Time to make a move forward

Despite organisations investing hundreds of millions of dollars in project management tools, credentials and training, reports by the Project Management Institute (PMI), Gartner and Forrester continue to reveal poor project results.

Organisations, dissatisfied with their project management performances, need to try and radically change their approach. As ESI’s top ten trends for 2014 predict, this action will range from better leadership programmes and lean methodologies, to making sure each project has a sponsor with a backbone, in order to ensure significant change.

However, they will need to take action sooner rather than later, if they are to take advantage of the modest economic growth forecast we are seeing. (Global growth is projected to be 3.7 percent in 2014, rising to 3.9 percent in 2015, according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook reports.)

But organisations are only going to be in a position to take advantage if they start placing more importance on strategic initiatives. And more importantly, they need to ensure that an organisation-wide culture of project management is in place to support this.

High performers

Organisations that report high-alignment of their projects to organisational strategy see that, on average, 65 per cent of their strategic initiatives meet business goals, as opposed to 35 per cent with low alignment, according to research by the PMI.

As well as this, organisations that are highly agile, nimble and able to adapt quickly to changes will complete more of their strategic initiatives. (89 per cent of projects at high performing organisations meet original goals, compared to 36 per cent at low-performing.)

A high-performing PMO that is aligned to the strategic role of an organisation, as well as supported by a senior executive to oversee strategy implementation, would no doubt have even more positive outcomes.

Unfortunately, only 15 per cent of organisations currently report high organisational agility. By focusing on people, processes and outcomes however, it should not be hard for organisations to begin to achieve a higher-performance standing, especially with the right project management training.

By aligning project management with organisational strategy, organisations should be in a position to achieve significantly more successful strategic initiatives, and therefore enjoy increased competitive advantage.

Fundamental support

This will require fundamental support for organisational change however, in the form of highly effective change management.

Worryingly though, the PMI have reported a decline in change management practices over the last four years, from 71 per cent in 2011 to 65 per cent in 2014.

Their research highlights the need for an executive sponsor to champion projects that drive organisational change. Before that can happen though, organisations must be able to fully understand the value of project management, if they are to act on strategic initiatives.

A PMO will certainly help achieve that, by driving forward knowledge transfer and change management.

But with the market remaining as competitive as ever, and an unknown timeframe for economic growth, organisations need to start aligning strategy with its projects now, if they are to be in with a chance of taking advantage.