Niall Murphy, president of the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute, on how to win at Project Management
When it comes to Project Management, a quote by American motivational speaker, Denis Waitley is quite apt – ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised’. Project success, at its simplest level, can be defined as completing a project’s three primary objectives – time, performance and cost. If a project does not deliver what was required, in line with expectations, then it’s considered a failure. It’s a fine line, and one that Project Managers are navigating every day.
The difference between project success and failure can be narrowed down to five points:
Strategic planning is the foundation behind every successful project. The Project Management Institute (PMI)’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession global survey showed that organisations that invest in proven Project Management practices waste 28 times less money because more of their strategic initiatives are completed successfully. A clear vision is needed, and this can be achieved through well-defined roles and responsibilities, and adherence to the schedule and budget.
Having the right people in the right roles is integral to project success, and so, development of technical and leadership skills is a high priority. Currently, the PMI is forecasting a 12% year-on-year growth in the number of Project Managers. This equates to approximately 20,000 additional project managers in Ireland by the end of 2020. However, with the current geopolitical climate, we predict that even at this level of growth, this increase will fall short of requirements, as the need for experienced, strategic Project Management is now greater than ever.
Looking to the future, this will affect the success and failure of projects. Unfortunately, there is no short-term solution to this problem, as it will take time and investment. Companies need to upskill staff for continued personal development. Within the Ireland Chapter of PMI, we are focused on promoting Project Management principles by bringing PMI members in Ireland together. Our membership is growing year-on-year as we look for solutions to this skills shortage.
According to research carried out by the PMI, having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success. This is consistently found to be the single most important determinant of success and failure year-on-year. So, while Project Managers may be doing everything that is asked of them, and applying best practice, projects can still fail because the relationship with the executive sponsors has not been properly utilised and thought-out. For a project to succeed, both the Project Manager and sponsor need to define rules of engagement, responsibilities and expectations from one another early on.
Project Management is very much focused on Benefits Realisation Management (BRM), which provides organisations means of measuring how projects add value to the business. The use of BRM has been known to influence success rates, ensuring the delivery is focused on what is really valuable to the organisation. This is done by identifying benefits, determining whether projects can produce the intended results. Best practices are then used to achieve said benefits, before sustaining them and achieving strategic objectives.
More organisations are turning to Agile methods for Project Management, following the success of early adopters in the information technology sector. Agile processes help project teams manage unpredictability by adaptive planning and rapid, flexible response to change. Across PMI globally, members are increasingly embracing Agile as a technique for managing projects, with 71% using the approach for their projects.
To encourage better awareness of project achievements in Ireland, the Ireland Chapter of PMI is running the National Project Awards, with headline sponsors PwC. The initiative is designed to celebrate success and recognise the amazing achievements of Ireland’s Project Managers and project teams. The deadline for entries is September 1 and the finalists will be announced October 6. For full details see projectawards.ie.
About the blogger
Niall Murphy is president of the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute and Software Development Senior Manager at Oracle.