In this month's newsletter Tipoffs looks ahead while also taking a glance backwards. With the 2011 Project Management Benchmark Survey now awaiting both your views and your box ticking skills, we are now in the process of urging you to get involved in the UK's largest, most reliable survey of project professionals.
We're also in the business of predicting here at Tipoffs. December is the time to reflect on the year past, while having a reasoned forecast at the happenings awaiting us in the year ahead. Tipoffs welcomes the expertise of several knowledgeable project professionals worldwide to get a glimpse into the future, including guest contributor Todd Williams and his take on separating the leaders from the non-confrontational. Other guest contributors - Elizabeth Harrin, Pawel Brodzinski, and Ron Rosenhead - reflect on what Arras predicted a year ago, while entering the same lion's den of forecasts for 2011.
It's almost completely about our stable of guest writers this month. Andy Budkiewicz gives us the enthusiastic lowdown on Clark Collins' new title "The One-Page Project Manager for Execution" in the last Book of the Month installment for the year. And our own Lindsay Scott takes a crack at answering one reader's questions about how a recruiter quantifies the importance of a candidate's practical experience with their level of certification.
SPECIAL NOTE: Tipoffs is now available in podcast form for all of our audio fans keen on learning the ins and outs on project management, programme management and recruitment in the PPM world. December's edition is available here. Click here to learn more our podcasts, subscribe to our pod feed, or go here to download us on iTunes. For the on-the-go, instantaneous information public, Project Management Tipoffs and Arras People are ready for you.
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Spring Ahead, Fall Back: Reflection on 2010 Predictions & Expert Forecasts for 2011
Words: Dan Strayer
What did we get right a year ago predicting project management in 2010? What lies ahead in 2011? Save for one particular predictor from a year ago, Arras People turned to arbiters much more independent than us on both matters.
Ron Rosenhead, last year's Guest Prognosticator for Tipoffs, veteran of project management training, consulting & coaching: Yes, I made some predictions for 2010. What were they and how did they stack up? This is a summary of what I predicted:
1. Have a strong project office focussed on ensuring delivery of the overall company strategy
2. Have more involvement by senior executives in the project management process and more training for this business critical group
3. Develop stronger people skills for project managers
Strong project office
I have certainly seen more project offices being established however I believe the real impact of this will be seen in 2011 when they and already established ones begin to mature even more.
More Involvement by Senior Executives in the project management process and more training for this business critical group
Not too much evidence here that there is more involvement and there has been much training. Interestingly, I have used the Arras People report in February at presentations to senior management showing lack of executive support as the highest reason for project failure.
Develop stronger people skills for project managers
Again, not too much evidence to show this is happening. The interesting and depressing aspect is that on Project Agency courses, we ask what course participants what problems they face in their projects. Around 65% are people issues…
What do I see for 2011?
- Let’s return to stronger project offices. There is much change in organisations and the way this will be managed and co-ordinated through the project office. I see this function becoming stronger and managing the many changes in 2011
- Benefits management – there is an increase in understanding that programmes and projects need to have clear benefits which will contribute to the overall successful delivery of projects. I see that benefits management on the up in 2011
I made three in 2010; I will stick to two in 2011!
Elizabeth Harrin, A Girl's Guide to Project Management: Tipoffs' predictions for 2010 were pretty accurate. We got no news on Chartered status, but plenty of news on how hard it was for people to get new jobs - especially graduates. It certainly feels as if there are more PMO qualified people about, and a renewed focus on the value of PMOs as well. While I was researching my book, Social Media for Project Mangers, I came across recruiters who said they do use the web to screen and source potential candidates, so those who are good at self-promotion in a non-alienating way must be rising to the top of the pack. Projects do continue to fail and I think there will always be projects that fail, but results this year have been mixed. For example, the NAO’s Major Projects report this year says that cost performance has been broadly stable and timescale slippage is significantly reduced on last year.
While I agree that there hasn't been an awful lot of movement on green-related change, there has been some this year. Rich Maltzman and David Shirley’s new book, Green Project Management, was published this year, with plenty of case studies of projects being run in response to green initiatives. BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, launched a Green IT certificate and accompanying book. Green is high on the agenda for PMI, with one of this year's North America Congress speakers being community revitalisation expert Storm Cunningham. The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) started in April this year and I think that as companies start to realise what this will mean for them in terms of their position in the league tables, there will be more green-led change projects during 2011.
