Some notes on roles


of internal and external

project management customers

in the “back end” of projects



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


In an ideal situation, the [project management] methodology selected, as well as the life cycle phases, will be aligned to the customer’s business model if possible.  
 (Kerzner & Zeitoun 2022)

This quotation highlights the key importance of the customer in the project context. This starts with the importance of choosing the “right” project(s) to help satisfy an external customer organisation’s business needs. This takes place in what Kerzner & Zeitoun describe as the Fuzzy Front End (FFE) of an extended project life cycle. I discussed the participation of project managers in this process in some detail in Stretton 2023c.

Of course, the above specific business customer is only one type of external customer. At the other end of a spectrum they could be mass-market customers for consumer goods project outputs, for example. In Stretton 2009c, which is reproduced in this issue as a 2nd Edition, I identified two broad types of external client or customer organisation.

  • A single uniquely identified external client organization
  • Multiple external client organizations, some of whom may be difficult to identify

However, in addition to external customers, projects can also have customers who are internal to the delivering organisation. Indeed, in-company initiatives relating to internal customers are quite widely discussed in the broader project management literature. In Stretton 2009c I discussed the following two types of internal clients/customers:

  • The client organisation is a unit within the providing organisation
  • The client organisation is the providing organisation itself

However, in this article, I propose to discuss two different groups of internal customers:

  • Internal business change managers (BCMs – or their equivalent), who are the customers for various types of internal working efficiency project outputs. These types of initiatives are particularly prominent in the project management literature.
  • Product/service development managers (or their equivalent), who are the internal customers for new or improved product/services project outputs. They may be called Product Managers, Marketing Managers, or a host of other titles.

Now, both of these broad types of internal initiatives and their customers have the longer-term objective of helping advance the organisation’s position with external customers. Typical aims are improved quality of product and/or service, and gaining new customers. So, there are substantial interconnections between all three customer groups, and I thought it might be useful to explore these a little further in this article.

This article will first explore the roles of the above two types of internal customers in rather more detail, and briefly represent these roles, plus an additional internal customer, and interconnections between these internal customers, and with external customers. An alternative direct project delivery route to external customers will be added. All of these will then be combined and collectively represented within the framework of a basic organisational strategic and operations management model.

We start with developing the latter.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this work: Stretton, A. (2023). Some notes on roles of internal and external project management customers in the “back end” of projects, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/pmwj127-Mar2023-Stretton-notes-on-the-role-of-customers-in-back-end-of-projects.pdf

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published 250+ professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.