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What next for project management in the 'Age of Austerity?'

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Sounding like something from Victorian times, we are firmly in an Age of Austerity. The culling of projects has started and long term plans are being torn up and re-written, there is uncertainty everywhere.

Within the white hot press room at Project and in the echoing corridors of APM, weve been considering the issues surrounding the impact of the recession on the profession.

This is change management, which is project management by any other name and these extreme circumstances place project professionals centre stage, whether defining which projects and programmes to cull, implementing the cuts required, or maximising the effective implementation of those projects which remain to be delivered.

Going forward, the challenge will be to manage projects more effectively, both operationally and strategically. At an operational level, this is about developing a profession that is recognised for its ability to deliver benefits from their projects. Its about developing skills that the business values, challenging current practices and delivering to a trusted ethical code. We call the new professionalism the APM Five Dimensions of Professionalism.

Strategically, its about ensuring your project portfolio is optimised to gain the most benefits. Cutting the right projects, starting the ones which will deliver the most benefit against finite resources and ensuring that every project to which the organisation commits does indeed succeed.

Our recent portfolio management conference tackled this very theme and the new Specific Interest Group that was proposed will develop it further. A discussion has started on this site and the APM Project Management Conference in October will investigate these principles by recognising that projects and programmes must work both within the business and the public at large. It will mean challenging what we do and how we do it. If project management is to become a strategic issue, then delivering to someone elses pre-defined (ill-defined?) scope might appear a limited ambition. We must affect change, and deliver benefits that people value.

An age of austerity suggests that after a fallow period we will return to our previous ways. In fact, were looking for a new sustainable way of working. Going forward, those who will thrive are those able to change and innovate. The skills of the project manager will increase in relevance and value as this idea matures.


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