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Essential toolkit for project professionals

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APM Competence FrameworkThe award-winning Association for Project Management’s new, refreshed competence framework allows individuals and organisations to identify their training, development and qualification needs more accurately than ever.

British business might be thriving, but the economic picture isn’t entirely rosy. Employers and commentators have expressed concerns about a lack of skills among employees.

According to CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall: “Firms are facing a skills emergency, while this year’s CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, which is based on 310 firms employing 1.2 million people in the UK, revealed more than two thirds of companies are expected to need more high-skilled staff. The recent debate over productivity has only served to highlight the importance of skills and training.” 

It’s to address the challenge of continually upskilling project managers in particular that in June the Association for Project Management (APM) launched an updated version of its competence framework, part of APM’s FIVE Dimensions of Professionalism

This new toolkit provides APM’s view of the competences needed to develop their career, to meet new challenges and be an effective project professional.

“The first version was published in 2008 and we received great feedback, but the role of the project manager has developed enormously over the last seven years and so we’ve used the feedback we received to update it,” says Gill Hancock, head of professional standards and knowledge at APM.

This second edition of the APM Competence Framework broadens the scope of the first by enabling project managers to take a more strategic, broad-based approach so they can meet larger-scale objectives. It now includes 27 competences covering project management, programme management, portfolio management and project management office (PMO).

Because not all competences will be relevant to every professional, APM has created a series of role profiles to illustrate the competences that each would typically require. “We didn’t want to be prescriptive,” says Ms Hancock. “Project managers know their own businesses and we want to give them some suggestions rather than requirements.”

Among the many competences aimed at various levels of seniority, there are those that a programme manager operating at advanced level, for example, is likely to be responsible for applying independently in complex situations and may also supervise others applying them too.

These competences might include “promoting the wider public good in all actions, acting in a morally, legally and socially appropriate manner in dealings with all stakeholders and members of programme teams and the organisation”. In less complex situations, he or she is likely to be responsible for “selecting, developing and managing teams”, among other competences.

For project professionals the framework provides a benchmarking toolkit, mapping levels of knowledge and experience to help ambitious professionals to progress their skills and abilities. According to the APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2015, professional qualifications provide a significant advantage – 44 per cent of those with qualifications earned up to £60,000 compared with 34 per cent without qualifications earning up to £40,000.

“It’s a valuable tool for assessing current knowledge and experience, helping them to identify their training, development and qualification needs,” says Ms Hancock. 

“This is the first time we’ve been able to provide a benchmarking tool so that project management professionals can identify their strengths and development needs to support their career progression, ensuring they’ll be better prepared for their next move.”

As well as identifying the career route or qualifications that are best for them, these performance indicators act as a resource for those within the profession to use over a number of years in order to measure the change in their performance and experience. 

“The fact that it’s been tried and tested by experienced professionals means project managers can have trust in its rigour and its scope,” explains Ms Hancock.

“Anyone referring to it can have confidence that it’s based on cutting-edge thinking with input from industry experts – it’s been created by professionals for professionals.”

This new industry benchmark benefits organisations too by enabling them to assess the current skills-base of their employees, and to plan for organisational development and staff training. Such assessment needs to be carried out on an organisation-wide basis and so the new APM Competence Framework enables business leaders to consider skills and capacity across functions, and throughout the hierarchy.

“Flexibility has been key this time,” says Ms Hancock. “The new framework can easily be adapted and integrated into existing competence frameworks. Measurability is also essential and so we’ve included clearly defined competences with outcome-focused performance indicators that can be easily measured.” 

This means organisations can establish, embed and measure the effectiveness of the project management skills across their workforce.

This benchmarking applies to project management, programme management, portfolio management and PMO competences, across an organisation, and facilitates movement between these disciplines. 

Ms Hancock concludes: “This new framework offers individuals and organisations working within the project management sector the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art framework and benchmarking system created by professionals so they can identify where they need to go – and what they need to get there.”

Find out more about APM Competence Framework



As originally seen in ‘Project Management' published by Raconteur Media on Sunday 2nd August 2015 in The Sunday Times.


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