The need for professional project management highlighted by National Audit Office report.

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Dayner Proudfoot is PR and Marketing Manager at the Association for Project Management (APM), the largest professional body of its kind in Europe. Dayner has over 8 years of marketing experience and is responsible for the external communications of APM.

The National Audit Office has identified skills shortages in central government as a major source of project failure. It identified that one quarter of programme and project management roles are held by people who are not specialists in these areas.  The report highlights the need for professionalism in project management because ineffective skills development can have an adverse impact on the performance of public sector programmes and projects. Previous NAO work has concluded that skills gaps in key areas such as commercial and project/programme management have delayed progress in important public programmes in the housing, health and defence sectors, therefore having a significant impact on government’s ability to meet its objectives and provide value for money.

By stressing the importance of effective project and programme management skills to the delivery of government objectives for the public benefit, the report provides valuable context to the work undertaken by the Association for Project Management (APM) in raising the bar of project management professionalism.

To address the key issue of skills shortages identified by the report, APM offers a range of qualifications that develop project professionals throughout their career. The report suggests that this has become more important than ever as 54% of senior staff across government identified ‘very’ or ‘fairly significant’ skills gaps in programme and project management. One way of plugging this skills gap is with the APMP qualification, which has a route created especially for Prince2 Registered Practitioners as it recognises their prior learning, therefore providing a cost-effective and time-efficient route to professional development.

The report records the significant efforts to professionalise the Civil Service in recent years, but notes that standards associated with particular professions are not always reflected in recruitment to posts. For areas of business where depth of experience is critical to capability the NAO urges departments to take greater control of recruitment to ensure business needs are met by using professional standards to inform decisions on appointments and promotions to key posts.

APM has played a valuable role in providing a solution to this issue through the government-wide Competence Assessment Tool, which is drawn from the APM Competence Framework. The report specifically commends The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for using this tool in the selection process for programme and project management roles as they found that just over half of programme managers assessed did not have the skills appropriate to their current role. The report also commends APM corporate member Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for recently establishing the requirement for the relevant head of profession to approve any new appointments to posts involving a significant element of programme or project management.

In a further significant contribution to the professionalism agenda, in March 2011 APM introduced the professional “gold standard” to the project management community with the launch of APM Registered Project Professional (RPP). This competence-based professional standard provides departments with a robust assessment of project professionals’ ability to demonstrate the capabilities of a responsible leader, to manage a complex project and use appropriate tools, processes and techniques.

Andrew Bragg, APM chief executive, believes the NAO report “highlights the importance of effective project and programme management to the successful delivery of government objectives.”

He added: “It validates APM’s approach to professionalising project management. We are proud to be already providing solutions to many of the issues identified, whether through the APM Competence Framework which facilitates recruitment, promotion and inter-departmental skills transfer; APM’s progressive range of qualifications; or the recent launch of APM Registered Project Professional, establishing the ‘gold standard’ for project professionals. We also congratulate those departments singled out for good practice, including Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which was recently awarded APM Corporate Accreditation for its active engagement with the APM 5 Dimensions of Professionalism.”

Download the full report from the NAO website.

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