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3 Challenges for Project Success

Piers McLeish

Piers McLeish

Last week I shared an infographic from The Access Group. In this article, guest contributor Piers McLeish explains more about the data behind the headlines.

Following a recent survey we looked at areas for improvement, where a lack of visibility over data is causing problems as well as the most important features and factors key stakeholders should look for, in both new business software and vendors. Based on the findings from the research we also outlined 5 project lessons for 2014.

Throughout the survey there are three main focuses that challenge the success of project based organisations.

1. 62% of project based organisations identified ‘capturing time/costs against projects’ is their biggest challenge.

If you’re struggling to capture time and produce costs against projects, you’re not alone. 62% of organisations questioned admit to the same struggle, and could benefit from re-evaluating their integrated project management software.

2. 55% of project based organisations admit ‘paper based approvals’ were stifling processes.

If you’re currently passing around manual information to approve projects, expenses, proposals, this is the second most common issue. Over half of participants surveyed agree that paper based approval processes are detrimental to their project processes, admitting that they are creating an admin burden.

3. 45% of project based organisations agree that ‘re-keying of data’ is a further challenge.

The third highest statistic faced by project based organisations is that the re-keying of data proves to be a challenge, creating unnecessary tasks which could otherwise be consolidated through automation.

The above statistics highlight that project based challenges are not un-common. But what is uncommon is the awareness and knowledge of how to tackle these problems. Not only can confronting these problems be beneficial for efficiency and financial reasons, but also project hand-overs. By reducing these challenges, the ownership transfer of projects can become seamless with features such as visibility of data, reports and documents. Time keeping can be automated and managed with integrated project software.

Integrated project software can not only streamline processes throughout projects, but also incorporate a centralised hub for all data to be accessed. This makes the handling and sharing of data a much more manageable task as opposed to spreadsheet printouts, invoices and reports.

If you’re finding cost capture difficult or time consuming, finding that paper based process are flooding your desk, or the re-keying of data has become an integral process of your project management, it may be wise to have a consultant review your processes and recommend the next best action to take for guaranteed ROI and improved efficiencies.

Only 30% of businesses surveyed are likely to review their project processes and software in the next 12 months. Should you be getting a head-start?


About the author
Piers McLeish is the director of consulting services, responsible for all pre-sales and pre-contract scoping and business analysis work, mostly involving larger clients and implementations. Prior to Access, Piers worked with well-known names such as MBNA International Bank and Accenture.




What women think men think about us

Last week I wrote about some research from the Project Management Journal by Charlotte Neuhauser, PMP. It looked at the leadership behaviours valued by women and how frequently we apply them.

Neuhauser’s research also asked female project managers to report on how they thought they were perceived by men. Here’s what her study had to say.

Women say: Men don’t think women are weaker project managers

I’m glad we believe men have the sense to think that women are adequate as project managers, as we don’t apparently believe that about ourselves. As I reported last week, 75% of women surveyed believed that women think women are weaker project managers than men. How can we believe we are worse than men but at the same time think men see us as equals? I don’t get it, and I’m sure it’s not a compliment to male intelligence. It could either be interpreted as men being too stupid to recognise our faults, or as women being too harsh on each other.

Women say: Men don’t take women seriously

59% of survey respondents believed that female project managers are not taken seriously by men. I don’t think that this is a statistic limited to the project management community. I expect it applies to professional women in a range of careers.

However, the figure was much lower than I was expecting, which is great. I would have liked to see the breakdown of results by age, as I have a feeling that the younger you are, the less men are likely to take you seriously at work.

Women say: Women are less committed than men

The question asked here was a long one. Female project managers “have less organisational commitment and professional capability than their male counterparts”. This had the strongest, clearest response from the women surveyed, with a massive 95% of them agreeing or strongly agreeing with this.

There’s no rationale given for this in the research, so here are some reasons why I think women believe this about themselves:

  • We are more committed to our families than our employers
  • We see men working while other women take parental leave for family emergencies
  • We don’t define ourselves by our jobs, so this translates to “not being committed”
  • We don’t see women being promoted as often as men, which leads to “having less professional capability”
  • Perhaps men are better at covering up their faults at work and don’t beat themselves up about them so much.

But in reality, who knows why the women surveyed thought that men were more committed and professionally better than they were? Maybe they had all gone out for team manicures while the men stayed in the office and slaved away. Maybe the women surveyed genuinely were pretty rubbish at their jobs, working in teams with over-performing male colleagues.

PMJ research

61 women were asked to respond to these questions: this is what they said

Neuhauser says:

The sample of this study had a stronger belief that they are weaker project managers than they believe men perceive them to be. Comparing that response with the perception of this group that women have less commitment and professional capability than men seems to point out a reinforcement with their self-perception of less competence… It is perplexing why female project managers view other female project managers as weaker than their male counterparts and yet do not perceive males viewing females as weaker.

In short, I would conclude, the research study didn’t turn up anything useful or conclusive and further research should be done to find out if there really is anything to this.

What do you think – is it worth doing more research into this subject or not?

