Opinion: Australia has its project management ‘house in order’

Opinion: Australia has its project management ‘house in order’

We recognise the value of program managers and are willing to pay for the right talent, says PMI CEO Mark Langley

Mark Langley, CEO at PMI

Mark Langley, CEO at PMI

At a time when professional wages are only starting to recover from the global economic downturn of recent years, project management salaries in Australia have continued to rise.

More than 71 per cent of Australian respondents in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) recent global salary survey said their total compensation increased over the 12 months prior to completing the survey. Nearly one-third reported increases of at least five per cent.

That might seem a surprising statistic considering that related PMI research found that globally, only 50 per cent of projects are delivered on time and slightly more than that meet original budgets.

Fewer than two-thirds meet their original goals and business intent, and about 17 per cent fail outright. In monetary terms, for every $1 billion spent on a failed project, $135 million is written off.

So how can we correlate increasing numbers of project failures with market-defying salary increases for a profession charged with ensuring projects don’t fail?

Most likely because many executives still think of project and program management as a tactical competency, not a strategy enabler.

Good strategy is the basis for competitive advantage in the global economy, and the numbers don’t lie: successful organisations set the example on how to execute good strategy. Strategy stands or falls on execution. To me, this is the quintessential definition of the role of project management – strategy execution.

The research also reveals that as a whole, executives don’t recognise that every strategic initiative in their business is essentially a project or program, and that all strategic change occurs through these initiatives.

High-performing organisations view project implementation as a critical competency to enable strategy execution. They complete projects successfully 90 per cent of the time, while poorer performers are successful only 34 per cent of the time.

Now the picture becomes clearer: organisations that recognise the value of project and program managers, and deploy them strategically, report a far higher success rate than those that don’t.

High-performing organisations achieve success through a combination of skills investment, practice standardisation and strategic alignment.

By investing in project talent and providing consistent training, defined career paths and professional development opportunities, successful Australian organisations turn the tide of project failure towards project success, thereby delivering competitive advantage to their organisations.

This suggests that many of Australia’s most successful organisations recognise the value of project, program and portfolio management to 21st century leadership.

Standardising practices leads to a more efficient use of resources and a greater ability to lead and innovate, and strategically aligning project, program and portfolio management to the organisation’s goals improves maturity and contributes to better project outcomes.

That Australia punches well above its weight implies that – demographically speaking – we have our house in order.

It also goes some way towards explaining how, with a population smaller than cities like Shanghai, Tokyo, Jakarta and Delhi, Australia is winning the battle for competitive advantage among nations in a shrinking, turbulent global economy.

Whether or not it can maintain these leadership credentials for the next decade and beyond will depend largely on how closely its business community pays attention to the positive lessons learned, and the milestones already achieved.

Mark Langley is the president and CEO of PMI.

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