Weeknote 5/2014

Bit late this week, mainly because I was celebrating a distinction in MSc Project Management :-)

MSc with Distinction

Eating lots of ribs,…

Chilli glazed ribs



and generally just recovering.


Thank you to everyone over the years for your insights, support, friendship and just downright brilliance :-)


Draft dissertation

Well, I think I’m pretty much there with my dissertation. Once its submitted I’ll add it to figshare but for now you can access it here – just in case there’s any last minute changes.


From my acknowledgements…

Last but certainly not least I’d like to thank my Wife. During the course of my MSc we had our first child, and we also lost a child during my final year. We’ve had some fantastic highs but it is the support and comfort through my darkest moments that have helped me see this through. I guess that is just life but I seriously could not wish for one better thanks to her.

I’m not wholly satisfied with what I’ve produced but given the circumstances I could not be happier :)


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.


Avg. organisational responses

Avg. individual responses

1 Achievement of strategic objectives



2 To support organisational change



3 Ensuring continuity of your organisation



4 To introduce new products and services



5 Legislative/compliance drivers



6 Implementing government policy



7 To develop information technology



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


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).

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.

UK Higher Education: Project Management Maturity Survey

Impressive skill, and perseverance in the face of the uncompromising tide. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 brianhonohan)

Impressive skill, and perseverance in the face of the uncompromising tide. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 brianhonohan)

The ability to balance day-to-day activities and continually innovate is one of the biggest challenges faced by any organisation. It affects private companies, charities and public organisations, whether they are small, medium or large. It even affects smaller groups within those organisations such as departments, services, schools and faculties. Project Management is an effective way of managing that balance and delivering organisational change.

“Project management is an activity designed to make changes in a change-resistant world.” (Parry, 2013, p.34)

However, does the maturity of your organisation’s Project Management practices affect its overall performance? Literature on this topic is scant, especially within UK Higher Education. I’m hoping, with support from Jisc infoNet and UCISA, to start the conversation and build on previous work carried out by Liverpool John Moores University – Improving HEI Productivity and Performance through Project Management (Bryde and Leighton, 2009).

To do this I need your help! If you were working within a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) during the Academic Year 2012 – 2013 and you were involved in a project during that time I’d be extremely grateful if you could spend 10 minutes of your time completing the following questionnaire.

Take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/uk-he-pm #ukhepm

Please forward this onto any of your colleagues that you think might be interested too. If you use twitter, and would like to mention it I’d be grateful if you could tag your tweet with #ukhepm. The closing date is: Midnight, Friday 14th February.

I’m aiming, with help from the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG), to try and gather a Project Management maturity score for as many UK HEIs as I can, from as many people working within those organisations as is possible. Personal data is kept to a minimum – used only to show you have agreed to take part, and to notify you of the findings where permitted. Organisational data will be anonymised. I’ll publish preliminary findings on this blog and will make my dissertation available once complete. I’ll also share updates via twitter (@andystew) and via the UCISA PCMG mailing list. On completion of the study I’m also happy to provide individual organisations with their own data upon request.


Bryde, D. and Leighton, D. (2009) ‘Improving HEI Productivity and Performance through Project Management’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 37 (5), pp. 705-721.

Parry, K. (2013) ‘Empowering Teams’, Project, pp. 34-35. August.