Project management in medium-sized businesses

In an online article in PC Magazin, Mario Neumann writes about project management in German medium-sized businesses. He is a book author, expert for project management and management trainer. In his daily work he often deals with managers from medium-sized companies and has made the experience that especially medium-sized companies in Germany have ideal conditions to successfully complete projects. In the following we summarize his article for you.
A person attaches a sticky note with the wording "plan" to a pin board.
In Mario Neumann's experience, managers in medium-sized companies are particularly pragmatic and can make decisions relatively quickly. In addition, employees are often exceptionally motivated because they share responsibility. For Mario Neumann, however, it is also clear that, in addition to their often outstanding specialist knowledge, employees in small and medium-sized companies must have knowledge of project management, especially management methodology, in order for projects to be crowned with success.

While employees always have good specialist knowledge and focus on technical aspects, many lack management skills. Management methods and techniques are often perceived as a burden. Some of them are not even known. This often happens in medium-sized businesses, where complicated procedures are frowned upon. The belief that SMEs earn their money through products, not through projects, is widespread. Mario Neumann often has trouble explaining to managers that good project management can be the key to more success and further development.

From the idea to the implementation

According to Mario Neumann, project management and medium-sized businesses should not be a contradiction in terms. In family businesses, where the boss is always present and the structures are less cumbersome than in large corporations, flexible projects and quick decisions are possible. Project management can be so much easier here than in companies where dozens of committees have to be consulted. In medium-sized companies, the bosses trust their employees and, depending on the personality at the top, new ideas are often much easier to implement. Nevertheless, often not all employees are convinced of the introduction of project management.

This is where Neumann points out the choice of the right methodology. Good approaches for newcomers must be adapted and tailored to medium-sized companies. The PM methodology must fit or be adapted to the corporate structure. In medium-sized companies, needs can often be defined much more precisely than in giant corporations, which means that project management can focus on very specific goals without wasting too many resources. No matter how staffed a project is in medium-sized companies: As a rule, one benefits from the fact that, especially in medium-sized companies, there are fewer technical experts and more all-rounders, i.e. employees with versatile training. Generalists are wanted in project management anyway. In medium-sized companies, many employees become generalists after a while, even if everyone retains their technical background.


In the SME sector, the scope of most projects is comparatively small. They have a scope of 1,000 working hours or less. Of course, you don't need any equipment for this as you would for a space project. According to Mario Neumann, a few basic instruments are perfectly adequate. Even projects between 1,000 and 10,000 working hours can still be handled with the basic equipment without any loss of quality. Mario Neumann's "basic equipment" consists of a project plan containing a time schedule, structural plan, network plan and risk plan. In medium-sized businesses it is almost never the case that a project manager is hired who is the sole project manager. Usually, this task falls to one of the employees who, in addition to their specialist knowledge, has completed further training in PM. In this way, he or she is also professionally involved in the project. In small and medium-sized companies, specialist knowledge is still the decisive factor and most companies assign project management to their best specialists. If this specialist is a little bit trained in professional project management and is familiar with the methods, then the chances of the project being a success are very good.

Rules for project management in medium-sized companies

Mario Neumann summarizes some simple rules. The first is "Keep it simple". To keep everything as simple as possible. Simple methods are often the best. At the beginning, the methods must be defined and they must be binding. For this step, some companies look for a coach to help them get started. The terms, the project roles, tasks and powers of the individuals, a phase model and the methods are defined. A manual is suitable for defining these principles. Rule two is: "Step by step". This also and above all applies to the training of project managers. This does not have to take the form of a weekly or multi-week seminar training. Even small steps lead to the goal, especially if the project manager is irreplaceable in the daily business of a company. There are numerous models how project managers can train themselves step by step, on the side, in between. The third rule is: "Go for it! A little courage to change is important. Everyone should be behind the new approach. Those who follow this advice are already one step closer to success. Project management and medium-sized businesses can be a great team.
Author: IAPM intern

Keywords: Management, Project Management, Management Culture, Medium-sized companies

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.