New Workfront research shows project managers are so slammed that they are unable to focus on the most important aspects of their work.

According to Workfront’s new Project Management Survey, conducted in late 2014 with 384 North American PMs, project managers are being inundated with too much work, lack of visibility into the work being done, and the use of disconnected tools to do the work. As a result, they are left without insights into the work they are doing and are stretched too thin.

Fifty-five percent of the surveyed PMs said that in 2014, their workload increased significantly, causing 38 percent of project managers to say no to new projects, work overtime, and outsource at least 6-10 hours of work per week.

Disparate new tools don’t ease admin pains

Surprisingly, nearly a third of the PM workweek is spent updating project status instead of working on projects. Of the survey respondents, 27 percent listed “project information scattered across too many disconnected tools” as their biggest problem at work. Thirty-three percent are still using spreadsheets and email to manage their projects, and 18 percent are spending loads of time entering the same data into different systems.

While 58 percent of the respondents are using Agile methodologies including Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming, 62 percent stated that more than half of projects are completed using traditional project management methods that may or may not be effective.

Sixty-six percent of PMs don’t have a formal request management system, so projects come in from all over and are difficult to prioritize and track. All in all, many PMs are so “all over the place” that they aren’t in a position to derive crucial information and take action on it.

Lest we chalk these issues up to inexperience, Workfront actually polled an impressive group of PMs. More than half had over 10 years of experience in project management, and 84 percent had completed formal PM training or earned PM certifications. A majority have been in this field a long time, and their jobs aren’t getting any easier.

The time to streamline is now

What can be done to alleviate some of this PM pressure? Adoption of a single technology that manages the full lifecycle of a project seems like a good start, for PMs are wasting a lot of time on busy work. Also, the entire organization should standardize on a project management tool so that data is entered in one place and visible to everyone.

Finally, PMs must be empowered to manage their teams, schedules, and workloads. They should be assertive about setting boundaries when a project isn’t reasonable or feasible.

As we’ve talked about here before, PMs, whether part of a PMO or not (55 percent of Workfront’s respondents are and 45 percent are not), need a direct line of communication to executive management. Ongoing interactions will ensure that PMs are spending their valuable time working on projects that are essential to business operations and growth.