Project Management & Planning Articles

Top 5 Common Concerns in Project Management – From PM Expert Lindsay Scott

by Christophe Primault
Published on 23 March 2012

As we were building a complete list of leading professionals and organizations sharing great stuff about Project Management, we discovered Project Manager expert and social media influencer Lindsay Scott.

It was very interesting interviewing her as she shared with us some of her thoughts about her experience, as well as concerns and drawbacks of the project management discipline.

Lindsay Scott co-founded Arras People in 2002 following a career at Esso and Hewlett Packard. At Hewlett Packard, she worked within the professional services consulting division, first as a Project Coordinator and then the Project Office Manager for the division, but let her tell us a bit more…

Can you describe yourself briefly? What is your passion?

I own and manage a project management recruitment business called Arras People. We're based in the UK and have been around for ten years - 2012 is our 10th anniversary. Previous to this I worked for Hewlett-Packard as a Project Office Manager. I've been interested in and worked in and around project management for over 15 years. The industry has seen many changes during that time and I'm passionate about where the profession is heading in the future.

How did you get started in project management?

Like a lot of people I fell into project management when I was younger. I'd graduated from university and didn't really have any career plans other than paying off the debts! I started working at HP, initially as a support person for a team of project managers (around 30 PMs in the professional services section of the company). I started picking up more and more insights into project management and knew that I wanted my career to head in that direction but was unsure how. An opportunity came up to support a Project Manager on a large complex project so I rolled up my sleeves and started learning the ropes on the job.

How do you define project management?

Project management for me is all about management first - project managers should have excellent managerial skills of leadership, team management, motivation and influence first. Project management starts to become unique when specific tools, processes and methods are needed to manage the uniqueness of projects - something which has never been created or achieved before. Project managers then become more than just managers because they use their past experiences to predict and manage future projects more successfully.

Who should be concerned about project management?

Everyone should have an interest in project management because ultimately it is a great set of skills that can be used both in work and also in personal lives. In some ways I view project management as a way to learn common sense! In thinking about project management within businesses I think all employees should undertake some form of project management training. It doesn't have to be professional accreditations, more along the lines of, "How do I plan my work better?" or "How can I influence this group of people to get X, Y, Z?" If we can inject project management skills into each business-as-usual worker I think productivity and successful outcomes would increase dramatically.

How can it be useful to a small business?

Project management does exist in small businesses with employees often having the PM role combined with their functional roles. For example a marketing manager uses their project management skills to plan, organise and deliver their marketing campaigns. Small businesses do recruit dedicated full time project managers to work as the lead manager on cross functional projects. The real benefit here is bringing in proven experience and a track record to maximise the success of projects and ultimately save money on the bottom line; turn innovation into real tangible products and services and get those products to market quicker. All these real concerns for small businesses can be addressed with a PM who is experienced. Arras People provide recruitment services for organisations both large and small; what tends to differ between them is the project management maturity levels within those organisations. When the culture is different or the size and complexity of projects differ, the requirements in the project manager needed also change. The advice we give in helping organisations find the right talent is very much driven by individual situations.

In your experience, what are the top 5 most common concerns?

Top 5 common concerns in project management from my own point of view include:

  1. The ongoing debate about the professionalization of project management; Is project management a true profession like that of an accountant say or doctor? Implications include how to develop, assess and build career paths for project management workers.
  2. Success levels of projects are consistently low and there seems to be a lot of debate about the causes of failure with little practical consistent advice on how to change this trend.
  3. Too much focus on the technical skills of project management and not enough on the people side. We see too many theoretical project managers and not enough with real world been-there-done-it experience
  4. Apathy in the profession - not enough people in the project management community contribute to their profession. Attendance levels for project management community meetings and conferences is seeing a downwards trend; real face to face networking opportunities are not taken up; Continuing Professional Development (CPD) tends to be an after thought.
  5. At the moment a real concern is the economy - project managers are feeling the effects through redundancy; lower wages; lack of promotion opportunities and new jobs. This is set to continue throughout 2012.

What should a business be looking at when searching for online project management tools?

Thinking about this from my own business point of view, the top thing for me would be the ability to collaborate with dispersed team members. It needs to be simple, useable, stable and above all it needs to fit my business culture and the way we do things around here.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of project management solutions?

The obvious benefit to my business is the ability to see real-time data and information when I need it. At the click of a button I can see dashboard reporting across the lines of the business that is accurate and easy to read. The drawback is that the information is only as good as the data that is inputted - PM solutions never exclude the need for accuracy.

Where do you find the best information about project management?

Best information for project management actually comes from a few places.I'm currently co-editing a book called The Handbook of People in Project Management which is due out in 2013. It's a large book with over 60 chapters from a collection of different project management experts. We're currently in the middle of editing it so I'm reading a lot of great contributions so far.

I'm also a committee member for the APM PMO SIG which is a group dedicated to advancing the PMO profession. I get a lot out of the various people I meet through that work.

Finally I get loads of great information and insight from Twitter. I tend to look at #pmot (Project Managers on Twitter) and #pmchat on Twitter which feature some great people.

Thanks for the insights Lindsay and I would also advise readers to check your blog How to Manage a Camel blog for more resources and updates on project management.

You can check this infographic about popular Online Project Management Software solutions if you need help making a decision about which online project management software is a good fit for your business.