UK HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECT MANAGEMENT – PRELIMINARY FINDINGS #2

Note: I’m still not there with the full analysis of this but this is an up-to-date snapshot of the findings for each question…

This post provides a summary of the data received in the survey I recently posted with regards to the maturity of project management practices across UK Higher Education (during the academic year 2012-2013) by question. 114 usable individual responses were received covering 58 UK HEIs.

In which of the following areas have you had experience of leading/taking part in projects? (Tick all that apply)

  • Business and community engagement (BCE)
  • Learning and teaching (L&T)
  • Management/business change/Information Technology (Business)
  • Relocation/refurbishment/construction (Estates)
  • Research projects (Research)
  • Other

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.27.54

Which roles have you carried out in the projects you have been involved with? (Tick all that apply)

  • Project Board (oversight of the project; secures funding for the project)
  • Project Manager (runs the project on a day-to-day basis)
  • Team Manager (produces products as defined by the project manager)
  • Team Member (carries out tasks assigned by the team manager)
  • Project Assurance (covers the primary stakeholders’ interests – gives them confidence)
  • Change Authority (approves responses to requests for change)
  • Project Support (provides the project manager with ‘formal’ support)
  • Other (participants were asked to specify this)

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.28.07

Which project management methodologies have you used in the projects you’ve been involved with? (Tick all that apply)

  • Agile approaches e.g. adaptive software development, Kanban, Scrum.
  • Association for Project Management’s Body of Knowledge (APM BoK)
  • PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environment)
  • Project Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge (PMI BoK)
  • 4D (Define it, Design it, Do it, Develop it)
  • Respondents unaware of the methodology being used
  • Other (participants were asked to specify this)

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.28.18

What are the key drivers for project activity in your organisation? Please rank the drivers in order of their importance – 1 being the most important and 7 the least important.

Drivers

Avg. organisational responses

Avg. individual responses

1 Achievement of strategic objectives

1.54

1.68

2 To support organisational change

3.53

3.58

3 Ensuring continuity of your organisation

4.04

4.35

4 To introduce new products and services

4.12

4.10

5 Legislative/compliance drivers

4.37

4.19

6 Implementing government policy

4.94

4.85

7 To develop information technology

5.46

5.25

Project Management Maturity

The Project Management Maturity (PMM) model used in this study focused on five key components, broken down further into five key statements. The lists below highlight each component and their accompanying statements. Each statement was scored on a scale -10 through to 10.

  1. Making sense of the project context
    1. Projects I have taken part in relate directly to my organisation’s strategic aims.
    2. My organisation provides projects with relevant and effective senior management support (sponsorship).
    3. My organisation manages projects as part of a wider portfolio/programme.
    4. My organisation actively supports projects. For example, through a Programme Support Office.
    5. My organisation adopts a common project management methodology across its projects.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.49.19

  1. Defining the project
    1. Project teams baseline organisational context at the start of the project, which can be used to evaluate progress.
    2. Projects are tailored to suit the culture of the department/service that it affects.
    3. A defined set of roles and responsibilities are agreed upon for each project.
    4. Relevant stakeholders are consulted when defining the business case and project initiation document (or project charter) for each project.
    5. A project initiation document (or project charter) is created and signed-off by a member of senior management before a project is undertaken.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.49.34

  1. Designing the project
    1. A clear project plan is discussed and developed, showing the major products, activities and resources required for each project.
    2. A risk strategy is developed for each project; risks are identified and categorised appropriately. Risk responses are discussed and logged.
    3. The success criteria of each project is discussed and clearly defined.
    4. Project managers assess at the outset whether to acquire outside support, and if so, what to acquire, how to acquire it, how much is needed, and when to acquire it (procurement).
    5. Complex projects are managed in stages, and the plan is reviewed to ensure the outputs are still in line with the organisation’s strategic aims.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.49.42

