Project Management Institute

The status of the project management profession in the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East

The “country reports” generated by the information-gathering process prior to the 1995 and 1996 Global Project Management Forums held some well-known information and many surprises. How culturally literate are you when it comes to your profession?

by David L. Pells, PMP, Contributing Editor

IN GENERAL, AT WHAT STAGE is the project management profession in your country today?” This was one of the main questions asked of leaders of over 40 project management societies and organizations in 1995, prior to the first Global Project Management Forum held in New Orleans at PMI ’95. Other related questions in the same survey included:

What industries or types of projects are the main users of modern project management in your country or region today?

What industries or areas of application in your country have the greatest need for more or better project management?

What industries or organizations offer the greatest opportunities for growth of professional project management in your country? Why?

Briefly describe the history, purpose, structure and activities of the professional project management organization that you represent.

The answers to these and other questions related to standards, certification, a global PMBOK, and advancing the project management profession were included in “Country Reports” (30 countries responded) for the Global Forum in New Orleans, and subsequently published by PMI in 1996 as The Global Status of the Project Management Profession. The process, with these same questions asked, was repeated for the 1996 Global Forum hosted by PMI at PMI ’96 in Boston. In 1996, however, the survey went to over 50 countries, with more than 40 responding. These country reports will again be updated and published by PMI in 1997.

So, what is the global status of the project management profession? What did these “Country Reports” say? Those of us who initiated the survey in 1995 thought we knew. In many cases we were fairly close. From other parts of the world came some surprises. For instance, how many of us knew that a PMI Chapter was formed in Brazil over 10 years ago, but folded as the country experienced hyper-inflation and other economic problems? How many of us really knew the status of project management in the former Soviet Union, or China? What industries are using modern project management in Argentina or Finland or the Philippines? Now we are beginning to share information and to answer these questions on a global basis within the profession.


I would like to offer brief summaries, by region of the world, from the country reports submitted for the Global Project Management Forums held in 1995 and 1996. Since there is not enough space in this column to report on the entire world, this month a summary of the profession in the Americas, Africa and the Middle East is presented. The status of the project management (PM) profession in other parts of the world will be provided in future columns.

The Americas. The PM profession in the Americas is dominated by PMI, based in the United States, which has chapters throughout North America, with chapters being formed in major cities throughout Latin America. Established in Philadelphia as a nonprofit professional organization in 1969 by several PM experts from the construction, defense and pharmaceutical industries, PMI is now the world's largest project management professional association, with approximately 25,000 members in over 100 countries. PMI is an international society. However, nearly 90 percent of PMI's members are located in North America. A new national PM association, PMI Canada, is currently being established by PMI members and chapters in Canada. No other national PM association currently exists in North or South America.

In the U.S. and Canada, the PM profession is reaching maturity, as PMI has begun establishing close relationships with government agencies, and is now entering into discussions regarding national standards and qualifications for project management on government programs and projects. In Mexico and South American nations, the PM profession is just getting started as PMI Chapters have recently being chartered or are in the formation stages in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

In North America, especially in Canada and the United States, Modern Project Management (MPM) is well established in industries such as aerospace, architecture, construction, defense, energy, oil and gas, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and transportation, where PM concepts and methods have generally been in use for over 30 years. In those industries MPM has long been established in large dominant corporations, many of which have become multinational or global organizations, and which have taken their PM systems and procedures to other countries. During the past 10 years, professional project management practices and procedures have been increasingly adapted by other industries such as information systems and technology, telecommunications, software, health, environmental, entertainment, financial services, and manufacturing.

In Latin American countries, MPM has been used to some extent in the dominant industries, where large organizations have international industrial ties to North America, Europe or Japan. For instance, in Argentina, oil, construction and hydroelectric industries are currently the main users of project management. In Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, it is used in oil, mining and construction. In Mexico and Brazil, usage and trends for project management are widespread and reflect the earlier history and trends in Canada and the U.S., with leadership in the profession now being undertaken by leading technical universities that have close ties to both local government and industry.