I think 2011 will show a slow increase in the amount of organisations adopting cloud computing and new technologies like social media and collaboration tools behind their firewall. Project managers will in turn have to start using these ways to communicate and collaborate. I first spoke in public about this in 2008 and even this year I’ve been surprised at how long it has taken some people to “get it”. I think while some organisations will adopt new technologies and make a success of them quickly, others will take a long, long time to get any Web 2.0 tools off the ground and will consequently miss out on the benefits.
There'll be more specialised qualifications launched. This year we've had OBASHI, MoV, and Earned Value, amongst others. I think both PMI and APMG will be bringing out more niche qualifications next year, and with it we'll get the general backlash of these associations promoting specialism for financial gain.
*Elizabeth's blog - Girl's Guide to Project Management - Blog of the Year from ComputerWeekly
Robert Kelly, project manager and blogger for Kelly's Contemplation: In regards to 2010 predictions, graduates will struggle more then ever - Here in the US, I believe Arras hit the nail on the head. From the 'inside' I know that my employer and those of several friends have seen increases across the business markers...market share growth, revenue, etc. The downside, I believe many executives are realizing that they can do this with less headcount. This accurate prediction ties in well with another Arras gem...Self-Marketing candidates will often do better then even more qualified and new graduates. I believe genuine networking and who you know still out ways qualifications, but the self-marketer is really making a push. With Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc there are many 'experts' growing their industry reputation.
One thing I have experienced as a miss on Arras' part is the continued failure of projects. As a result of reduced budgets, headcount, and past failures many executives had to be even more selective and less risky with the projects that they did approve. Additionally, I believe they were somewhat risk averse with regards to aggressiveness of schedules and commitments to the board...under promise and over deliver.
My predictions for 2011:
- Increased Adoption Web/Collaborative Tools - There was a lot of talk on remote/virtual teams in 2010, but I didn't see much adoption from the enterprise. Some of the discussions we are having is around web-based tools for project management...moving away from standard email and MS Project, getting into things like Smartsheets or Easy Project.
- Increase in Approved Projects - Many organizations tightened their budgets in 2010 and saw their hardware/infrastructure fall behind the technology. With virtualisation/cloud/backup and such, many of my friends are seeing massive refreshes of the data center, virtualisation planning, etc. Even at the desktop level, iPad are making a push and Win7 was held off in 2010.
*Robert's blog - Kelly's Contemplation
Pawel Brodzinski, Project firefighter, team builder, program manager at blog.brodzinski.com: I'd say that 2010 was more optimistic than the predictions drawn in Tipoffs. One of the reasons is definitely the fact that I looked at the situation from a perspective of a green island on the sea of recession, but I also saw a lot of traction in IT which is always a good indicator of an improving situation.
Furthermore, I still see a competency gap, especially in smaller companies, which is slowly but systematically filled with graduates, so I think pessimism in this area was a bit too big. However, since project management is a specific position, which usually bases on experience, it will be never such an easy thing to get an entry-level PM job.
In terms of the success rate of projects I can say that generally little changes. If you look at statistics over the years, you will see that we see similar success rates now as we've seen 15 years ago. The rise of PMP hasn't changed that. Neither did the rise of agile. At this point Tipoffs' prediction was right, but well, it isn't that hard to say things aren't changing for years so they won't change next year either (you'll see that in my predictions for 2011).
Predictions for 2011
As the global economy systematically improves so does IT. As a result I predict the good times for project managers are coming back. As long as another wave of crisis doesn't hit us, the situation should get better and better. Job availability will significantly improve but salaries won't change that much as companies learn to care more about costs.
Project management landscape
In terms of general project management landscape we'll see more of the same which we've seen this year. The formal side of the scale is dominated by PMP certification, while on the agile part of scale Scrum leads the pack. For a couple of years already, agile has to have earned the consideration that goes with being "mainstream", and its adoption will still be growing. It also means that agile is facing maturity diseases – it isn't a method for early adopters any longer. There is a lot of poor jobs done under banners of agile, exactly the same as more formalized methods are abused.