Read the research: Neuhauser, C. 2007. Project Management Leadership Behaviours and Frequency of Use by Female Project Managers in Project Management Journal, 38(1), pp21-31.


How female project managers lead

How female project managers leadWhile I was researching my book, Customer-Centric Project Management, I came across a piece of research in the Project Management Journal about women’s leadership skills. ‘Project Management Leadership Behaviours and Frequency of Use by Female Project Managers’ by Charlotte Neuhauser, PMP, looks at what women think are the most important leadership characteristics and then whether or not they use them.

Most important leadership behaviours for project managers

The important behaviour types for project managers are (from most important to least important):

  • Influence
  • Inspirational motivation
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Managerial skills
  • Individualised consideration (treating project team members as individuals, not ‘resources’)
  • Attributed charisma
  • Contingent reward (i.e. clarifying goals and benefits for project team members)

These apply to both male and female project managers.

The study found that the more important women felt the behaviour was, the less frequently they said they displayed it. Looking at the mean response scores, no behaviour was used ‘Almost Always’. Either the women in the study really aren’t that good at project management or they were judging themselves very harshly.

Most used behaviour by female project managers

The study broke down these behaviour types and assessed the most and least used actions by female project managers. The 5 most commonly seen behaviours were:

  1. Recommends promotions for exceptional performance
  2. Recommends pay increases or bonuses for exceptional performance
  3. Delegates authority for decisions to team members
  4. Gets ideas accepted by superiors
  5. People are proud to be associated with them

The 5 things women did most infrequently were:

  1. Earns respect of others through demonstrating competence by personal task performance
  2. Inspires others by setting an example of courage, dedication and self-sacrifice
  3. Uses time efficiently
  4. Negotiates with colleagues, suppliers and clients (note that this is just about any negotiating, not negotiating effectively)
  5. Offers encouragement, advice and assistance when team members need help

Seriously, who are these women? They are happy to delegate, but not to offer help to their team. Their supervisors say their ideas are great, but they don’t negotiate. People are happy to work with them but they are disorganised time wasters who don’t complete their own tasks competently.

Was there ever a better argument for knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and being honest about your capabilities? This is Imposter Syndrome in action.

The researcher draws some parallels to other studies but does not comment on the disparities in the results. They are, after all, perceptions. I can perceive that I, or other women, are no good at driving, but it doesn’t make it factually true. (Actually, in my case, it does.)

After reading the research, I strongly believe that the 61 women surveyed were judging themselves too harshly. A whopping 75% of them agreed that women think women are weaker project managers than men! If we don’t believe in ourselves, who will?

Next week I’ll be writing about the final part of the research, where women were asked to comment on how they thought they were perceived by men. Trust me, it’s enlightening!


Read the research: Neuhauser, C. 2007. Project Management Leadership Behaviours and Frequency of Use by Female Project Managers in Project Management Journal, 38(1), pp21-31.


Research shows women don’t want management jobs

WomanIntellect’s Women in IT Forum and womenintechnology.co.uk recently released the results of their survey about women working in the technology profession.

The survey shows that although 8% of women have reached director-level roles, up 3% on 2007, many women are not interested in pursuing pure management roles and want to remain doing hands on, technical jobs. In the IT project management field this equates to women wanting to stick with being project managers and not aspiring to lead a PMO or move into portfolio management.

Groups like the APM’s Women in Project Management SIG exist to support and promote women in project management. Informally, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management does the same. Are we wrong in trying to encourage more women into senior roles? Maybe the reason why we don’t get directorships is because we don’t want them.

I don’t believe this is true. I am sure there are many men happy doing technical, hands on, non-managerial roles as well. Why shouldn’t that type of work appeal to women too? Not everyone wants the stress and people-management responsibilities that come with being a senior manager.

Mixed support for developing women’s careers

Some women, the ones who do want a management career, need to know that the workplace supports their advancement.

However, the statistics don’t completely support that. Over 60% of respondents in the Intellect/WiT survey have more than 10 years of experience but only 26% have reached senior management level. Many of the others reported feeling that they are being passed over for promotion in favour of male colleagues. Over a third of respondents said they had left their last position due to a lack of internal promotion.

Fortunately, thing looks a bit better when it comes to the work/life balance options on offer. Eighty percent of companies offer remote working options, with 71% of survey respondents taking up this option. This seems a lot to me, but as the survey focused on IT professionals it could be that technology companies and IT departments are more forward-thinking when it comes to the kit and the policies to work from home.

Being a woman is not (very) detrimental to your career

Nearly two thirds of respondents agree that being a woman has not been detrimental to their career in technology. Flip that statistic round, and it means that two in five women believe that being a woman has hampered them in some way.

The survey doesn’t expound on exactly how, but here are some of the findings from that section:

  • 47% believe that to get ahead in a tech career, you have to act like a man (whatever that means)
  • 75% believe that technology employers have a long hours culture
  • 84% believe that more should be done to encourage women back to work after maternity leave.

The important thing is that whether you want to move into management or not, all women should feel that their IT project management careers are supported by the company, and that whatever options they want are open to them. What are your experiences of project management career development? Let us know in the comments.


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