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'Scary' findings in Project Management Office Insights survey

By Marilyn de Villiers
Johannesburg, 28 May 2019
Guy Jelley, CEO of Project Portfolio Office.
Guy Jelley, CEO of Project Portfolio Office.

Only 25% of strategic projects undertaken by South African businesses are managed by project managers within project management offices (PMOs).

This statistic is described as “scary” by Guy Jelley, CEO of Project Portfolio Office (PPO), a Pretoria-based project management consultancy.

“In light of this, we therefore need to start asking hard questions when executives don’t get projects delivered, or projects are failing, or a big project is just not happening – and project managers and programme managers get fired,” he said.

Jelley shared some of the highlights of the soon-to-be released PMO Insights Report, billed as the first comprehensive survey and analysis of PMOs in South Africa, with delegates at the recent Gauteng PMO Forum.

The PMO Forum is an interest group that falls under the umbrella of Project Management South Africa. Sponsored by PPO, it provides an opportunity for PMO executives and leaders to network with peers across industries, and share knowledge and experience.

The online survey elicited 197 responses from executives and PMO managers from 161 mostly Gauteng-based, private and listed organisations ranging in size from very large (over 1 000 employees) to those with a staff complement of under 50.

The survey revealed the average number of active projects being undertaken by local PMOs is 82, with most PMOs having completed 46 projects in the past 12 months.

In addition to the fact that the vast majority of organisations’ strategic projects are not conducted under the auspices of the PMO, or even at the helm of a qualified project manager, Jelley highlighted several other survey findings he considered troublesome.

These included the fact that 42% of PMOs have a document that sets out the services they provided to their companies, which means 58% do not. “That could help explain why so many executives do not know what a PMO does, or what value they add,” he said.

Jelley was also “shocked” at what the survey revealed about the average salary earned by the average female PMO manager. With 49% of PMOs run by women, and the majority of all PMO managers aged between 40 and 50, Jelley said he had expected PMO managers to be earning significantly more than the stated R50 000 to R65 000.

While the survey had not done a “deep dive” into salary data, it found the number of projects within the PMO, as well as the size of the company, did affect the salary received by the PMO manager.

Among other key findings of the survey were that there is a growing emphasis on benefit management as a powerful tool to align projects, programmes and portfolios to the organisation’s strategy, with executives stating this is what they want and need.

However, only 35% of PMOs stated that benefits are reviewed throughout the project lifecycle, and formally traced and measured past the completion of the project.

Almost 70% of PMOs are executing agile – yet more than 50% have not changed anything in their reporting, governance or managing for agile.

“That is definitely something that we have to explore: why, if we are running agile (which is a totally different way of executing projects), we (project managers and PMOs) have not changed the way in which we do things,” Jelley said.

The survey report, including the results and analysis, is expected to be published in the next few weeks.