Inbox: Projecting professionalism

To Mark Langley’s mind, there’s still considerable upside for organisations to tap into the latent, under developed potential of professional project management.
Langley is the global CEO and president of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and was in Auckland recently for the Project Management Institute of New Zealand (PMINZ) annual national conference. He argues that project management office (PMO) can serve as powerful bridge in creating and managing the link between an organisation’s strategy and results.
That, it seems, is top of mind for most executives. Langley told conference delegates that September 2008 Gartner survey ranked alignment with company strategy as the single most important signifier of project success. That topped project’s ability to support revenue and completion on budget: both of which ranked next equal next. Interestingly, the fact that project is completed on time lags behind such criteria with score of just 12 percent.
Langley says businesses waste an average of around US$350,000 of every US$1 million spent on each project. The PMI’s own research shows that professional project management approach makes an appreciable difference. Its 2010 Pulse of the Profession research shows that 41 percent of those organisations with dedicated PMO will bring project in on time and on budget compared to 34 percent without such an office.
Similarly, 67 percent of organisations with PMO will meet project goals or intent (compared to 62 percent without). And 67 percent of those organisations with PMOs saw an increase in projects meeting goals (compared to 44 percent without).
As senior executives click on to the benefits of professional project management, it seems there’s plenty of room for upside. To Langley’s mind, the profession is still very new.
“Most modern organisations were built under dominant organising principle that was organised along functional lines [such as marketing, IT or production],” he says. “Project management is the antithesis of that. It pulls resources from across the organisation to deliver unique product or service.
“The challenge is that most executives are responsible and accountable for leading functional organisations. It’s not that they choose not to support project management approach or projects. It’s more about increasing awareness of the value of engaging with, and being actively supportive of, the projects which they have in their portfolio.”
Langley points out that when standalone projects can be as large as business units, it’s time for senior executives to sit up and take notice.
The global PMI was established in 1969. Since then, it has grown to be the world’s largest association for project managers, with over 500,000 members globally. Set up in 1994, the local New Zealand chapter now has around 2000 members.
Langley notes disproportionately large representation of Kiwis within the global organisation. “Not only have we had three board members from New Zealand but one of those people, Iain Fraser, was also chairman of our board. And New Zealanders have been actively engaged on volunteer basis.”
Langley sees this level of involvement as an illustration of New Zealanders’ passion for quality project management. “Whether this is due to the country being so far from most major markets, which encourages more self-sufficiency and desire to get things right the first time, I don’t know,” he says. “But the level of professionalism, particularly in the project management sector, is to be admired.” M

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