Is IT Project Management Professionalism on the decline?
With annual IT Project Failure Rates running at 70% + it is clear that improvements in the professionalism of IT project staff and management should be a part of the solution.
In my post Can Government Policy Reduce IT Project Failure Rates Part 2, I described how the government could assist in making this disgraceful state of affairs a thing of the past. One of these was to make it a legal requirement for certain key IT Professionals to have Chartered Qualifications before being allowed to work on IT Projects /Programmes of work above a certain budgetary value.
Despite the media /press pushing for better training and professionalism within the IT industry one finds, on closer inspection, evidence of a disturbing decline in the levels of professionalism, especially in the areas of IT management.
One way of measuring this decline is by taking a closer look at the membership statistics for the key Project Management Associations such as the PMI. This information effectively gives us a rough picture from which to estimate the growing /declining levels of professionalism within IT Management.
PMI Membership Statistics
• 90,000 people joined the PMI in 2005
• 33,751 joined in April 2006
• 70,000 growth in annual membership up to April 2006
• 2 people are leaving the PMI for every 3 new members
• 52,000 ex members who were members of PMI in January 2005
These statistics pose a number of important questions:-
1. Is this simply a loss of membership to a single organisation, or a larger trend in project management practices?
2. Are there 52,000 less people claiming to be project managers, or did they simply fail to see the value in PMI membership?
3. Where are these Project Managers “going”?
In an attempt to answer the first two questions, I decided to ring round a few of my palls who had recently left the PMI and in turn asked them to contact people they knew had done the same. The answers given were as follows:-
• “The ratio of certified PMPs to PMI members is now 88 percent. I have left because the organisation is a massive training camp for the training of newbie PMs. All their publications reflect this. As an expeienced Project Manager I am asking what’s in it for me ?”
• “The PMI teaches methods /approaches more suitable for the delivery of small to medium size projects and has very little to offer when it come’s to the education of members to deliver large projects /programmes of work.” This continuous development of hardened professionals was sadly lacking in the PMI and other Project Management Associations so they saw little worth in retaining their membership.
• “Project Management qualifications are less important these days than industry knowledge and experience which has lead me to question the value of continued membership of the PMI.” Many felt experience was the key factor in getting promotion or finding more work. Proving technical ability in project management was rarely discussed at interviews or by sponsors /clients. Many service-based departments were more concerned with “touchy feely” things (people management) and abilities to spin success out of failure . These are alien topics to the project management associations.
• “I was also told that the Project Management Institutes don’t include master level certification which would allow them as experienced professionals to be distinguished from the newbie Project Managers flooding into the industry”. “The PMI has failed to offer adequate continued development to members once they have acquired the initial PMP qualification”. For example many professional institutes offer varying levels of membership according to ones proficiency and expertise. For example the Chartered Insurance Institute offers ACII, FCII and finally the ultimate Chartered Membership all adding up to many year of study and continuous progression..
• “Agile methods and thinking are putting the project management profession into serious flux as standard project management practices no longer integrate well with Agile”. “PMI methods are like “Oil and water” where Agile is concerned and the PMI does not help me make the Oil & Water mix.”
The answer to the final question concerning where have all these hardened professionals gone is more difficult to answer, as most the people I questioned are still working in the industry. However, the media /press is suggesting that a significant proportion of these experienced professionals are leaving associations like the PMI, and indeed leaving the IT industry all together, or in some cases taking IT roles lower down the organisational structure.
The reasons cited are as follows:-
• “With 70% annual IT project failure rates many experienced managers have become disillusioned with IT Project Management”. No one wants to find themselves in a profession such as project management where the odds are so stacked against success. Most people want to achieve things with their lives and create things they are proud of and succeed in their chosen profession.
• “Many professional project /programme managers stated that most of their work is nothing to do with what they learnt at the Institute and more to do with Machiavelli and Spin Management than Project Management”. One of my closet friends was a Head of Projects for one of the UKs largest New Media agencies and decided enough was enough. He decided to become an IT support person for a small business rather than compromise his integrity.
• “Many IT software service departments of large companies will only be tolerated to run IT Projects if they are run according to Line Management Principals rather than key Project Management principals i.e Risk /Issue Management (seen as a blame culture), change control (your job is to give us what we want) or detailed project planning (motivation & team work rather than targets and defining detail ).
Surely the IT industry needs to retain people who have integrity and a commitment to delivery, rather than the active development /employment of Spin Managers who see being the students of the Machiavellian dark arts as their chosen route to Eldorado?
The future depends in my opinion on how organisations measure and identify successful Project Management. Do they make the judgement based on the propensity of Line Management to work repeatedly over time with the same Project Manager/s or do they measure success in terms of the numbers of successful projects delivered. The former is all to often the chosen yardstick, making the pursuit of professional excellence less appealing to busy Project Managers. Attitudes of this kind will make the eradication of IT Spin Management a problem as difficult to eradicate as Malaria.
Surely, if the IT industry assisted by the Government is interested in reducing the annual 70% IT failure rate it must make improved IT Professionalism one of its key goals over the next decade.
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