UK Higher Education Project Management – preliminary findings #1

Note: I’ve pulled this together quite quickly, I’ll continue to update it as I go…

Well, the results are in and I’m overwhelmed with the response. Thank you to everyone for your support, in particular the team at Jisc infoNet and Mark Ritchie (UCISA PCMG). I had 149 responses in total, however, a number of them were incomplete and I’d made a bit of a mistake with the design of the survey – I’ll cover that in another post. Once I’d cleaned the data I was left with 114 usable responses from across 58 UK HEIs. I also had one return from a University in Ireland but that was outside the scope of my project.

I haven’t really had a chance to investigate the data thoroughly and the more interesting analysis is to follow but I wanted to share what I had so far as a thank you to everyone that took part.

The HE Project Management landscape

Not a great deal to say about the types of project experienced by respondees. I was interested to see that the majority of projects spanned departments/services, with the exception of estates. I was also slightly surprised to see Business and Community Engagement projects appearing so high – perhaps partly down to my communication channels but also the increasing recognition of it perhaps?

Type of project

The majority of respondees had experienced senior roles with regards to the projects they had been involved with. It might have been interesting to ask if project management was new to them or if they had previous experience of managing projects. I think I might have missed a trick in some respects as I was after information from what I’d class as accidental project managers, which is where I feel a lot of institutional work is carried out. One respondee listed ‘Client’ under the option of other which I though was very interesting. If I was to run the survey again I think that might be a very interesting option to include.

PM roles

PRINCE2 was by far and away the project management methodology most experienced by respondees. Almost twice as much as the next closest – ‘Other’ which many of the respondees listed a light-touch version of PRINCE2. Given the survey focuses on the Academic Year 2012-2013 this is perhaps to be expected. It would be interesting to compare this with current experiences and whether Agile and the APM BoK have gained any traction.

PM methodology

‘Achievement of strategic objectives’ was the key driver for undertaking projects, which is great to see :-)

I was surprised to see ‘Legislative/compliance drivers’ so low. Many of the discussions I’ve seen around project prioritisation tend to focus on ‘Legislative/compliance drivers’. I almost wonder if this is representative of a the desired state as opposed to what really gets through on the ground.

Interesting to note that the average individual responses received placed ‘To introduce new products and services’ above ‘Ensuring continuity of your organisation’. Worth noting – the lower the score the more important the driver.


Avg. organisational responses

Avg. Individual responses

Achievement of strategic objectives



To support organisational change



Ensuring continuity of your organisation



To introduce new products and services



Legislative/compliance drivers



Implementing government policy



To develop information technology



Project Management Maturity

The maturity model I’ve developed focuses more upon critical success factors associated with the management of projects within the UK higher education sector. I needed to keep it relatively simple to ensure a decent enough response and so I split it into five key components:

  1. Making sense of the project context
  2. Defining the project
  3. Designing the project
  4. Doing the project
  5. Developing the project

Each component comprised 5 key statements which were scored between -10 and 10. An organisation could therefore score between -50 and 50 in each area. The following graph provides an overview of the scores for responses by organisation and individual responses. ‘Developing the project’ was by far the weakest area with an overall score of -5.18 by organisation. This area is concerned with embedding the project outputs, benefits realisation, strategic/project reviews, and lessons learned. In my experience it is the area most people have difficulties with, however I also believe it to be inextricably linked with our ability to define projects. This component, however, received the second highest overall score at 15.29 by organisation.

HE PM Maturity

The highest maturity score for an organisation was 45 and the lowest score was -29. The most returns I got for one institutions was 17; their average score was 5.7 with a high of 35 and a low of -25. The average maturity score for the sector was 9.3.

It will be interesting to dissect the data even further and to eventually assess the relationship maturity scores have with performance data available from other bodies. I have a feeling there’ll be very little evidence of a clear link. That said, I think this is partly down to my methodology and I see this work being the start of a conversation.