Focus on the fundamentals

Organizations that master the basics of project and program management continue to gain the competitive edge

2015 PULSE



Many organizations realize the right project, program and portfolio management practices give them a competitive edge. But there’s always more that can—and should—be done, according to PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the Profession®.

The latest edition of the annual trend report underscores that when it comes to executing strategy and avoiding waste, there’s no substitute for focusing on the basics. High-performing organizations embed a project management mindset in their culture. They focus on talent management by establishing training and knowledge transfer programs. And they support project, program and portfolio management through standardized practices and strategic alignment.

The payoff is clear: High-performing organizations meet their project goals two and a half times more often than their low-performing counterparts. They also wasted 13 times less money than low performers.

High-performing organizations complete 80 percent or more of projects on time, on budget and meeting original goals.

Low-performing organizations complete 60 percent or fewer of projects on time, on budget and meeting original goals.

These are sobering figures—yet they shouldn’t be surprising. The 2015 Pulse finds a project landscape largely unchanged from years past.

Fifty-five percent of Pulse respondents say their organization fully understands the value of project management. That number has remained roughly the same since 2012, which means nearly half of organizations don’t see the payoff of creating a culture of project and program management.

Changing an organization’s culture sounds daunting, but the 2015 Pulse report suggests that rather than reinvent the wheel, organizations should go back to the basics. For example, practices that distinguish high performers from low performers include:

  • Actively engaged executive sponsors (81 percent versus 45 percent)
  • High alignment of projects and programs to the organization’s strategy (57 percent versus 29 percent)
  • Standardized project management practices used throughout the organization (51 percent versus 14 percent)

Organizations won’t get far without solid talent management strategies. The 2014 PMI and Economist Intelligence Unit global survey Rally the Talent to Win: Transforming Strategy into Reality found that 40 percent of strategy implementation efforts are significantly held back by talent deficiencies. Yet only 28 percent of organizations provide a full suite of talent and development competencies for project managers, including training on tools and techniques, defined career paths and formal knowledge transfer processes, according to the 2015 Pulse.


Across all organizations, the study finds that a number of fundamental practices remained consistent from 2014 to 2015. The frequency with which organizations use change management and project portfolio management practices, and the prevalence of project management offices (PMOs), remain unchanged. So, too, has the percentage of organizations reporting high project management maturity.

But the report also uncovered some significant shifts. There’s been a 63 percent rise in the number of organizations reporting a high level of benefits realization maturity since 2013. The use of agile/incremental/iterative project management practices also continues to grow: 38 percent of respondents say their organization uses them frequently, a rise of 8 percentage points since 2013.

With economies around the world still clouded in uncertainty, organizations don’t have a lot of room for error on their projects and programs. The need to efficiently meet strategic goals has arguably never been greater. While the 2015 Pulse of the Profession outlines a familiar route for staying ahead of the pack, it’s one that works. PM

Taking a Pulse

PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the Profession: Capturing the Value of Project Management reveals what sets high-performing organizations apart.

KNOWLEDGE GAP------------------------

55% of all respondents say their organization fully understands the value of project management.
80% of high-performing organizations have a full understanding.
36% of low-performing organizations have a full understanding.

THE COST OF COMPLACENCY------------------------

US$250 million
Amount low-performing organizations waste on projects for every US$1 billion spent, due to poor project performance

US$20 million
Amount high-performing organizations waste on projects for every US$1 billion spent—about 13 times less

HITTING THE MARK------------------------

When it comes to meeting the original goals and business intent of projects, the gap between high- and low-performing organizations is stark.


THE NOT-SO-SECRET INGREDIENT------------------------

Active project sponsorship is the top driver of project success.


PMOs PLATEAU------------------------


AGILE ASCENDS------------------------

One notable exception to organizations relying on familiar practices: the steady growth of agile/incremental/iterative project management practices


UNDEVELOPED TALENT------------------------

A commitment to talent management delivers results. But the portion of organizations that train and develop practitioners is lower than 2011.


FAMILIAR FAILURES------------------------

The three most common reasons for project failure haven’t changed since 2014*:


Source: Pulse of the Profession®: Capturing the Value of Project Management, PMI, 2015 (Methodology: 2,808 project management leaders and practitioners around the world were surveyed in October 2014.)




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