Clashes over agile certification, like the one which happened in Scrum Alliance, are obvious proofs that agile has already become business and is no longer informal movement focused purely on building better software. I expect this trend to be seen more and more vividly over the upcoming year.
Talking of new methods which are getting traction, Kanban is worth mentioning. The method is definitely far away from joining the mainstream but its simplicity will help with wide adoption. In terms of market share growth, I expect Kanban to lead the pack in 2011.
On the formal side of the scale I don’t see a worthy contender. ITIL, which got a lot of publicity in 2009, seems to be stuck in its niche and it’s not going to change.
We shouldn’t expect better project success rates next year than we experienced in past years. Agile isn't a silver bullet and it’s just as easy to screw up agile implementation as it is with formal approaches. This basically means that it’s not overly crucial which method we choose, but whether we do a good job implementing it. New methods won't change the situation even when they become the mainstream.
We struggle with software projects not because we use the wrong tools, but because the low quality is accepted and even expected. As long as we don't change our attitude we won't see a significant improvement and changing attitude is a job for long years.
In terms of project management I don't expect much change next year. The situation will be either improving slowly or will remain the same. However pretty much the same thing could be said about most of the past, and probably following, years. The profession is mature enough that it doesn't accept rapid changes although rise of agile shows that it is evolving systematically over time.
Certifications & Aspirations for Project Management
Words: Todd Williams
As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on our past and contemplate the future. We think about our families, our friends, our successes and failures; we think about our jobs, our professions, and the world of possibilities. It is a time to reaffirm our ship’s direction, stay the course, make corrections, or find a new destination.
The Journey to Date
For those of us in project management, we have seen significant change. Over the last decade, the field has grown to be recognized as a professional discipline and many have benefited from the changing views for how projects are run. We have witnessed or implemented processes and procedures and have seen project management offices spring up to help prioritize enterprise portfolios and manage resource loading. It has been an exciting time.
In the last couple years many have seen project management become a commodity. Various organizations push their certificates as the end all of employment requirements and companies have created checklists to qualify good project managers just as one might look at the functions required from a personal accounting program. Employment firms relying on high-volume placements capitalize on this attitude, realizing how cost effective the screening process can be. Meanwhile, thousands of people clamor for their project management certification so they can jump into the resource pool.
It takes more than a certification to make a good project manager. Attaining expertise requires the ability to work with others and coordinate people to achieve a common goal. These traits are difficult, if not impossible, to acquire in a class or grade on a test. Process is a vital component; however, project managers must step beyond the role of processes and aspire to be leaders. This will manifest itself with three grade of project managers.
Level One: The Coordinator
Today’s certifications equip project managers to be coordinators. The expectation is that they herd cats. They work reactively at the rear and the flanks keeping the cats all going the same general direction.
This is a comfortable non-confrontational space where most project managers work and the traits most companies believe are required. It requires implementing processes and procedures, monitoring timelines, reacting to problems, and escalating issues they cannot handle. This is the area where project management has become a commodity - if you can get projects to be proceduralized anyone can manage them.
I hope that this notion has run its course as companies realize that this only works with highly repeatable projects, the paradigm must change to cover projects requiring innovation.
Level Two: The Negotiator
The negotiator has a different set of skills - they have learned to run with the cats and apply reason getting them to head the correct direction. This requires that the project manager understand the stakeholder’s needs and values and can mediate a compromise.
Once the portfolio develops past the point of repeatable projects, there is no longer a single possible goal. The project manager has to coax people to compromise and develop a mutual endpoint that provides value to all stakeholders. This is the first level of leadership.
All negotiators understand there is a process to follow - planning how to approach the negotiation, exploring options, proposing and bartering a solution, and executing the plan. However, few question that a majority of a negotiation is art. The way people support their viewpoint, handle their demeanor, show confidence in their beliefs, and deal with rebuttals make or break a successful negotiation.
By managing a team in this manner, they begin to self-correct and adjust their course realizing the power of the team and ineffectiveness of running off on a tangent.