  1. Doing the project
    1. Project managers within my institution have excellent leadership skills.
    2. Project managers consistently apply a project management methodology to their projects.
    3. Time (e.g. to complete specific task), cost (e.g. staff costs) and performance (e.g. customer satisfaction) data are regularly recorded and reported (monitoring).
    4. A project’s risks are regularly monitored, and the appropriate measures are taken where a change is required.
    5. Project managers regularly communicate with key stakeholders.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.49.55

  1. Developing the project
    1. Time and support is provided for a project’s outputs to become embedded within the organisation.
    2. My organisation has a clear benefits measurement and realisation process in place.
    3. My organisation regularly undertakes strategic reviews to track the benefits realised.
    4. A project completion and review exercise is undertaken for each project.
    5. The outcomes and lessons learned from the project are clearly communicated to staff from across the organisation.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.50.01

Average PMM Score

Organisations’ could therefore score between -50 and 50 for each component. The scores across each component were averaged out to give an organisation its maturity score. The highest maturity score for an organisation was 45 and the lowest score was -29. The most returns received for one institution 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. The graph below shows the average scores for each component by organisation and individual.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 19.58.13

 

Scores for ‘Making sense of the project context’ have probably been skewed. I think a major weakness of the survey was the inclusion of the statement ‘My organisation adopts a common project management methodology across its projects.’

There are mixed feelings when it comes to the application of a common methodological approach across an organisation. Many professional organisations advocate this type of approach and evidence suggests this to be a characteristic of high performing organisations (PMI, 2013, p.8; KPMG, 2013). Pennell (2013) disagreed with the idea of a common methodology being all that important, and had a good case having delivered what was arguably the most successful summer Olympics to date. A number of respondents to the UKHEPM survey also queried the importance of a common methodology.

“In a very large University like [institution] there are so many projects taking place that it would not make sense or be feasible to have things like a common project methodology. The absolutely key context is fitting with strategic aims and having senior management support.” (UKHEPM Survey, Respondent)

It is worth noting that Pennell and the survey respondents were not against PM methodologies, they just don’t agree with the need for a common methodology across the organisation.

Did your organisation have a Project/Programme Management Office (PMO) during the academic year August 2012 – July 2013?

  • Yes – 49
  • No – 42
  • Don’t know – 21
  • Skipped – 2

In the academic year August 2012 – July 2013 did you experience a failed project i.e. the project did not deliver the expected outputs and/or benefits were unrealised?

  • Yes – 47
  • No – 65
  • Skipped – 2

Does PMM have an impact on organisational performance?

It’s too early to tell. The reason I collected information relating to the academic year 2012-2013 was so that I could then compare it against performance metrics for that year. If I was to carry out a survey for the current academic year I wouldn’t be able to compare the data against anything. So far I’ve attempted to see if their is a correlation between Project Management Maturity (PMM) and data for the student experience but found nothing. I’m currently waiting for HESA to publish their Performance Indicator data so I can carry out further assessments.

There are weaknesses with my methodology and I think that this attempt might be more useful at refining the methodology as opposed to providing any concrete findings regarding the relationship between PMM and organisational performance. But more on that once I’ve completed my dissertation.

Identified weaknesses

Overall, excluding the application of a common PM methodology, the lowest scoring critical factors were:

  • Benefits measurement and realisation
  • Undertaking strategic reviews
  • Acting upon and sharing recommendations/lessons learned
  • Time and support provided for a project’s outputs to become embedded
  • Actively supporting projects, through a programme support office for example

References

KPMG (2013) Project Management Survey Report 2013. Available at: http://www.kpmg.com/NZ/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/KPMG-Project-Management-Survey-2013.pdf (Accessed: 16 October 2013).

Pennell, G. (2013) From the Olympics to higher education! [Presentation at UCISA CISG2013]. 20 November.

PMI (2013) PMI’s Pulse  of the Profession™: The High Cost of Low Performance. Available at: http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Business-Solutions/PMI-Pulse%20Report-2013Mar4.ashx (Accessed: 9 January 2014).

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