Companies still

Successful project management has no room for ad hoc approaches, and takes the process of role defining very seriously, according to Mark Mullaly.

“Many organizations are fumbling with best-in-class processes and the fundamental principles of PM,” Mullaly said.

Mullaly, president of Edmonton-based Interthink Consulting Inc. made the comments last month during his presentation, Project Management Success: Trends, Best Practices and Next Steps , at the recent ProjectWorld Toronto 2003 conference in Toronto.

Most projects, Mullaly explained, bomb due to a failure to define the role and processes of project management within the structure of the enterprise. Organizations also approach risk management incorrectly – in fact, it has a direct correlation on the effectiveness of the process, Mullaly said. He added that a solid risk management process will always trump an ad hoc enterprise approach.

Not only do most project managers neglect to use a defined process for choosing projects, there is often a failure to mandate a consistent use of process, he added.

Mullaly ranks an organization’s project management maturity on a one-to-five ranking: Level 1 includes fully ad hoc environments; Level 2 encompasses those with basic processes in place; Level 3 is a consistent, defined and integrated PM process; Level 4 recognizes PM as a formal management discipline; and Level 5 exists only in a “fully mature project organization, with PM defining the overall management process,” he said.

Managers react

The concept of best practices is nothing new to PM – it appears to be the “flavour of the month,” according to ProjectWorld Toronto attendee Richard Fung. The former IT project manager, and now a PM consultant, noted that the hard part is applying these concepts and methodologies to the real world. In order to get the most value, the key challenge is to take the concepts gleaned from ProjectWorld and similar conferences straight to upper management and convince them of the value of PM.

“Project management methodology by itself does not ensure or increase the success of your organization,” Fung said. “They can reduce the failure rate but project management is really the application of management core competencies to execution of a project.”

A lot of people, Fung added, become project management-types without having the proper skills like communication, interpersonal skills, or the ability to organize and manage a project. A successful project hinges on a successful project manager, someone who is proactive, hard driving, aggressive and above all a good communicator, Fung said, adding that even now, in the face of best practices, 70 per cent of projects still fail.

“What’s important to remember is that the IT project is still a very small component of the entire business process,” Fung noted. “The IT project enhances the operational efficiency of the process…if the process itself is flawed, you are automating a flawed process.”

There is a connection between reducing the failure rate, and the act of applying these management core competencies. According to Gerry Brownlee in Ottawa, this generally all comes down to applying sound project management principles to the business process. Brownlee, director of project management for Webplan Corp., an Ottawa-based supply chain management solution provider for manufacturers, noted that above all, upper management isn’t really concerned about PM methodology – it’s all about business.

“True project managers are looking to be business people first, project managers second. You use the (PM) tools to get the job done, but you need to speak the business language,” Brownlee said.

The profession itself is grossly misunderstood, Fung said, adding that PM requires specific core management competencies that many senior managers don’t have.

“Project management is 90 per cent communication; you need to be a good communicator. You let the resources do the execution… most successful projects have good communication,” Fung said.