Level Three: The Leader
The project manager who walks in front of the herd, the cats following, is the highest level of aspiration. Leaders understand their mission, mold and maintain a vision aligned with the strategic goals of the organization, communicate the direction to the team, and inspire people to achieve that vision. The team becomes self-directing.
Leadership can be learned, but not from a book or class. It is acquired from understanding the tools and applying them. It requires experience and an open mind.
Nearly everyone is posed with the opportunity to be a leader. We need to recognize that situation and know how to step in and lead the team to success. Our biggest stumbling block is the courage and confidence to move in that direction - to know when the cats will follow and we can take the lead. The first few tries often lack the polish of the accomplished leader, but experience brings it rewards.
How to Get There
The key to the future is acquiring the soft skills to aspire to new levels of management. Minimally this requires education in organization development, sociology, business management, and leadership. However, the cornerstone is real-world experience. As with any discipline, education pales in the shadow of experience. Moving from a reactive to a proactive approach where problems are identified and addressed prior to them becoming an issue is critical. This requires a calm, methodical approach and open communication channels with all stakeholders. The result is a high-performance, self-directing team that can drive any project to its appropriate goal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For 25 years Presidents, Vice Presidents, and C-Level executives of manufacturing and service companies have asked Todd Williams to help them build leading-edge systems, improve organizational efficiency, and turn-around troubled projects. Williams has developed methods to streamline organizations, recover red projects, and help prevent recurring failures. He maintains the Back from Red blog, and will continue to solidify his project rescue credentials in March 2011 with the release of his first book, Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure. Contact him by email or on Skype at williamstdd.
Image courtesy of rikkis_refuge, reused with permission.
Your value to the Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report 2011 (PMBR)
Words: Dan Strayer
What influence can you have over the project management profession? In all walks of life, we often fret that we cannot have significant influence over the things that influence our 9-to-5 prospects. The work will get completed and a noticeable evaluation can be made, but left unsaid is the influence you have in your profession. You want "Your Say" to become more than just a catchphrase - you want to see it enacted.
That's one of the things that makes the Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report so special within the PPM world - the tradesmen are the ones who influence the most significant piece of research available in the UK on the project & programme management marketplace.
Here's an example of the influence PPM practitioners like yourself wield: Heading into 2010, project managers in the public sector openly admitted to having little confidence in the climate of their sector as it pertained to project management. Nearly half (46%) feared that 2010 would bring on hard times or contraction of project jobs, and only 26% harboured anything that resembled positive feelings about the public sector climate, a 15% drop from 2009.
In essence, project managers like you and a colleague you know were well aware of where the country was heading long before an election symbolic of sweeping change and a budget report of likewise impact ever ensured it.
Let's go further: Consider the wind-swept view over the last several years on certifications and the increasingly widespread belief that certain qualifications turn Joe Q. Public into Joe Q. Project Manager. We broke it down by sub-sectors within PPM, and tried to determine how important a competency technical skills (which includes methodology, mainly) were. The primarily less experienced project support personnel listed it higher amongst our 14 competencies (fourth), than the typically more experienced project managers (sixth), change managers (eighth) and programme managers (10th) that we surveyed. Through findings like this and others from the PMBR, Arras People can derive significant conclusions about the marketplace we deliver in. When we preach about the importance of one's soft skills, we can point to the experienced professionals who value it highly to backup that point. When we make bold predictions about the tribulations that lie ahead in the public sector, the professionals' responses in the Report back up our proclamations.
Each year, the final product that is the Project Management Benchmark Report gets a stamp of approval from the people that matter. In previous editions of the PMBR (this year marks the sixth edition), the findings and figures we've derived from project and programme management personnel responses have been cited by leading PPM notables including the Association for Project Management, Maven Training, our colleague Elizabeth Harrin for Project Management Tips (see above), Dean Bennett* and Kareem Shaker. They turn to it because we at Arras turn to project professionals by the thousand (this year with the promise of an iPad to one lucky participant), adding depth through a solid volume and variety of practitioners affected within PPM.
