The Slipping Standards of Project Management

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.



Standards in project management such as those defined by the PRINCE2, APM and PMI methodologies are essential for well-run projects that consistently deliver on their promises but the practise of project management does not always live up to the theory. In reality many vital phases are rushed or not completed at all. Whilst an advantage of any of these methodologies is that they can be adapted for a whole range of different industries and different working cultures, in practise this means that they can be followed in name only.


Some of the most common problems that occur in not rigorously following a standard approach to project management are often outside the control of the project manager or stem from sponsors or stakeholders not fully buying-in to the project method.


In the urge to get started, the initiation phase is frequently overlooked as stakeholders just want to see some tangible progress. So the final product or deliverable is poorly defined, without which controlling quality can be impossible as can defining the business benefits, without which there can clearly be no proper justification of a project.


Project sponsors, who should be guiding and advising on problem areas, are often not fully committed and so there is no route for escalating a problem or changing any significant aspect of the project part-way through. When there are issues with either the schedule or the budget it is then unclear who is able to authorise amendments.


Documentation is not always read thoroughly and approvals can be simply a rubber-stamping exercise. This is particularly the case for IT projects where the business users can regard the documentation as too technical and avoid reading it.


For these and many other reasons the ultimate success of a project can be a “hit & miss” affair even when, in theory, they are following a standard methodology with rigorous controls and core values.


To tackle these sorts of problems the PRINCE2 approach now includes a Maturity Model with Key Process Areas that are necessary for proper use of PRINCE2. These include assigning ownership of the project, undertaking training and quality assurance mechanisms.


Why not share your own experiences of being involved in a project that has followed a recognised methodology in name only and what the end result was?


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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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