Improving the success rate of your firm’s projects

Hiring a fractional project manager can help firms better execute their projects without having to create a permanent project manager position, writes 3Kites’ Paul Longhurst

Specialist project mangers can help avoid costly overruns Shutterstock

Why is it that so many projects finish late, come in over budget and repeatedly fail to meet the agreed objectives? This leaves end users frustrated while those who have worked hard on their delivery are thoroughly deflated. If, like most people, you are all too aware of this situation but feel powerless to stop it affecting your firm’s projects, you may want to consider an alternative approach.

3Kites has assisted 150 clients with more than 400 engagements of various shapes and sizes during which our consultants often see teams (IT especially) overwhelmed by the volume of projects they are having to manage. This can lead to projects overrunning (both in terms of cost and timescale) and failing to deliver against agreed objectives, with everyone working hard for minimal gains which leads to frustration for those on the project and their end users.

We have witnessed large, sophisticated firms running overly bureaucratic project management which tends to slow progress and frustrate those who simply want to finish assigned tasks. These firms may need assistance with tweaking their approach and governance to help improve throughput and effectiveness. By contrast in smaller firms, the project management capability tends to be immature or missing altogether, leaving this crucial work to either be picked up by someone with other pulls on their time (such as helpdesk staff) or else left completely.

The challenge for some firms is justifying a permanent project management office or even a project manager (PM) when the nature of their projects can vary dramatically, with periods when there is little happening and others when the workload seems endless. This is where the use of fractional resources can help without adding an ongoing liability to the business.

One option is to take on a contract PM for a fixed term to cover an anticipated period of continuous project activity. This can be a cost effective solution although the individual will need to be fully utilised for five days a week during the term and may not be able to extend beyond this if timescales overrun. They will also be a single point of failure with no backup if they are long-term absent.

The alternative option is to use a fractional project manager who, within reason, can provide as much or as little time as is required on a month-by-month basis with back up from others in their team who can provide cover during absences. This facility could be used to manage an individual project (for example, an office move or implementation of a new practice management system) or to coordinate a programme of works involving multiple, interlinked projects.

Where there is an existing project management function, it may be helpful for the fractional project manager to review and advise on the effectiveness and governance of its approach. Where not already available, it could also be used to initiate a project management office (PMO) which can help firms to assess work requests, agree priorities with the business, provide regular progress updates and assist with planning and budgeting.

3Kites provides a fractional PM service (alongside similar offerings for IT and knowledge management leadership roles) which can help firms with a number of requirements including the following:

  • Providing a PM for a single, critical project, such as an office move or a practice management system implementation.
  • Providing a programme manager to coordinate a number of interlinked projects, such as jointly implementing practice, document and case management systems where these were previously provided by a single product.
  • Managing resource shortfalls where a PM team has insufficient capacity to cope with a large workload.
  • Helping to establish a PMO or to improve the effectiveness of an existing team.
  • Mentoring an internal staff member who has been tasked with managing a project. 

If you would like to know more about how 3Kites can improve the success rate of your firm’s projects, please contact Rachel Edmondson who heads up our projects team via  You can also contact Paul (, Jon ( or Mel (

Paul Longhurst is a director of 3Kites. This is the 32nd article in the series Navigating Legaltech


About 3Kites and Kemp IT Law  
3Kites is an independent consultancy, which is to say that we have no ties or arrangements with any suppliers so that we can provide our clients with unfettered advice. We have been operating since 2006 and our consultants include former law firm partners (one a managing partner), a GC, two law firm IT directors and an owner of a practice management company. This blend of skills and experience puts us in a unique position when providing advice on IT strategy, fractional IT management, knowledge management, product selections, process review (including the legal process) and more besides. 3Kites often works closely with Kemp IT Law (KITL), a boutique law firm offering its clients advice on IT services and related areas such as GDPR. Where relevant (eg when discussing cloud computing in a future article) this column may include content from the team at KITL to provide readers with a broader perspective including any regulatory considerations.

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