The Customer Success Manager (CSM) in Project Business


Project Business Management


By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany

“Customer Success Managers are a powerful growth engine.”
Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, Sally E. Lorimer


Project managers who direct customer projects for their employer, a project contractor, have tasks different from project managers in internal projects. A significant role they should assume is the role of the Customer Success Manager for the benefit of both customer and contractor.

What is a Customer Success Manager?

The Customer Success Manager (CSM)[1] is a relatively new role in organizations. It was developed in the last decade and implemented in many organizations. It is based on the understanding that an ongoing business relationship between a customer organization and a contractor must be managed to ensure delightful value delivery for both sides.

An article in Harvard Business Review of 2019 describes this role in detail.[2] In essence, it says that CSMs bridge the trench “between product expertise and customer insight.” The CSM’s place would be in sales or nearby this discipline in an operational product and service business. There, the job is to use the time while an often-anonymous business is done to make the customer come back and want more.

Project business is different.

Projects are temporary and unique undertakings. Projects can take months, possibly years, and every moment is a new opportunity for the contractor to make the customer happy or frustrate them and jeopardize project success. The same is true in the opposite direction: As a customer, if the intention is to receive an excellent product and enjoyable service, frustrating the contractor is probably the wrong thing to do.

Having a Customer Success Manager may help: In a report published by the social network and job portal LinkedIn, Customer Success Specialist was #6 on the list of emerging jobs in 2020 and was the highest-ranking among the emerging non-technical jobs.[3] The topic is hot, and customers have many options to end the business with a contractor and try another one. A CSM could help increase the customer’s loyalty and improve the business value.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Project Business Management” (ISBN 9781138197503), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2018. See author profile below.

How to cite this article: Lehmann, O.F. (2022). The Customer Success Manager (CSM) in Project Business, Project Business Management series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/pmwj114-Feb2022-Lehmann-Customer-Support-Managers-in-Project-Business-PBM-series-article.pdf

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany


Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc, ACE, PMP, is a project management educator, author, consultant, and speaker. In addition, he is the President of the Project Business Foundation, the home association for professionals and organizations involved in cross-corporate projects.

He studied Linguistics, Literature and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree. Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, USA and Asia in methodological project management with a focus on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998, and served as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter from 2013 to 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch”, analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and can be contacted at oliver@oliverlehmann.com.

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the books:

His previous articles and papers for PM World Journal can be found here:


[1] For disambiguation – the project management, the acronym CSM is also known for “Certified Scrum Master”. This is not how the acronym is used in this article.
[2] (Zoltners, Sinha & Lorimer, 2019)
[3] (LinkedIn, 2020)