The Problem With Project Management Today

Lets face it, there are too many projects that fail. In fact, some reports cite that up to 70% or projects fail. A recent government report found that $12 Billion is wasted annually in Australia alone, due to poor project documentation.

These problems are only getting worse and will continue to increase unless something changes.

Skills Shortage Of Qualified Project Managers

The project management is struggling through a global skills shortage, we are seeing the perfect storm forming, where there are too few qualified project managers and too many that are qualified starting to retire.

Did you know that over 1/5th of the worlds Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is delivered through projects? As at 2013 that is around 16 trillion dollars… That’s 16,000,000,000,000, a significant amount of money, I think your would agree.

Now, globally there are approximately a total of 1.2 million qualified and registered “Project Managers” That is project managers that are certified in either one of the following internationally recognised  project management frameworks published by the following professional bodies:

  • PMI (PMBoK)
  • APMG (Prince2)
  • IPMA (PMBoK)

This means that, on average a qualified project manager is expected to manage around $13.3 Million dollars per year, I personally think this is too high and most project managers I have seen don’t come close to managing this amount.

I would argue that the average project manager, manages around 1/3rd of this amount in projects each year. This means that 2/3rd’s of the $13.3 million worth of projects are being delivered by non qualified project manager – a high risk play.

Not Enough Importance Given To Certified Project Managers

In my opinion, there are too many Engineers pushed into project management roles, If your job description for a Project Manager requests asking some kind of “Engineering Degree” you need to have good hard look at the role you are trying to fill and where the skills gap really is.

A Project Manager, should not be the Project Engineer, the skills sets are polar opposites. The project manager is there to manage from the top down, bridging the strategic goals with the technical and managing the project process and people. 

Conversely the Engineer is there to understand the technical requirements, challenges and design or build the solution from the bottom up ensuring it is fit for purpose.

A project requires both of these highly valuable skills and by trying to combine them both into the Project Manager is wrong and rarely works. That is not to say that an engineer can’t make a great project manager, but I would argue that if they are a great project manager, then they are probably a poor engineer.

Too Many Sub Disciplines That Are Really Just Project Management

This is ridiculous, currently a project manager might fall into any one or more of these categories:

  • Business Project Manager
  • Construction Project Manager
  • IT Project Manager
  • Infrastructure Project Manger
  • Change Manager
  • Legal Project Manager
  • Project Controller
  • Web Project Manager
  • Oracle Project Manger
  • SAP Project Manager
  • Digital Project Manager and
  • The list goes on…

This needs to STOP! A Project Manager, is just that – A Project Manager. Project Management is a specific skill set that takes years to master and develop the skill that allows them to deliver unique projects that delivered more successfully than not.

Project Management Needs To Be A Profession

Too many companies expect their employees and line mangers to also where the “project management hat” and are expected to deliver projects in conjunction with their operational or functional role.

The problem with this approach is that operational and project management skills are quite different. Operational management is all about incremental change and performance improvements. Project management, is all about creating a unique product or process where nothing existed before.

So What Is The Solution To These Problems?

Until we get serious about project management and make it a point to only hire certified and qualified project managers and delineate the difference between Project Managers and Engineers then nothing will change.

Look for a talented project manager first, not an engineer, look for someone that has had success in managing a wide range of differing projects, not a specialist that has only ever delivered CRM projects for example. It is this wide skill set across multiple industries that bring a broad toolkit that can be used to successfully deliver unique projects.

Have your own ideas on what the project management industry needs, or disagree with mine? Share your comments below and lets start the dialogue.

Filed Under: General


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Who Wrote This Article? ...(It was: Chris O'Halloran)

I'm "Chris O". I've managed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects since the inception of my career. I love helping others figure out the intricacies of project management on any scale. Come find me on twitter or google+

Comments That Have Been Left So Far:

  1. Kamea Toedi Mea said:

    Good article. Started my training to be a Project Manager (doing it in country-Papua New Guinea). The reading I doing via net is helping. Thank you.

  2. This article is profoundly accurate. In South Africa, where I am advocating a similar approach, the situation is the same, if not worse. All too often an SME is asked to “run with a project”, when that person is not necessarily skilled in project management or cut out to be a good project manager. The sooner businesses realize that project management is a separate and autonomous management discipline altogether, the sooner they will stop wasting millions on projects that fail each year.

  3. Tracey Orton said:

    Hi Chris. Just found your website and it’s great.
    I have been a project practitioner for the last 7 years and I have concluded that Project Management struggles to be recognised as a discipline in its own right due to a lack of understanding as to what a project actually is. I see this in the number of “accidental” project managers in organisations I have worked in and even in job web sites that do not list Project Management as a field in its own right. I’m with you – all we can try and do is educate. (I like to think that each organisation I have completed project work with is a little better informed about the nature of projects than when I started.)

    • chrisadmin said:

      Hi Tracey, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s a complex problem we have as practitioners and until companies give project management the attention it needs, I don’t see there being a huge shift.

  4. Jose Galvan said:

    Hello. How can I get updated regarding the statistics you use like the Gross Domestic Product?

    Best regards.

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