What do Most Project Managers Have in Common?

Author: Rachel Hentges

Being in the business of project management, we talk to a lot of pm's across various industries and at various stages of their careers. While there are common things we hear in our day to day interactions, there are quite a bit that changes from one professional to the next. In an effort to get a better understanding of what plagues our project management counterparts, we conducted a short survey when we had them all together in a [virtual] room.

We put together a short four question survey and distributed it at the two largest virtual events for Project Managers - PMXPO and the Organizational Agility Event hosted by the Project Management Institute. In total, we survey about 1,500 project leaders and this is what we found out.

In summary, our daily conversations were pretty consistent with the survey responses. With some surprising stats, here are the four takeaways from our survey questions:

1) The top two challenges for Project Managers are resource management and project prioritization.

The top two challenges across the board from small 0-10 resource PMOs to large 500+ resource PMOs are resource management and prioritization. Now, this doesn’t surprise us because most of our customers’ #1 reason for implementing KeyedIn was because they had trouble tracking time, resource capacity, and demand planning of resources. This goes hand in hand with the ability to prioritize the right projects based on return, resource capacity, and more. These two challenges can make or break a PMO’s success, so the importance of mastering these two areas is key!

2) The breakdown of those evaluating or planning to evaluate a PPM solution did surprise us a bit.

Here’s what they said:

  • 9% - Yes that’s why I’m here
  • 8% - Will be within the next 6 months
  • 20% - Likely will be in the next 6-12 months
  • 16% - No, we are getting by fine with spreadsheets
  • 47% - No, we already have something in place

We wanted to dig into this a bit deeper to see if we can gain insight as to what is happening to drive the need for a solution. Now it may come as no surprise that most of the 16% that said spreadsheets were working just fine are people that either 1) Don’t have a formal PMO (31%) or 2) Have 0-10 resources in their PMO (55%). What did concern us here, however, was that of those smaller 0-10 sized PMOs that said spreadsheets were "working just fine," 80% of them also struggled with resource management and prioritization - which reduced among those that have a solution in place (and was mostly replaced with increase in the "other" option).

A similar situation was revealed in those with a PMO of 10-100 where majority (82%) with a solution in place were struggling with resource management (42%) and prioritization of projects (40%). This raises the concern that a solution is not serving it's purpose or was not fully adopted by the organization in which case may need to be reevaluated.

As the PMO size increases we see that the proportion of them with a PPM solution increases, which aligns with the notion that a PPM solution becomes less of a commodity and more of a necessity as the organization grows.

3) Does PPM Affect Agility?

In the spirit of an organizational agility event, we wanted to get some perspective on the role of agile for the PMO. We surveyed individuals to give us an idea of how agile they consider their organization and found that majority of those surveyed (75%) don't consider their organization to be very agile (falling below halfway). Interestingly, we see visibility become more of a reported challenge as agility increases from 10% in the bottom quarter on the agility scale to 25% on the top quarter of the agility scale.

When we remove those that do not have a formal PMO, we see the portion of PMOs with a PPM system increase as reported agility increases; as well as the inverse - less "getting by with spreadsheets" happening (7%) in the top quadrant of agility (down from 20% in the lowest quadrant of reported agility).

4) SURPRISING stat! Large PMOs of 500+ resources and those who don’t have a formal PMO in place have the same #1 challenge.

For organizations with 0-500 resources, the top challenge was resource management; however for an organization with 500+ resources and one that doesn’t have a formal PMO the top challenge was prioritization. Now you could dissect that statistic a bit and say that a large PMO has a TON of moving parts, so it would be much harder to prioritize projects because there is a lot going on. However, for an organization without a formal PMO, the struggle could be more about the fact they don’t have the processes in place to understand which projects should be prioritized. I guess my conclusion from this surprising statistic is that organizations with different project management maturities can still struggle from the same challenges.

In conclusion, most project managers have resource management and project prioritization challenges in common. Also, project managers of all different project management maturity levels and different PMO sizes are starting to or are evaluating project and portfolio management solutions to alleviate those top two challenges!

To view the full survey results you can download the survey summary here.

If you are interested in learning more about how KeyedIn can help solve resource management and project prioritization challenges, check out our demo media center!