If you're new to project management, you might be surprised to learn that some projects -- maybe some of yours -- do not generate any actual profits.
That can make it difficult to demonstrate how talented you are as project manager and how great your project delivery team is. So, how can you show you've created value if you cannot show revenue or profits as a direct result of your project?
Look at ROI in a different light. Instead of using profits as a benchmark, consider intangible benefits, such as cost-savings that will result from the project, or a positive swing in public relations or team dynamics
My team and I were working on a project that involved automating a conference room. A user could walk into the room, push a single button and the automation would do the rest. The project didn't generate any profit, but the feedback from stakeholders was 100 percent positive: My team had created an environment that worked as advertised and made users' work lives easier and less frustrating. And that translated to a huge upswing in stakeholder influence.
When we needed buy-in on the next project, the stakeholders were more than happy to offer support. They even understood if the project would affect them negatively (i.e. space being unavailable for use during project, or a feature being disabled for a short time). It may be hard to say that stakeholders' good graces (for example) increased by exactly 42 percent, but it's very obvious when your ability to influence them has increased. Things seem to just run more smoothly.
Have your projects generated intangible ROI? How have your project teams benefited from it?
| A lot of energy has been spent investigating the "value" of project management. My question is: value to whom? Doesn't it all boil down to what the projects' decision-makers do with their project management information?
Imagine a project manager who pays a very small amount for a very advanced cost and schedule control system, and the system reliably produces accurate information in a timely manner. If that project manager ignores that output, and instead acts out of impulse, then the value of the project management information system is zero.
And, to be blunt, no amount of eat-your-peas hectoring from our side of the debate will lead such a project manager to have an epiphany and turn away from his or her nefarious ways. Conversely, a project manager who pays a great deal for a system that barely reports projected costs at completion and forecasts completion dates, but uses that information to avoid a massive overrun or delay, has an extremely valuable system.
Not to abrogate the debate, but, in my opinion, the value of project management is like the macro-economists say: It's what somebody's willing to pay for it.
| Okay, after lots of discussion around the preliminary results of PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management, I think we can all agree that project management does indeed bring value to the organization. But we haven't really talked about the people delivering that value--and where companies are going to find them.
Developing economies like India and Latin America are struggling to find enough people while established economies like Europe and the United States are struggling to find the right people. Indonesia, for example, is expected to be 12,000 project managers short in the oil and gas, mining, IT and telecommunications industries over the next five years.
At PMI's recent Latin America Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMP, gave a great example that pretty much summed it all up. He recalled getting an e-mail from an Australian colleague with only three sentences: "I need a specialist in iron ore projects to work here. I need it now. Don't worry about the cost."
So what's a company to do? "The Great Talent Shortage," a January 2008 article in PM Network, provided some solutions. Here are a few:
"Call it sharing, stealing, enticing--we all have to go to the same pool to get people. You have to raid your competition, and they do the same."
--Yahya Khader, CEO, Clough Zuhair Fayez Partnership, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
"It's extremely important to hire a certain proportion of new project managers from outside your industry. It's the only way you can get fresh thinking and a new look at how you do business. Yet, human resource departments tend to always advertise in the same place and look for the same characteristics as the previous employee."
--Uma Gupta, Ph.D., PMP, senior advisor to the provost at the State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA
"Organizations are being more responsive to offering longer leave periods, better parental-leave provisions and a far greater proportion of performance-based payments. Measuring workplace satisfaction is becoming more common, with companies looking at their main employment brand attributes and developing programs to address gaps through benefits, mentoring, or training and development."
--Paul Bell, managing director, Fanselow Bell, Nelson, New Zealand
Of course, all of those things are often easier said than done. Companies have to make the commitment to not only recruit and retain the cream of the crop, but also to groom the next generation of project management leaders.