As John Thorpe told you last month, the 2011 PMBR should make for some interesting reading on the economic front both looking back at how the PPM community faired during 2010 and also looking forward into 2011. Some subjects to be covered include:
- Social media and its place within PPM
- Accreditation (to seek a comparison to 2006)
- Job hunting & the PPM community
The challenges of changing sector
As ever we can not create the PMBR without the help of you the practitioner community and once again we are asking that you put a little time aside to complete this year’s survey. And because this survey and subsequent report is as much yours, we would ask that you spread the news and encourage other colleagues to also contribute. It is worth stressing that this is not just about practitioners who are looking for a job; we are trying to capture as wide a picture as possible of what is happening across the UK PPM community. Our candidate base will not increase when you take part, and your entering any one detail does not in turn land a new piece of spam in your junk mail account. To that end, you can even complete the survey 100% anonymously and then come back and request a copy of the report when it is published.
Have "Your Say" enacted. Take part in the Arras People 2011 PM Benchmark Survey (survey now closed)
Book Review - The One Page Project Manager for Execution
Reviewed by Andy Budkiewicz
One of my guilty pleasures (I feel I can admit this amongst fellow PMs) is that I enjoy reading books about project management– and the seemingly endless array of philosophies, techniques and tools for getting the job done. Typically, books of this genre will polarise opinions: you either fully agree or fundamentally disagree with what the author is proposing. And I must admit, when I read the rather ambitious title of this book, I was more than a little sceptical.
This book is not proposing a new methodology or even a technique – instead, it is concerned with project status reporting, and as the title suggests, it’s designed to enable Project Managers to provide a comprehensive update on a projects/programmes status on a SINGLE PAGE of paper. I'm regularly involved in managing complex multi-stakeholder, multi-vendor projects across global time zones – often with the most aggressive timescales, so the idea of fitting status updates onto a single sheet of paper seems decidedly optimistic. That’s until the authors let you into their first little secret. You’re allowed to report on a single page of A3 paper. (Yes, I can hear you all breathing a sigh of relief).
However, in spite of their A3 page trick, I actually like this book – it encourages PM’s to apply the discipline of concise and relevant project status communications and I think that PM’s and businesses could benefit significantly from using this tool. The only pre-requisite is that the leadership/key stakeholders in your organisation would need to be willing to learn how to read OPPM and actually be interested in getting a project update that is longer than a 30 second elevator conversation. However, if all PMs in an organisation were using the single page report format consistently, then the business benefits are certainly clear – enabling you to communicate key information about any project in a few seconds.
The book provides a useful step-by-step approach to help you develop a simple yet comprehensive project summary, built primarily around a gantt chart that details only high level summary tasks (the recommendation being 2-3 tasks for each planned reporting period). I loved the idea of having a subjective tasks section in the report for those times when an activitiy is not quantified on a timeline, i.e. improving software performance. Each task listed also has clearly identified an owner/task manager and task progress is tracked throughout the whole project lifecycle. Another useful suggestion is to identify 3-4 project objectives which are aligned to the different summary tasks, i.e. an objective may be change management and 12 of those summary tasks fall under that objective.
The report also graphically tracks the project costs in terms of agreed baseline and current forecast, and finally there is a section for a pithy status summary. For those PMs or organisations that want to go to a more comprehensive report, the authors combine OPPM with A3 (a project status report developed by Toyota but now used outside of the company). A3 status reporting was of course named after the paper size of the report – incorporating the Deming cycle (Plan, Do, Check and Act) into the project status. The end result is a detailed project status report, but as mentioned earlier, successful application will depend largely on business buy-in and support for concise reporting advocated in this book. I have been told before to limit a project status update to “focus on the 2-3 key points you want to get across to senior management”, so in some companies with an immature project management culture, using this tool may seem like a lot of effort for the amount of work it takes to maintain it throughout the project.
The authors also suggest that single page reporting can be used not only for managing projects, but also as a corporate strategy tool that can be used on 3 levels - corporate, business function and project team level. It is also positioned as being flexible enough to assist in business problem solving initiatives like Six Sigma and the scientific method – so the approach can be applied in other business contexts too.
Overall, I found this book to be an interesting and thought-provoking read. Admittedly, there were a few petty niggles, including incorrect page-referencing of figures and diagrams, which was a little frustrating. I was also a little annoyed by the fact that so much of the early part of the book provides a summary of previous titles in this series (The OPPM for IT projects and The OPPM Project Manager) – which means you have to wade through 182 pages before you get to the main point of the book. A little ironic, given that the book claims to offer tools and strategies to improve concise project status communications – perhaps the authors should take a leaf out of their own book.