Africa. The modern project management profession in Africa is most mature in South Africa, where it has been used for over 25 years. A PMI Chapter was established in Johannesburg in 1981; in 1996 a new national PM association was established in the Republic of South Africa. Also in 1996, the Association of Project Management Zimbabwe (APMZ) was formally launched in Harare, with plans to establish Specific Interest Groups (SIGs) as chapters of both PMI and the Association of Project Managers (UK).

In South Africa, organizations in such industries as architecture, engineering and construction historically followed British professional practices and standards. Major projects in the petrochemical and minerals industries followed American models. Today, applications and trends are merging, reflecting those in North America, Europe, and elsewhere, adapted to local needs, customs and laws. Newly emerging industries such as information technologies and telecommunications are adapting MPM practices and the profession itself is growing rapidly and reflecting global concepts and influences in the process.

A PMI Chapter is being formed in Nigeria, where PM has been supported by World Bank-funded projects and where PM is used in industries such as oil and gas, construction and infrastructure development. Other African countries are expected to follow this process as strong local industries emerge and as they enter the global economy.

The Middle East. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, MPM has been in widespread use on “hard projects” in the engineering, construction, oil and gas, petrochemical and utilities industries since the 1970s. Professional project management has also been important on infrastructure projects related to water and wastewater treatment for many years.

A PMI Arabian Gulf Chapter was formed in 1993 in Saudi Arabia to organize and serve the PM profession for those in both local and multinational organizations working throughout the region. The chapter has members in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and several other countries. In Egypt, the PM profession in represented by a small national organization connected to the Egyptian engineering profession and aligned with the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in Europe.

A PMI Chapter was officially established in Israel in July 1996, sponsored by the Management of Technology Department in the School of Business Administration at Tel Aviv University. The main industry users of MPM in Israel include construction, high-technology, and utilities organizations. Project management courses are now being taught at all major Israeli universities.

It's Still Early. In this column I have presented selected and summarized information. There is much more information, by individual country, contained in The Global Status of the Project Management Profession. But there are some notable absences: in the Americas, Central American countries are still not represented, nor are the nations of the Caribbean. Outside of South Africa, little is occurring in other African countries, even though the World Bank and other international funding agencies have been sponsoring projects for decades. We also know that in many areas multinational construction, energy, oil and gas, petrochemical, mining, transportation and telecommunications companies have been involved in major projects. So we know project management is being implemented; but, since the PM profession is not very visible, we don't really know how.

The PMI Executive Office continues to receive inquiries from project management-related organizations around the world, many asking to form cooperative relationships. New PMI Chapters and new national PM associations continue to emerge in cities and countries everywhere. And already I know of three Global Project Management Forums proposed for 1997—in Australia, Indonesia, and the United States. The PM profession continues to expand on a global basis, but it is still in the process. Modern project management is still young—only about 50 years old in mature industries, just newly introduced in others. Geographically, the range of applications and maturity is great, but coming together fast in today's global economy, where multinational organizations have multinational projects, with participants communicating globally on a daily basis.

I have presented very summarized and general status information; I have not discussed degrees of implementation in those industries and regions where MPM is used. For instance, no indication is provided related to the extent or sophistication of PM approaches used, which range from simple scheduling and cost estimating procedures in some industries to advanced earned value-based integrated methodologies for major complex projects in other industries and locations. In that context, the PM profession still has a long way to go in every country. Even in the U.S. there is much work to do to advance the project management profession, to advance the state of the art and practice of modern project management, and to gain the credibility and recognition that our profession deserves. ■

David Pells, PMP, is the managing partner in the Dallas office of Mathie, Pells & Associates, a global project finance and executive advisory firm. He is the PMI Ex Officio VP-Public Relations, and was project manager of the Global Forums at PMI ’95 and ’96. He travels extensively on project-related business worldwide.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network • March 1997



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