, this is close to the heart of the organisation’s branding (I’m thinking of businesses like Virgin). Ironically, not many marketing departments (who own branding) have the ability to really project manage the ‘engagement’ successfully from end to end.

    Project managers who really appreciate this concept are destined for greatness.

    Well done.

  • I fully agree that PM is a part of EM and that letting sales people price projects and promise deadlines more often than not leads to problems for the project. I have written on this subject and you may be interested in reading the article: The Zen of PM™: Engagement Management by George Pitagorsky, PMP published on AllPM.com http://www.allpm.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1475

  • [...] on a conversation on the Project Manager Networking Group (PMNG) on LinkedIn that was started by this article.  The discussion that followed is very interesting and indicated to me that this is a topic that [...]

  • I agree with what you are saying but I believe it only covers one half of the issue. The issue is not only sales making unrealitic promises but it is also project managers cutting sales and account managers out of the engagement once it has actually begun. The premise of your piece of looking into the engangement team as whole is great and I think is how it needs to be looked at, but your focus on only sales cutting out professional service teams is only one symptom of the broader problem. Engangement is not a one time let’s make a sale initiative it is an on going process that includes the entire team of sales, executives, project managers, support through out the life cycle of the engagement of a customer, which if done correctly is hopefully more than just one unique project. This leads to more repeat business, better referals, more maintenance renewals. Project managers need to funnel back to account managers how a project is tracking, any hints of new opportunities, any gaps in customer expectations and what can actually be delivered.

  • Yes, that is big problem in Construction Industry. I have many problems with costumers/investors during construction activities that somebody from sales department told that this job would be done in this or that way. I have sales background and I know what costumer need. I think that is very important to get PM involved in sales/presales operations. Other problem is that necessary that PM should be specialist in construction, or should he be more manager than specialist?? In my opinion PM shouldn’t be specialist, he should have knowledge about construction, but on which stage should be his knowledge…

  • Przemek- I agree completely. The PM usually does not need to be an ‘expert’ in the industry. However, they must be an experienced PM or in the process of being mentored while on the project – especially if it is a large project or critical project. And as you already know, I share your frustrations with the PM and PM org often being completely separated from the sales process.

  • [...] by the term ‘Engagement Manager’ I ran into a great blog post that essentially states that a Project Manager must be involved in Sales. And Legal, technology, [...]

  • THANK YOU!! I have been struggling with this concept for our company. As a small business where many responsibilities cross (let’s not even get into egos), I’ve fought to try to keep business development at the forefront of our project relationships (development, delivery, etc.) and had come across hints of “engagement management” interlaced with CRM – but nothing concrete enough to make it stick in our very delivery oriented environment. You hit it out of the park on this, I can’t wait to show the team this, I’m certain this is what I needed to help get over the hump to adoption. Bravo!!

  • You really have no idea what an Engagement Manager does, and where you got the idea that the Engagement Manager oversees the PM, what a crock! I’ve been in the technology industry since I graduated from high school and went to work for IBM — at the age of twelve. That’s 52 years now. I have been a Director of QA, a Development Manager, a project manager (got my pmp first in the 80s when there was no Microsoft Project (piece of cr*p that it is), a program director and now an engagement manager.
    Stick to what you know, it is not the subject you wrote about.

  • Lambrain, could you please provide your own definition and view about the role and responsibilities of the Engagement Manager and describe the link to:
    - Project Manager
    - Account Manager
    Thank you and kind regards

  • Violet Weed, who was either trying to end her comment with name calling, or very appropriately signing off as “Lamebrain”, appears to have been trapped in an IBM basement for 52 years, because this post truly is quite reflective of what is going on in the industry. I have worked in 3 major professional services groups (IBM, Hitachi, EMC), and can tell you that no two companies do things the same…but in general, the concept of an Engagement Manager is very much as described above. Perhaps IBM has an elevated role they are calling an ‘EM’, but really the term is most often used in consulting and professional services orgs (such as custom development shops) that have recurring-but-unique engagements. When the service delivered is pretty much cookie-cutter, organizations tend to not use the term Engagement Manager, and rather have a PM overseeing the portfolio of concurrent client engagements, the sales team churning out proposals and handing them off as fast as they can, resource managers handling the scheduling of the on-site resources. Hitachi has (or had) Business Managers, which were a basically EMs with limited responsibility– a bridge between sales and project management, but hierachically the same as a PM (talk about inefficient), which was an attempt at adding finanical oversight to the project delivery without retooling the PM team to handle such tasks; yet they still lacked the scoping/expectations oversight of the sales process.

    The more efficient approach is to have multiple Engagement Managers (who are, in effect, PMs doing what PMs should be doing), each one maintaining a portfolio of engagements from lead-funnel to project closure.

    Ms. Lamebrain is probably in a role that while called an “EM”, is more analogous to a Program Manager in charge of the overall quality and customer satisfaction of the services group (while coexisting with another Professional Services Program Manager role, who has more operational and revenue accountability)

  • Thank you Jared! Great comments. And absolutely exactly reflecting my frustrations as a project manager in several different organizations. Sales is great – and very necessary. But short-sighted executives and under-informed or under-qualified PMO directors need to recognize the disadvantage that PMs are put in when they are handed something to manage that they’ve not been a part of during the sales process…however small that may be. Something..anything to get the PM ahead of the game and making sure the engagement and the customer expectations are aligned with the solution being offered. I really believe that failure to do this is one of the hidden reasons that PMOs fail over and over again.

  • Hi Brad, interesting post. I have been struggling with this myself for a few years now. However, at the agency level, what would you say the difference is between an EM and an Account Manager? I have seen very few Engagement Manager titles… this may be something that’s not commonly seen in the agency business (digital marketing agency). I’m also curious, what do you think is the difference, if any, between an EM and a Program Manager? It seems as if you are suggesting the EM be aligned with the Sales organization (or at least outside of the PMO), but typically a program manager would be aligned within the PMO. Thoughts? Thank you for any insights you may be able to offer here.

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