Is It Time To Treat Project Management As A Service?

Project Management As A Service

Who’d be a Project Manager? Well – it seems fewer and fewer people – even those who have trained for years and are frankly very good at it. A report from Arras People shines a very interesting light on the post-recession state of the UK Project Management market, suggesting that as organisations begin to grow again there may be a shortfall of Project Management talent to oversee IT initiatives.

Before we crunch the numbers from the study, anecdotally, I’m regularly hearing of Project Managers setting out on new career courses and the reasons they cite range from lack of job satisfaction to poor remuneration to insufficient appreciation. Many have left positions within companies and become freelance, often returning to the same companies to do the same jobs, but many have taken their transferable skills and, well, transferred them elsewhere.

The numbers from the Arras People survey back up the water-cooler chatter.

  • Just over a quarter (28%) of project managers surveyed said they were happy in their current jobs, which pretty much is explained by the fact that only a quarter of Project Managers in the private sector have had an above inflation pay rise this year.
  • 75% of a highly trained, highly efficient, commercially crucial workforce struggling to make ends meet against a backdrop of increased cost of living expenses is not a blue print for contentment.

Hardly a surprise then that almost seven out of ten Project Managers (67%) were actively looking for a new job. Businesses must address this, either by increasing remuneration packages offered to Project Managers, or by being more creative about how such roles are filled within their organisations. Despite increased confidence business leaders seem reluctant to pay more, so more project managers will transfer their talent and the pool from which employers will try to replace them will be ever decreasingly well-stocked.

Part of the problem for Project Managers is that your talent – and the very real difference that you make – doesn’t show up too clearly on a P&L sheet, until you don’t do your job right and a project spirals out of control, delivers late and way over budget – then you get noticed.

No, while you’re quietly, efficiently and characteristically managing a million tasks, pulling together systems and sub-contractors to deliver the project on-time, you have become … well kind of invisible. And that’s not to be too disparaging to the accountants, Finance Directors and business leaders either – since 2008 they have had enough on their plate just keeping their businesses ticking over, without having to worry about the egos of project managers.

The amount of time in-house Project Managers can spend on the bench during down-time between projects does not seem to be helping with the case for more money either, I’ve heard this a handful of times and it’s both understandable and remarkably unfair. On the one hand … of course it grates that you’re paying someone for apparently twiddling their thumbs, but thinking like this pays little respect to the talent and experience that facilitated the thumb twiddling by delivering the last project on time.

BUT … the gap between where both financial reward and emotional appreciation for Project Managers should be, and where they are is widening and the consequences are as inevitable as they are self-propagating.

According to the Arras People survey over half (54%) of businesses looking to recruit project managers said they’d found it difficult (or very difficult) to hire someone … but with nearly 7 out of 10 Project Managers looking for a new job – how can that be? The words barrel and fish spring to mind. The maths don’t match up and they’re going to do so less and less. It’s time to think outside the barrel.

As business confidence continues to grow – but Project Managers fail to command salaries that they feel they deserve, organisations will increasingly have to consider project management as a service they “buy in” like any other and in doing so may have stumbled upon the solution to everyone’s sleepless nights. Project Managers are finding that by taking work from multiple sources their pay expectations are being met by replacing the traditional between project “down time” with projects!! And businesses are enjoying having project management on tap at a fraction of the cost.

These new working agreements go beyond a simple freelancer/contractor arrangement and involve an experienced third party to negotiate win/win deals for all stakeholders. Quickly the gap between expectation and reality is being bridged. The creative, forward thinking organisations and Project Managers alike are finally both getting what they want out of the package. Harmony prevails…

andrew buxton

Andrew Buxton is Business Development Director and also a co-founder of Stoneseed. He has more than 20 years' IT industry experience, working with medium and large organisations designing Intelligent IT sourcing models. Andrew works directly with CIOs to help them address critical IT needs, creating business framework models for change to balance the delivery of key IT services with on-going budget challenges.