It’s a fine time for project management, if the Project Management Institute’s latest “Pulse of the Profession” report is any indication.
The annual global survey of 3,200 project management professionals, including 510 PMO directors, uncovered some key trends. The standouts included a more robust level of executive sponsorship, higher Agile adoption, and a consistent emphasis on training and development.
However, the most encouraging trend noted by the PMI President and CEO, Mark Langley, is “for the first time in the last five years of this research, we see that more projects are meeting original goals and being completed within budget.”
Excellent news indeed. Let’s delve a little further into the details.
Agile adoption is strong
71 percent of those who took the survey said they use Agile approaches “sometimes, often or always”. Only 12% answered “never.” A similar question in the 2015 survey found 15% of respondents “never” used Agile, so this is an improvement.
Also reflected in the survey is that Agile is more than just a methodology. It is about being “little A” agile, innovative and strongly customer-focussed.
Many organisations are turning to their PMO for guidance and help with agile implementation.
“The PMO, especially as it evolves into a stronger driver of strategy, could be a beacon for other operational and functional areas that could be impacted by new approaches to managing projects,” the survey said.
Transformation still necessary
Another key theme within the survey was the pace of change, speed being the critical component.
Based on the survey results, the PMI derived that “organisation leaders are adjusting their strategies in response to business disruptions. For many, it is ‘do or die.’ To stay relevant in the marketplace, executives recognise they need to lead the transformation, not just follow.”
This echoes what our experts see on the ground everyday — new technologies dissolving formerly high barriers to entry, teams and leaders struggling to part with old ways of working, and nascent transformations in need of extra support.
Transformations don’t have to represent times of extreme difficulty. Transformations offer opportunity. The PMI report urged the adoption of an entire culture around innovation and, ultimately – learning. After all, the stakes are real. Of the respondents, 41% said their projects were of “high complexity” vs. 23% of low complexity.
The growth in executive sponsorship was perhaps the brightest light. The new survey found 62% of projects carried “actively engaged” executive sponsors, compared to 59% in the previous survey.
There were some lowlights
Not everything in this year’s report looked like sunny skies. Failure is still prevalent, even for projects labeled as “strategic”.
“Compared to last year, the executive leaders in our survey this year classify more of their organisation’s projects as ‘strategic initiatives’ (50% versus 38% in 2016). Yet, one in four (28%) of those strategic initiatives failed outright,” the survey said.
That’s a surprising rate of failure for something promoted as “strategic” within the business, which should mean both significant and valuable. What causes these failures? A lack of “clearly defined objectives and milestones to measure progress” followed closely by “lack of communication.”
There were many interesting callouts for the future, the most noteworthy of these would be the focus around benefits realisation management (BRM).
The survey described it as “a powerful way to align projects, programs, and portfolios to an organisation’s overarching strategy”, but also a discipline that lacks one accepted process.
The ‘champions’ in the survey are the companies that measure the benefits accrued from the project for the wider organisation. There are also the ‘elite’ organisations, whose project work is already on a higher level.
About one-third of organisations in the report say they’ve reached high benefits realisation maturity, a metric that will no doubt be closely watched in years to come.
In all, the survey balanced a compelling optimism around the future of project management and a clear-eyed understanding of what still needs to be done.
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