The Science Behind Really Great Project Management

Project management is one of the most misunderstood job functions in the business world. Even so, it’s estimated that this decade will experience double-digit growth in the industry, resulting in 15.7 million new project management jobs being created.

In spite of this focus on project management, statistics show that many projects fail, going over-budget, over-time or both. According to Capterra, “one in six IT projects have an average cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of 70%,” while “fewer than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year.”

What is the cause of these failures? More importantly, what is the science behind effective project management?

Start at the Top

Writing for CIO, Pearl Zhu highlights one of the biggest reasons why project management often fails: poor executive support.

“The politics & power play in an organization has a lot to bring to the table in the success potential of a project, especially when it impacts multiple stakeholders high up in the organizational ladder, potentially competing with each other & having conflicting priorities for the project & overall running of the organization.”

This is something I’ve written about on several occasions. For project management to truly work, it must be implemented from the top, down. Nothing builds confidence in something as effectively as knowing that the management believes in it enough to do it themselves.

Even more than that, however, is the tangible benefits a company can reap from this belief. By having upper management (and even the CEO) involved in project management, staying in tune with current projects and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the various teams involved becomes an easier task. It also helps management to have accurate, up-to-date information on the status of projects, and whatever adjustments may be necessary to keep them on track. This can be invaluable in finding and addressing issues before they become insurmountable.

Lack of Training

According to an infographic from Wrike, even at major corporations like IBM, only a whopping 56% of project management specialists hold any kind of certification.

This points to another fundamental issue with the project management industry—a lack of training. Proper project management is never an afterthought, nor are project management personnel simply individuals who didn’t fit anywhere else in the company and had to be shoehorned in somewhere.

Proper project management must involve proper training at every level. This can mean getting your PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, your PGmP (Project Management Professional) certification, your CAPM certification (Certified Associate in Project Management) and more.

Not only will this make you more hirable and marketable (for those in between jobs), but it will make you a more valuable, reliable asset to the organization who’s management needs you’re helping to serve.

Lack of Proper Tools

A lack of proper tools is another major issue within the project management industry, and one of the fundamental requirements for a project manager to see and understand a higher project success rate.

It’s estimated that “44% of project managers use no software, even though PWC found that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction.”

There may be any number of reasons why companies don’t use project management software: lack of support from upper management, a perceived lack of funds, an inability to settle on the right package, or even possibly a belief that old-fashioned methods are still the best way to do it in a digital world.

If your company is one that has held off investing in project management software, do yourself a favor and start investing in it now. One of the most important steps to make sure you select the right package is to decide what features are important to you and your employees. Talk with them, interview them and find out what features will make their jobs easier. Once you’ve settled on the right tool, make sure everyone is trained in its proper use, and periodically offer refresher courses to make sure employees are using the software to its fullest potential.

While it may be one of the most misunderstood job functions, proper project management is not some mysterious thing, nor is it hard to implement and use. By understanding some of the basic principles and science behind it, you can see a much higher project success rate within your organization, affecting your company’s long-term outlook for the better.

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