Is Project Management dead, or just on life-support ?.

This is a topic of personal interest to me, firstly because I’ve been a project manager in the past (for many years) and hold international accreditation as a project manager (called PMP … Project Management Professional).

The reason for this blog entry is that there has been a steady rise over the past 2 years of the “be all” project manager … partly due to the GFC (ie: cut back on staff numbers be still have the same amount of work to do).

If you look on the job websites (Seek, MyCareer ..etc) you will commonly see something along the lines of “Seeking Project Manager, with 5 years experience plus experience in Agile and must be able to write C# code”.   A few years ago this would have been derided as being (rightly) ridiculous – how can you expect a PM to also be doing “the doing” at the same time and not drop the ball in being the project manager ?.

Part of the reason – or blame – for this is the Project Management Institute which has for many years been trying to establish the validity of Project Management as a profession in its own right, not just a type of job and a role on projects.

Sadly, PMI has been singularly unsuccessful in convincing senior business executives about it’s cause and due to GFC that cause has been further undermined by the “do more with less” attitude of business executives in response to a significantly weakened global economy.

So, in 2010 the actual nature of project management is being influenced by a few factors (I’ve listed some, but this is not an exhaustive list):

  • The significant reduction in large projects being initiated, which are being replaced by a number of smaller (more nimble) projects that deliver results and benefits much quicker.
  • The rise of Agile into a viable means of delivering change in a corporate environment, rather than just on the “lunatic fringe”.
  • The trend towards business people being generally more aware of their work environments and the actions being taken to change those work environments (be it business process, technology or something else).
  • The massive increase in the pervasiveness of technology into the entire business these days, which makes change happen faster and more often (sometimes more easily but not always).
  • The active ownership of change projects being driven from the business side rather than the technical side.
  • The large-scale adoption of a “matrix model” for reporting lines within organisations, rather than the traditional hierarchies.
  • The implementation of “lean processes”, taken from six-sigma and other repeatable process methodologies, which was in vogue for tier 1 and tier 2 businesses from 2004/05 through to the GFC.

Where does that leave project management, and project managers now ?.

Clearly, there is still a need for high-quality very experienced project managers for complicated change initiatives.  That requirement will never disappear, but it will become less of a focus in future.

The sorts of trends I see for project managers are:

[1]  The rise of the Team Leader as not just a de facto Project Manager, but as the preferred choice for overseeing change.

[2]  The rise of the Business Portfolio Manager, who is the coordinating point within the business who pull the strings that drive all the change projects (and their Team Leaders) in whatever direction is appropriate during any given period.

[3]  The continued rise of Agile Methods as a means to quickly deliver organisational change – both technology and business process – such that selecting a “traditional” project management approach becomes an eyebrow-raising event requiring the Business Portfolio Manager to wade in and seek an answer for that choice.

These are just some thoughts and ramblings, some of which I can support with hard evidence but some of which I can only observe the early signs and make my own guesses on.

Back in 2009, my business took an investment stake in a recruitment business, one of the reasons for doing that is I saw 2010 as being the “year of the recruiter” as the economy started to bounce back and businesses had to hire back in skills to take advantage of the economic opportunities that you only get once every upturn/downturn cycle.

So, part of the evidence I can cite is the sorts of requests being placed at the doors of the recruitment firm I’m an investor in.  These requests when it comes to project managers encompasses (in order of priority):

  1. Agile.
  2. Technology-capable (in some particular technology set).
  3. Business-capable (can engage the business people in their language).
  4. Strong stakeholder management skills.
  5. Good communicator.
  6. Able to manage Scope/Budgets/Issues/People/Time.

If I were a “traditional” project manager out there I’d be worried about now that I might soon be a dinosaur.

I’m genuinely interested in other people’s thoughts on this topic, because of my investments into the Recruitment game .  Feel free to comment.

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