As the number of projects in organizations skyrocket, understanding project fundamentals and fostering project management skills have become essential for all leaders and managers. Yet project failure rates remain extremely high. Why?
Leaders have too many projects with too little visibility into them, and they lack the project oversight and delivery competencies to untangle them. Project managers have the technical skills, but have trouble translating their hands-on knowhow up to the leader’s-eye view.
As part of the development of the forthcoming HBR Project Management Handbook, we performed a survey with HBR readers to better understand how organizations are using projects now, where they are finding success with projects, and where they are struggling.
Special thanks to the support provided by Antoine Adams, CEO and founder of pmo-online.com, and Jonathan Norman, my editorial adviser since 2012, in the development of this report.
This report summarizes the findings of the research completed during the summer of 2020, composed of two surveys, one answered by 556 executives and the second by 728 project professionals. A total of 1.284 respondents, who we want to thank for their valuable insights.
- In a world driven by change, executives are spending more time on projects.
- 2/3rds of project management professionals also have an operational role.
- In the past five years, whilst the number of projects has significantly increased, it remains stubbornly difficult to estimate how much of a company’s revenue is generated by projects.
- The amount of revenue generated by projects is clearly significant, yet the ROI% that projects deliver is low across the board.
- 26% of projects are dedicated to organizational transformation.
- Whilst 50% of projects are deemed to succeed, the other half don’t deliver their expected value.
- Lack of resources, poor project management competencies, inappropriate culture are main challenges.
- Sponsors struggle with the lack of alignment, too many stakeholders and the lack of discipline on their projects.
- Selection and prioritization of projects is a top-down exercise, using outdated techniques.
- Boards of Directors and key Shareholders are regularly updated on their key projects.
- Executives appreciate the value of projects but don’t fully recognize project managers.
- The increase in project numbers, is not matched by an increase in time and focus senior leaders dedicate to their oversight.
- Only 13% of executives have received a training on how to be an effective sponsor.
- Project management professionals struggle to invest in the learning and education required to increase levels of project success.
- 80% of executives aspire to invest and build project management competencies within their organization.
Waterfall project management is still used far more widely than agile; hybrid approaches are on the rise.