However, in spite of my scepticism, I found this book to be a challenging and enjoyable read. I realised that many of my doubts about the approach were linked to the limitations of the organisation (from a PM maturity level perspective) rather than the actual concept of single page reporting. So, if you’re keen to develop a more succinct and focused approach to project status reporting, then this book is for you!
ABOUT OUR REVIEWER: Andy Budkiewicz is a PMP and PRINCE2 certified project manager with nine years of project management experience in a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company Global IT PMO, delivering application and Infrastructure projects. Follow him on Twitter @Andybud; or LinkedIn; or visit his blog ‘The Project Manager’s Guide To The Universe’
DO YOU WANT TO REVIEW A BOOK FOR TIPOFFS? Contact us today.
"Is there a way you can estimate (percentage-wise) the split between know-how and certifications for a top-notch project management job candidate? If so, why? If not, why not?" - Andy, Ipswich
Thanks for your question – it is always difficult to estimate on a percentage for this type of question as there are candidates out there who have no formal qualifications in project management, who have been delivering projects for a number of years utilising formal methods. At Arras we always endorse experience over a certificate. We are approached regularly by candidates asking if they should take a Prince2 course, but we only recommend this for candidates who have or are currently working within this structure, as theory is one thing but practice is another.
The best project management professionals have usually been working in the field for some time and may have taken formal qualifications to back up their experience, which in my opinion is a healthy balance.
However there are a number of organisations who are recruiting which insist on a formal qualification in PM – this can be for a number of reasons; one being that the customers they have insist on project professionals having a qualification (even though the PM may not be working within such a structure), in this case it is clearly just "ticking the box". Other organisations find it difficult to distinguish between a qualification and the reality of PM – as Prince2 has been marketed so well by the providers it has become a "buzz word" for PM.
So, in answer to your question: No, a percentage cannot be made generally speaking; an estimation could be made on a case by case individual based on background and their career aspirations. As with any career development it is always advisable to research your market and gain a good idea of typically what skills and experience are required and produce a schedule to gauge a way forward.
Got a question for us? Contact us today.
In This Issue
- Spring Ahead, Fall Back: Reflection on 2010 Predictions & Expert Forecasts for 2011
- Certifications & Cat Herding: Aspirations for Project Management
- Your value to the Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report 2011 (PMBR)
- Book Review: "The One-Page Project Manager for Execution"
- Q&A: "Is there a way you can estimate (percentage-wise) the split between know-how and certifications?"
Social Media Roundup
Various Related Subjects Around the Web
- TIPOFFS ARCHIVES: Last Year's Project Management Predictions
- NAO: Major Projects Report
- PAWEL BRODZINSKI'S BLOG: Chaos Report 2009
- InfoQ: Tobias Mayer on Scrum Alliance
- KAREEM SHAKER: Project Failure - Voice of The Professionals
- BACK FROM RED: Todd Williams' Blog
- TODD WILLIAMS' NEW BOOK: Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure.
- RIKKI'S REFUGE: Flickr photo page
From Arras People & How to Manage a Camel
- Arras People: Benchmark Archives
- Arras People: Benchmark Survey for 2011
- TIPOFFS (February 2008 - PDF): Salary Expectations for 2008
- CAMEL: Thoughts on Competencies
- CAMEL: Dangers Face Programme & Project Management Contractors
- CAMEL: Do project managers talk about project failure?
Podcasts & Vodcasts
- The Project Management Podcast from Arras People
- Parallel Project Training
- Project Shrink
- The PM Podcast
Arras on Twitter
Vacancy of the Month
Project Management Training
Latest from the Camel Blog
Looking for Careers Advice?
Need project management careers advice? Arras People can help
It's difficult finding someone to talk to about your project management career - if you're looking for a job and not getting the interviews you need or thinking about your skills gaps and capabilities but not sure about where you need to focus - Arras People can help you.
A third party view of the world providing an one-to-one session with you could be just what you need to plan your next move.
Take a look at the project management career clinics for more information