Plan of action: Project Management Institute president and CEO Mark Langley outlines current opportunities for industry professionals
As project management’s role in business development grows, project managers are increasingly assuming strategic positions. We talk to Mark Langley, president and CEO of the Project Management Institute (PMI), about the industry prospects and skills needed to succeed at the top.
What factors are driving the evolution of the project management profession globally?
Technology, economic uncertainty, globalisation and other competitive market forces are shaping the profession not only in terms of demand but and the nature of the profession itself. Organisational change happens through projects and programmes; the pace and scope of change underscore the need for excellence in project management.
Globally, we are seeing a growing recognition of not only the need for project management, but an increased appreciation of its value.
The numbers speak for themselves: Our most recent research, from our just released report, 2016 Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance, reveals that organisations that invest in project management waste 13 times less money. Considering that an average of $US122 million per $US1billion spent on projects is wasted, the financial impact is enormous.
What factors are playing the biggest role in China and Hong Kong?
In China, the main drivers are the transition from an economy based on investment and manufacturing to one based on consumption and services, and the continued investment in major infrastructure projects. Other drivers include urbanisation, a growing middle class with enormous buying power, and the more emphasis on higher education. The number of college graduates surged to 7.5 million in 2012 from just from 1 million in 1998.
Also, the internet is a relatively recent phenomenon in China, changing the way people work and spend their leisure time.
All of these factors contribute to tremendous economic and societal changes in China, which ultimately translate into the need for projects – and those who can manage them.
Hong Kong’s history as an international finance centre, its position as an open port of China, and its importance in supporting the government’s policies and projects make it fertile ground for the growth of project management as a critical business capability.
It’s important to remember that we see large, complex projects go over budget and past deadline all over the world. So while Hong Kong and China are unique in many ways, in other respects their projects are no different than those in other markets.
What industries are showing the greatest demand for project managers, both globally and in Hong Kong/China?
We’re seeing demand from every sector; those that stand out in China and Hong Kong include engineering, procurement and construction, IT, and financial services.
How does having a permanent project management role in an organisation compare to being a contractor? Are there any trends toward permanent or contract roles?
Every organisation has to find its ideal balance between having project managers on staff and project managers who serve as contractors. What’s most important from a professional-development standpoint is working in an organisation that understands the link between projects and strategy and has a culture that supports project management. That includes emphasising communication, knowledge transfer, and recognising the need for executive sponsors who can help ensure project success.
Project managers who work as contract employees can gain valuable professional experience, and a broad perspective on both different industries and the methodologies around project management. Working as a contractor can also be an effective way to build a strong professional network.
Those who are permanent employees can deepen their knowledge of individual organisations and industries. If project managers are drawn to a particular industry and want their career to progress accordingly, being a permanent employee often allows them to leverage professional-development opportunities within their organisation or industry.
It’s not uncommon for project managers to serve in both capacities throughout the course of their careers. The flexibility of project management is one of the things that draws people to the profession. Regardless of which path project managers pursue or where they find themselves at a point in their career, they are consistently able to network and participate in professional development opportunities through professional associations like PMI.
Is it common to see project managers progress later to C-suite roles?
Industries such as engineering, IT and construction have traditionally offered the chance for project managers to move into executive roles. In particular, portfolio management – overseeing the suite of projects and programmes within an organisation – is a well-known career path for project managers.
Portfolio management is typically done in project management offices (PMOs). These provide a centralised approach for monitoring and refining the processes, methods and technologies used by the entire organisation to analyse and collectively manage projects and programmes for optimal delivery. Done correctly, portfolio management reduces risk, drives ROI and helps to consistently deliver business value.
A PMO can only be successful if the right people are in place and if they are empowered and supported by senior leadership. The ideal team will be composed of people who have not only technical skills but also business acumen and leadership ability. This combination will allow project managers to take the next step in their careers and to contribute to their organisations on both a tactical and strategic level.
As project management’s value to an organisation’s ability to implement strategy becomes more apparent, project managers are increasingly serving in more high-profile and strategic roles and will be even better positioned to do so going forward.
What sort of salary can a project portfolio manager expect?
PMI’s “Earning Power–Project Management Salary Survey” published last year found project managers working in project portfolio management for six years or more earn the highest mean annual salary (HK$763,751) among Hong Kong project managers.
What separates a great project manager from an average one? What are the most important qualifications and work experience that hirers of project managers look for?
While technical skills are core to project and programme management, PMI research tells us technical skills alone are not enough. Companies are seeking people who also have leadership ability and business intelligence. We call this combination of technical, leadership and business skills the “PMI Talent Triangle”.
An increasing number of organisations are also expressing a preference for project managers who hold professional certifications, including PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP). In fact, PMP is the most important industry-recognised certification for project managers, so it’s not surprising that you’ll find PMPs leading projects in nearly every country. Unlike other certifications that focus on a particular geography or domain, a PMP allows project managers to work in virtually any industry, with any methodology, and in any location.
The PMP also increases your earning potential. On average, PMP certification holders earn 20 per cent more than their non-certified peers.
It’s an exciting time in the project management field, from the perspective not only of earning power but the ability to influence an organisation’s strategic course.
An organisation’s future lies not only in its portfolio of projects, but also in the hands of those who bring those projects – and the future – to life.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Projecting success.