I’ve never been more excited or optimistic about my profession: project management. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve felt project management has never really had the recognition it deserves for the business-critical skill it really is. Case in point: how many of you reading this have ever done a careers questionnaire? How many of you came out as a project manager?
I think we’re on the tipping point of seeing project management getting the accolade it deserves. Let me explain why.
I do like a project management report (some would say a little too much), and three recent ones have really brought home the importance of project management:
- World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2020
- National Infrastructure Strategy
- Lessons from Major Projects and Programmes, House of Commons Public Account Committee
The WEF lists project managers as a role predicted to be in increasing demand over the next five years. The UK Government has committed to a large programme of infrastructure investment, with £600 billion of gross public investment planned for the next five years. What is very clear is that we cannot deliver projects without enough capable people – and recognising this fact is why I believe we are at the tipping point.
I reference Lessons from Major Projects and Programmes as it highlights some key areas in project management that, when you break it down, are all people related. While this report is focused on the UK Government's major projects, my experience tells me these issues are relevant across all industries:
- Robust investment decisions (business cases): “The benefits of proper scrutiny and development of programmes could become lost in a rush to deliver, and spending decisions could be made without sufficient demonstration of their value.”
- Communication: “Culture of openness and transparency is critical to effective project delivery.”
- Check and challenge: “Programmes with significant issues have proceeded through Gateways even when they were rated as amber/red.”
- Planning: “The issues that major programmes face are not unique to the public sector, with research indicating that around 75% of major programmes exceed their intended cost and schedule, including those in the private sector.”
- Project leadership: “Skills and leadership remain a persistent problem in delivering major projects.”
Clearly, these are not unique to any particular industry. Clearly, having people with the right skills to deliver projects is critical.
Failure is not an option. Not having people with the skills to deliver projects is not an option. Not recognising project management as a critical skill is not an option.
I am often challenged on the need for project management, or elements of project management (such as risk, quality etc) and I pose a question back to the objector:
“Are you willing to accept the level of risk of not doing it?”
I pose this question to every organisation who is not seeing project management as a critical skill:
“Are you willing to accept the level of risk to your business of not doing project management effectively and efficiently?”
Whether it be infrastructure or technology adoption – it’s all projects.
Dr Ian Clarkson
Ian has worked with some of the world's largest organisations in all sectors and has been with QA for 16 years.
He was an author of the APM BoK 6 and a referenced reviewer to the most recent update to the PRINCE2 and MSP publications. Ian was on the technical advisory board for the development of the APM Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management, and also for the update to the APM suite of certifications for BoK 6. Ian is a regular blogger, podcaster, and contributor to the APM as well as the Project Manager Today magazine.
When he’s not helping organisations transform, Ian reads the latest articles and research on the topic. Maybe he should just get out more instead!
More articles by Dr Ian
Does your technology adoption game plan include project managers? It should
Artificial intelligence, project management and the skills we'll need in 2030
Digital Transformation: Rise of the Machines
The project manager and small business owner: we need more entrepreneurial thinking
PRINCE2 versus APM Certifications: Don't be a silly billy... The Billy Bookcase analogy
Is project management in your DNA?
I'm OK – You're OK: How to have adult-adult conversations in the workplace
Gains and losses: What are your prospects for a successful project?
Project leadership advice from George Michael
Don’t ignore the gorilla in the room