Project-related work and the number of project-related jobs are growing too quickly for our approaches to professionalism to keep up.
You don’t have to look to hard to see that the world of work is becoming more focused on projects. I don’t think it’s just project professionals who would say that – business leaders are also aware of the fact that projects are a core part of any company, and project management standards and approaches are being applied to more things. Ben Snyder even called his book Everything’s a Project.
In parallel to that, the role of the Project, Programme and Portfolio Office is growing. There are different types of roles available now to people who want to work in projects. You could be a PMO specialist, a risk professional or a project support officer. The management frameworks and organisation structures that support project-based work are in use in many companies.
But what does ‘project management’ mean?
While the growth is good, what I am also seeing is that project management has different interpretations for different people. Project management jobs are offered with salaries of £20k to upwards of £80k. That can’t possibly be the same job with the same responsibilities.
Project management ‘professionals’ (i.e. you and me) have taken the approach that industry bodies are the right groups to explain what project management is. In the US, this is relatively clear, as PMI sets the standards for what project management means. I don’t say this because I’m a particular fan of the Project Management Body of Knowledge or the
In the UK it is a different story. We have the Office of Government Commerce, which produces the PRINCE2 and MSP frameworks. These are the de facto requirements for project and programme managers over here. We also have the Association for Project Management which is affiliated to the IPMA. They have their own body of knowledge and credential scheme. Then we have a small but relatively active PMI Chapter, so there are people with
For employers, it’s a mess. Do you want a PRINCE2 Practitioner or a
For individuals, it’s worse. Most employers advertise for people who are PRINCE2 certified, but that course won’t teach you to do proper scheduling and it certainly doesn’t reflect your experience in the field. So should you get
There’s no clear path to solving these problems
I don’t have the answers. This is a challenge for industry bodies, employers and individuals. Professional bodies won’t suddenly stop producing certificate-based courses. It is how they make money and how they convince employers that they are relevant to today’s working environment, and for the most part the courses and credentials are very good.
I don’t have an issue with the standard of project management education – I just worry that there is too much off it, which makes it hard for employers and individuals to know what is the best option for them.
I can’t see that any of the professional bodies in the UK would give up marketing their services because someone else is doing a similar thing. What I would like to see is more alignment and collaboration between them, so that it is easier to compare bodies of knowledge, standards, frameworks, certificates and credentials and whatever else is out there. This has started – there is movement towards bridge courses between credentials, and training courses are being marketed specifically at people who have a different qualification.
We need project management as a profession to hang together, not become more fragmented. The project-based workplace is here to stay, and the discipline of project management needs to catch up pretty fast so that companies see the value and know where to turn for professional advice. What should we be doing to help that happen?
This article is based on an interview I gave for The Project Management Podcast last year.