Thought Leaders

Are We Reaching A Project Management Tipping Point?

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 get 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:

The WEF1 has 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 years3.

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, House of Commons Public Account Committee3 as it highlights some key areas in project management that, when you break it down, are all people related.

Whilst this report is focussed on the UK Government major projects, my experience tells me these 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.

Ian Clarkson is a PPM Consultant, Author and Speaker at QA Ltd. Ian is passionate about helping organisations improve PPM delivery, and encouraging the next generation of PPM professionals. When he’s not helping organisations transform he reads the latest articles and research on the topic. Maybe he should just get out more instead!

Ian Clarkson
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