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Poor Project Management Leads to Failed Business Strategies

In the latest Pulse of the Profession report from the Project Management Institute (PMI) the key theme is all about strategy.

The focus is about where projects come from – the initial idea of a project being driven by the organisation’s strategies. To be more competitive in a certain market; increasing revenues; creating new products and services – whatever the strategy is, it needs project management to help an organisation realise it.

The Pulse of the Profession report has always been a report that takes a bigger picture look at the project management landscape and seeks to find out what the trends are – or dig deeper into how successful organisations use project management as a means for developing their businesses.

Over the years the reports have covered portfolio management (2012); project management maturity (2014); knowledge management (2015); going beyond the technical skills (2016); agility (2017); and this year strategy and strategy execution are the main focus.

What Are the Highlights?

The key message is, projects will continue to perform poorly when:

  • Organisations are unable to bridge the gap between setting strategies and executing those strategies through portfolio, programmes and projects;
  • Senior executives don’t understand that strategies are delivered through portfolio, programmes and projects;
  • Project management itself isn’t given the appropriate level of recognition or importance for the role it plays in strategy execution.

In this year’s Pulse of the Profession, the call to action on how improvements can be made across organisations who utilise project management as a way to deliver change falls primarily into three areas:

  • Improvement and investment is needed in the role of project sponsor
  • Organisations have to get a grip on and control project scope
  • Different approaches to project delivery need to be embraced and used appropriately for different types of projects – PMI calls it “growing value delivery capabilities”.

The Current Global State of Project Management

The report is created by taking the views from organisations and practitioners from across the globe, in this year’s issue there are six areas highlighted:

  1. Assessing the value of project management
  2. Enterprise-wide PMO
  3. The use of standardised project management practices
  4. The relevance of certification
  5. Organisational Agility
  6. Focus on delivering benefits

The statisitics make interesting reading; 58% of organisations fully understand the value of project management – yet the report doesn’t tell us how the value is understood, or what the challenges the other 42% of organisations are facing and why not understanding the value of project management is a bad thing.

Insights from the Pulse of the Profession

PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Report

The number of organisations with PMOs have been steadily increasing over the years the report has existed, in this report however the focus is on the ‘top-dollar’ PMO – the enterprise level PMO which operates at a strategic level in an organisation. 41% of organisations surveyed in the report have a PMO at this level.

It’s a statement of fact, with no further understanding of how these PMOs are benefitting the organisations that have them – or indeed the difference between low-performing organisations and high-performing organisations.

93% of organisations have standardised practices in project management – but the intrigue here is who are the organisations that don’t. What’s their story? How are they managing projects?

It is a PMI report and we can expect insights into the certification side – in this case, PMO leaders, 72% of them, saying that certifications are important to a project manager’s career. Again, it’s just a statement of a figure with no further insights.

Same with the focus on organisational agility – 71% of organisations report greater agility than five years ago, which coincides with the rise of interest in Agile, agile, agility and all the other phraseology about delivering faster, smarter, more innovatively.

And finally benefits, more specifically benefits realisation where a third of organisations report increased maturity of the benefits management process – yet no insights into what this maturity means and what the challenges are for the other two-thirds of organisations.

As stated in the title – it is a pulse of the profession yet more details are needed on what is making the heart beat.

What the Champions in Project Management are Doing

The report is always about a comparison between low-performing organisations and high-performing organisations – called ‘champions’ in the report.

Coming back to the key calls-to-action this year – improving sponsorship; controlling project scope and using different approaches to delivery.

Project Sponsorship

Low-performing organisations are more likely to say that inadequate project sponsorship is the primary cause of project failure in their organisation – 41% say that, compared to 17% of champion organisations.

To improve those rates, the report suggests focusing on the culture of the organisation, especially improving the relationships between sponsors and project managers. There should also be improvements in project sponsor skills – through training but also a ‘roadmap’ to help them know what to do and when.

Project Scope

No one fully controls scope creep but the differences between low-performers and champions is incredible. Of those surveyed, 52% of the projects completed were affected by scope creep (it was 43% five years ago). 33% of champions reported that their projects were affected by scope creep compared to 69% of low-performing organisations.

PMI Pulse of the Profession 2018

Extract from the PMI Pulse of the Profession 2018

Value Delivery Capabilities

There are different approaches to delivering projects, “predictive, iterative, incremental and agile” and the report highlights that organisations are not great at choosing the right approaches for the context of the organisation and the project. How can this be improved? “Creating a culture receptive to change that values project management and that invests in technology are high priorities”.

Champion organisations – 87% are on this path and maturing their delivery capability, compared to just 5% of low performers.

The report goes on to highlight that champion organisations are better at choosing the approach that best fits their context and needs.


The report this year has the tagline Success in Disruptive Times. Some of those surveyed are already seeing disruption in their marketplace and the key message from the champion organisations is around developing “digital-era project management skills”.

What are these emerging skills? It is not just about the technological changes in areas such as data and information, although that will form a large part of it. The report also highlights the importance of behavioural skills and business acumen – how you are able to respond to not only the changing face of projects (more complex, complicated, risky, ambiguous, innovative) but also to the way the organisation responds to that as it develops different project management delivery approaches to manage disruption.

The next few years of the Pulse of the Profession report will certainly be interesting times for all interested in where project managementand its project practitioners will go.

>> Download your copy of the Pulse of the Profession – available from the Project Management Institute.




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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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