Over three quarters of IT Project Managers aren't sure what they do makes a difference to their business - Stoneseed
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Over three quarters of IT Project Managers aren't sure what they do makes a difference to their business


Project Management ‘know-how’ must evolve into ‘know-why’.

Over three-quarters of Project Managers surveyed (76%) question whether what they do is aligned to business objectives.

Aligning IT projects with business strategy is crucial for maximum yield and effectiveness, so should alarm bells be ringing at this statistic?

I think it should have some alarms sounding - but klaxon-like air-attack warning sirens should be resonating at the news that 17% are actually confident that their execution is not aligned to business strategies at all.

How do they get out of bed in the morning?

The figures come from a survey of 200 senior Project Managers and executives at a series of PMO oriented Gartner events and was carried out by Changepoint, a project management solutions company.

Whether through years of experience or thanks to the qualifications that they've earned, I'd say IT Project Managers are among the most 'task-ready' professionals you'll come across. The start date for a project is the date that the project starts – which sounds kind of obvious but with other professions, quite often, there is a certain amount of spade work to be done before you get down to the actual business of getting the job done. Not with PMs.

Thanks to ‘know-how’ accumulated from study or on the job experience, most Project Managers are ‘hit the ground running’, 'plug and play' types.

The problem is all that ‘know-how’ is wasted if it doesn't come with an equal measure of ‘know-why’.

I was surprised by the survey - most of the Project Managers I work with either know the business case behind their projects or at least they know that the two should be aligned. The PMs I work with are mostly UK based, the ones surveyed by Changepoint were in the US - so maybe it's an epidemic that’s just affecting the States!

I suppose, before we all panic, some balanced perspective is needed.

The more cynical reader may raise a sceptical eyebrow at a project management solutions company publishing a survey suggesting that more project management solutions are needed. Fair enough, I guess, but when a firefighter shows up and tells you to evacuate the building because there's a fire you listen up and get out. Our ears should be similarly attentive to this warning.

Those that measure survey robustness in the thousands, not hundreds questioned, may point to the 200 here as not proportionately representative - indeed, 17% of 200 is just 34 out of an estimated 6.5 million Project Managers in the world. Remember, though, these were senior PMs who were attending Gartner events - that suggests a level of considerable experience to me. It also suggests a level of the project size these PMs will be managing - when you are a senior Project Manager, who attends events organised by Gartner, you’ll be managing projects that will be expected to deliver significant business value.

If the survey results are representative of the industry, 17% would mean that something like 1.1 million Project Managers believe that their execution is not geared up to do that.

I think I would have liked to know whether this 17% were bothered by the lack of alignment or not because what I see happening is a split in the profession.

You can call them ‘the KNOW-HOWS’ and ‘the KNOW-WHYS’.

So, on the one hand, there are the KNOW-HOWS. Totally capable Project Managers who get the job done but who believe that it is the responsibility of others, like CIOs or project sponsors and owners, to align IT Projects with their business objectives before they are commissioned to manage them. They are adept at delivering based on a blueprint that they are given but their wider influence within their organisation is limited.

Then there are KNOW-WHYS. Project Managers who want to be involved with drafting the blueprint as partners with CIOs and project sponsors. They want to understand the business case for any project they undertake and they see the alignment of strategy and project as a key metric of success. If this group were confident that there was no alignment between the two they would question the value of the project in its current form and suggest solutions to bring about alignment.

As a cheerleader for the Project Management profession, I hope that Changepoint stumbled across 34 PMs who fell into the first category. There is room for both, for now. Ultimately, though, I believe that IT Project Managers will have to take a lead in the process of strategy development or at least strategy alignment.

To do this the business strategy must be clearly defined and communicated.

It can help for IT Project Managers to have actual hands on experience of the end user environment. In an interview with CIO.com, Tracey Scotter (Sheffield Teaching Hospitals IT Director) explained how they are achieving alignment of IT with their organisational mission by doing this, “We have about 70 technicians participating in a "back to the floor" exercise. They work on the ward for at least one day each year so they can see the challenges our other departments face. It's important for our IT technicians to understand how vital their services are, what it actually means for a clinician when a printer or PC goes down. Unless you've experienced that, you really don't know.” Powerful knowledge can be garnered in this way.

It can also really help to get an external perspective on where IT delivery and business objectives are not sharing a common journey path. Project Management Assessment can help refocus or redesign your project management capabilities.

Aligning IT with business strategy is not a new concept but a quick internet search throws back millions of results on the pitfalls of not leveraging IT to achieve business objectives – I believe it’s the quickest way to guarantee to fail to provide an effective return on your investment.

Increasingly organisations are using IT to fortify their business strategy and the Project Manager is playing an ever more pivotal role – to do this well – we must all become ‘KNOW-WHYS’.

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed's Project Management as a Service can give you access to project management staff, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost via a fully structured managed service.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed


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