One of the major international project management organisations (APM – Association for Project Management) has been working hard to obtain chartered status for the profession in the UK. This is the type of recognition that a lawyer or accountant might enjoy; the case is currently at the court of appeal but it looks likely that the Royal Charter will be granted in the not too distant future.
If you have never worked in a project management environment you may find it hard to believe that those who do could be granted a status on a par with lawyers and accountants. After all we all manage “projects” in our daily work and home lives don’t we?
Profession or just a job?
We might project manage a move from one home to another; organising removals vehicles, packing boxes, notifying everyone of the change of address. It might be a bit stressful but it’s hardly a profession. But look a little closer and you can start to see that there is a world of difference between a professional project and an everyday project.
For a start a project manager is required to study for the relevant project management qualifications such as the PMP, APMP or PRINCE2 credentials. The APM also have some very high-level credentials such as the Registered Project Professional (RPP), which requires you to demonstrate several years of practical experience and also a commitment to continuous professional development before being awarded the accreditation.
And if you then consider some of the high profile projects that are being run at any one moment around the world, such as organising the 2016 Olympics in Rio, or the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar (placing all the controversy aside for that one!). These are major projects involving building stadiums, accommodation and infrastructure, arranging promotional activities; organising catering, events, transport. Hardly something you could sort out with a spreadsheet and Basecamp.
In its simplest sense project management might simply be a series of processes that help take an idea and turn it into a reality but most major projects have a high level of risk, they need to respond rapidly and flexibly to changes in requirements and are often highly visible with fixed deadlines. They are often complex, cost significant amounts of money and so have a large budget that needs to be controlled and used in the most efficient way.
It is only by using professional techniques and procedures that you have any chance of delivering a complex project to a set deadline and within the allocated budget. Even then it does not always happen and there have been some very famous project disasters in the past.
So, yes, project management can be considered a profession; projects are usually run by highly skilled project managers with both experience and qualifications far beyond just a university degree. More importantly formal project management can deliver a whole host of benefits to businesses and organisations striving to get the most from their available resources.