Project management is growing up

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Posted by APM on 29th Oct 2010

For those who despair that project management never seems to get any better, this years APM Conference provided a ray of hope.  Whereas a few years ago the focus of the event would have been entirely on the details of project management, over the last few years the emphasis has changed to programme management, benefits delivery and portfolio management.  At this years conference, held in central London on October 21st, there was a whole stream on the subject of portfolio management, chaired by the APM Programme Management SIG's former chairman, Paul Rayner.

All five speakers in the stream had a different approach, but there was a high degree of consistency.  A key questions was How do you get senior management to accept the discipline that portfolio management imposes?  The conclusion was that project management offices / portfolio managers need to communicate the vision, sell the benefits, manage all stakeholders and never give up.  Louise Woodford of the Ministry of Justice in particular explained how difficult and time consuming it all was. 

The level of agreement amongst the speakers suggests that that the principles of portfolio management are clear, but that putting them into practice is difficult and is all about managing people rather than about tools or technology.

The stream was made particularly relevant by the conferences keynote address, given by Sir Peter Gershon, who is currently advising the UK Government.  He explained that The public will have a reduced tolerance for public sector project failure.  He issued a call to arms that emphasised the need for many aspects of programme management: "This is an opportunity.  We have a professional obligation to the public.  We must insist on better practice and better tools, and if we see models of failure they should be flagged up.  We should insist on strong governance.  There is an opportunity for the profession to become synonymous with project success."

The stream picked up this point by explaining that, whilst investing in better project management might improve delivery performance to save perhaps 10% of project costs, only programme and portfolio management could enable savings of the 30% demanded by the governments spending review without serious loss of capability/business performance.

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