The flagship Salary and Market Trends Survey from APM provides a valuable insight into the project profession, from those working within it. It gives the most detailed picture yet of the state of the project profession prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research was commissioned by APM and carried out by YouGov during November 2019. Much has changed since then, which goes to the heart of project management. To be a project practitioner is to be charged with delivering change or helping others to adapt.
It’s through the power of projects that the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic will be won. In the UK we’ve already seen projects undertaken to ramp up supermarket capacity, manufacture vital medical equipment and recruit thousands of volunteers into the NHS.
While the unprecedented pace and scale of change seen since the start of the coronavirus outbreak may be beyond anything we have experienced in our careers, the project profession has the adaptability and – critically – the resilience to weather this storm. Sadly, despite the vital role project management is playing in the current environment, the profession will not be immune to the economic impacts of this outbreak.
How much of a hit there will be to jobs, budgets and the pipeline of talent coming into the profession remains to be seen. But as the saying goes, you can only know where you’re going if you know where you’ve been. Here are some things we learned about the profession before the outbreak:
One-fifth of survey respondents have been working in project management for two years or less – and 72 per cent of this group are under the age of 34, suggesting a significant proportion are just beginning their careers.
Younger project managers (aged 18–24) are also more likely to say that economic and social benefits are the most important way a project can show its positive impact on society. Older generations pointed to a project’s ability to demonstrate greater strategic importance to organisations as a more important metric.
What matters to project managers?
The survey shows that developing the workforce and climate concerns are considered the greatest challenges for the profession to overcome. The new situation has inevitably shifted this concern or at least added to it; the impact of the coronavirus on the project profession has brought uncertainty.
On future skills, 37 per cent say people management and stakeholder engagement are the most important, while 31 per cent say project leadership skills.
The profession needs to become more inclusive, too. Over a quarter (28 per cent) of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) respondents say their ethnicity has had a negative impact on their professional development. This group is also less likely to consider the profession to be diverse than white respondents.
So how can we boost our diversity and inclusivity? Mentoring was identified as the most popular solution, although BAME respondents are more likely to point to diversity-related networks and revised recruitment policies.
Automation: a good thing
Automation will impact the sector positively, say most respondents. Only five per cent foresee a negative impact (69 per cent positive). One-third currently use automation to some or a large extent. However, automation is having a smaller impact than data analytics, which three-fifths of respondents use to some or a large extent. Far fewer use AI (16 per cent) or robotics (15 per cent).
Almost two-thirds of respondents think automation will be a growing reality in the next five years. IT workers expect the most change: 81 per cent in this sector expect automation to be introduced. Londoners (68 per cent) and those outside the UK (78 per cent) are most likely to be expecting automation.
So what material differences will automation bring? The biggest change is expected to be an increase in productivity (43 per cent of respondents). Close behind are automation allowing workers to focus on different types of work (42 per cent); and managing automation systems becoming a regular part of the project professional’s job (41 per cent).
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way professionals work and manage their projects and teams, automation and technology are becoming more important than before. Have you seen a growth in the use of AI?