Challenge of Change – What it means to be a Project or Programme Manager these days

Allan Thomson - PPM Product Ambassador

Expected to deliver more with less, responsible for multiple change initiatives simultaneously, internal and external pressures – this is what the world of the project or programme manager(PPM) looks like these days.

But it’s not all bleak as there are also increasing opportunities out there.

AXELOS has recently published its latest PPM Benchmarking Report 2019 to offer insight into the world of project and programme managers and explore how they tackle the challenges they face as part of their work.

So, what are the major findings from our research?

First of all, project and programme management is increasingly important within a business context. Eight out of ten project managers say that PPM is becoming a more fundamental aspect of overall business success which can be seen as a good thing.

Unfortunately, this also means that project or programme manager professionals are expected to do more with less. While there has always been pressure for organizations to make the most of limited resources, the last two years has seen an increase. And this is not a surprise as businesses are affected by wider economic factors and disruption and have to deal with ongoing change.

However, this has also resulted in more and more challenges and greater expectations for project and programme managers, including delivering greater competitive advantage (according to 90% of respondents), more competitive business environment (89%), tighter budgets and timeframes (87%) as well as the expectation to deliver more projects over a shorter time frame (81%).

AI and GDPR – opportunity or threat?

While many see AI and automation as a threat, project managers don’t share these concerns. According to our research, significantly more project managers see automation and AI as opportunities rather than threats. And this makes perfect sense as these new technologies have the potential to save time and increase project efficiency – and thus make life for project managers easier.

Increasing compliance such as GDPR and cyber security, however, is seen as threats and something that rather slows down projects and programmes. They require that project and programme development resources are channelled into securing sensitive data activities. At the same time, PPM professionals have to adhere to regulatory standards. Obviously, these things cannot be ignored since the consequences for failing to protect personal data can be severe and highly damaging.

Communication is key

The biggest challenge for a project or programme manager is effective communication. Despite the fact that professionals these days have access to a whole range of technologies that could improve communications, many teams still struggle. Therefore, it might not be too surprising that soft skills, e.g. communication, leadership and negotiation, are seen as essential for the future success of projects.

Successful project and programme management

We also looked at what makes PPM teams successful and based on our findings there are four factors.

  • Delivering the basics and this includes monitoring and evaluating the processes that are in place, conducting project reviews and ensuring that lessons learned are identified and applied to future projects
  • The value of specialism despite a trend towards generalism within PPM teams. While some trends may be leading project managers towards generalism we shouldn’t ignore the value that comes with having specialist expertise within a PPM team
  • Ensuring agility and supporting agile ways of working within PPM teams. The primary barrier preventing more teams from adopting these is the lack of support and understanding from the wider organization
  • The role of senior management and representing PPM teams at senior management level.

Development of skills and knowledge

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is becoming more and more crucial in today’s world and this also applies to those working within PPM especially due to the increasingly demanding project and programme environments.

The good news is that 98% of project or programme managers we polled for our report agree that continually and actively investing in their professional development is important. And what’s even better is that a big reason for doing this is that PPM professionals have a genuine interest in their work.

But there are also other reasons for pursuing CPD such as increasing job performance, keeping pace with current standards and strengthening CVs.

The three most common ways PPM professionals invest in their CPD are attending training courses (79%), actively reading about new topics and trends (77%) and taking formal qualification and certification to demonstrate their development (75%).

To find out more about our key findings, the status of today’s PPM professionals as well as growing trends, download a free copy of the PPM Benchmarking Report 2019.

Author Bio:

Allan Thomson is a PRINCE2-qualified Project Manager with over 25 years of experience in project, programme management and PMO. Allan is particularly adept at the implementation of PRINCE2 into organizations, Microsoft Dynamics solutions, risk management, business implementation, new product development, business improvement, software implementation and change management.

Allan joined AXELOS in May 2014 and with his expertise supported the PRINCE2 update in 2017. As the global PPM Product Ambassador he is responsible for representing AXELOS’ PPM product suite at conferences and events.


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