THE GOLDEN THREAD
PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN THREE SECTORS
This report - the third in the Golden Thread series - is published at a time where many of the certainties in place when this research was conducted no longer exist. At the time of writing, the coronavirus looks like it will have a long tail of implications.
APM's The Golden Thread research sought to identify the size and contribution of projects and project management to the UK economy and society. Following highly positive feedback and numerous requests for further information particularly for regional and sectorial detail, APM commissioned PwC Research to undertake a second phase to build on the original study.
Our attention turns to some of the sectors where project management skills are increasingly being utilised to run projects more effectively, efficiently and professionally.
This research focuses on three growth areas for project management, which APM believes deserve specific attention as sectors where the contribution of project management has been overlooked or lacks specific data or attention.
These sectors are healthcare and pharmaceuticals/life sciences, the charity sector, and the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector as a whole. Our research concludes that project management is offering these sectors significant benefits and opportunities, which have the potential to result in improved professionalism and better project delivery.
Each sector covered in this research has its own opportunities and challenges, but we have identified some common overarching themes.
Adapting project management approaches to sector needs
The sectors included in this report are growth areas for project management not only because of their increasing uptake of project management methodologies, but also because of the ways in which project professionals in these sectors are adapting project management approaches and processes to fit sector needs. For charities and life science organisations, project management facilitates funding and grant applications to evidence that the organisation has a structured approach underlying their work and planning. Project professionals in the charity sector are also using techniques like impact assessments to help them to precisely measure the impact their work is having, and to determine where further attention is needed. SME project professionals stated that processes like risk management can be easily incorporated into their business as usual and offer great benefits to their ways of working.
Uncertainty remains an ongoing challenge across sectors. Compared to the general picture gained from organisations and businesses surveyed for APM and PwC’s original Golden Thread report, charities appear to have a more pessimistic outlook on the number of projects that may be commissioned in coming years. This may be either a response to developments since our original research or a particularity of the sector, as our interviews with charity sector experts illuminated how political and economic uncertainty has a knock-on effect on availability of the government funding, grants and fundraising that charities rely upon for project work.
Project professionals and sector experts in SMEs and pharmaceuticals/ life sciences and health also highlighted uncertainty as a major challenge. For SMEs, smaller revenues and workforces can leave them vulnerable to sudden shifts in the economic and political climate, without the buffer of multiple revenue streams and large numbers of staff. For companies and organisations in the pharmaceuticals/life sciences and health sector, changes to policy and regulations can have a major effect on work, resulting in delayed and even cancelled project work.
Professionalising project management
There is recognition that although project management is already creating benefits and opportunities, there is scope for further professionalisation that would enable organisations to build on this progress. Research respondents reported that project management can be mislabelled as either a ‘side of desk’ activity or as excessively bureaucratic by those unfamiliar with project management methods. However, project professionals reported that experiencing the benefits of good project management has led to a lot of positivity across their sectors. Further professionalisation was perceived as a key means of separating the amateur from the professional and enabling them to create greater awareness within their sectors.