The delivery of successful projects now represents some 21 percent of the U.S. economy, or a massive $3.78 trillion dollars. That key finding comes from the Global Benchmark Report recently produced by PRINCE2, the world's most-practiced method for project management.
With those projects ranging from IT service management to logistics infrastructure, from procurement systems to major construction works, that is good news. But the report — which coincides with a major update to PRINCE2 — reveals that both project managers and the decision makers around them can do still more to ensure project success.
Life for project leaders can be tough. The report found that, in the United States, 93 percent of project managers have faced substantial challenges in their work over the last 12 months.
Among these challenges were significant changes to the project brief (experienced by 60 percent of project leaders), overrun budgets (45 percent), an incomplete understanding of the risks involved (49 percent), a lack of a clearly-defined business justification (36 percent), and unrealistic timeframes (61 percent). When it came to resourcing projects with the right people, 49 percent faced difficulties, and respondents reported that only 12 percent of employers gave them budget for continued learning and training.
Why projects fail
Project leaders themselves, however, are also missing some major tricks. The global survey revealed that only 20 percent of them conduct regular end-of-project reviews. Even among that group, which adheres to good practice, project failure runs at 33 percent. Strikingly, the failure rate rises to 53 percent among project leaders who take a more casual approach and never or rarely conduct a review.
In other words, project failure could drop by more than a third if organizations learned from their experiences by rigorously reviewing each project. In the context of the $3.78 trillion project economy, good practice means big business.
PRINCE2 advocates robust monitoring and evaluation of projects, throughout and at the end of the project lifecycle — in fact, it dedicates a chapter of its guidance to "Ending Projects." And experience of every kind really does count: The survey found that project leaders with a mature, skilled and well-integrated project management unit were twice as likely to deliver a successful project as new project management teams (67 percent vs. 33 percent).
Technology continues to change the world, but people are still people and the core of successful project management remains the same: a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve; a consistent understanding of why it is worth achieving; precisely designated responsibilities and a sensitivity to the risks involved.
Improvements to PRINCE2
Over the years, the PRINCE2 method has been regularly updated in collaboration with project-management professionals from the widest possible range of sectors and cultures. A prime aim of the 2017 update is to increase rates of project success in today's fast-moving, sometimes unpredictable world of work.
Crucially, the updated method is sensitive to evolutions in business practice that have taken place over the last decade or so. In particular, this latest iteration of PRINCE2 highlights ways of tailoring PRINCE2 to the diverse needs of organizations and project environments — including those that favour an agile approach to project management.
In 2017, project leaders in every sector increasingly find that they are expected to do more with tighter resources, juggling multiple projects and meeting ever more challenging deadlines. Many of them find themselves under increasing pressure as they strive to meet ever-changing briefs and continually-rising client expectations.
In the global PRINCE2 survey, 76 percent of project leaders agreed that the business environment has become more competitive, 65 percent said they were expected to deliver more projects over a shorter timeframe, and 74 percent reported that budgets and timelines were tighter as stakeholders look for more value from projects (with 70 percent of stakeholders expecting projects to deliver greater competitive advantage).
Meanwhile, approximately half the respondents pointed out that profit margins have shrunk. Compounding all these pressures are those evolutions in business practices and technology, which have driven up stakeholders' expectations.
To rise to these demands, they need to adopt a flexible and scalable approach. The updated PRINCE2 is ideally configured to help them in tailoring their planning and gearing their actions to the specific requirements of the project in hand.
Making projects flexible
The update also places a special focus on the theme of change, and in particular change control and configuration management. We all appreciate that a project can change between its beginning and its end, but, in order to avoid arbitrary changes, you need to deal confidently and accountably with any uncertainties that arise along the way. At each point, you need to go back to the business justification and the ultimate requirement to produce value for your organisation.
Time and again we hear that the only constant in the modern world is change — and this is only too evident in the results of the Global Benchmark Report. Happily, the essential truths and practices of PRINCE2 are another constant: they remain as relevant as ever and PRINCE2's strength derives from decades of best practice in project management across diverse organizations and industries.
If PRINCE2 certification has long been a badge of honour for full-time project managers, it is now increasingly desirable for people from other specialist disciplines. In another recent survey, 88 percent of PRINCE2 practitioners said that the qualification had aided their career progression. Another instance of PRINCE2 ensuring project success!