Axelos 2017 PPM Benchmarking Report

The Axelos 2017 PPM Benchmarking Report has an interesting and insightful title: “The value of Project Management Excellence”.
As stated in the foreword by Cameron Stewart, Head Of PPM Product Development at Axelos:

This inaugural report seeks to lay the foundation for a yearly publication aimed at giving insight to the project and programme management (PPM) market for our members, community and accredited partners.”

The findings from this research identified a range of issues that could all be categorized under one solution: project management excellence. Project managers, PMOs and organizations all have a responsibility to create this culture of excellence otherwise they could find that their investments don’t bring the competitive advantages they seek.

It comes as no surprise that project managers are being asked to do more with less. This is a trend that could be applied to any business function. However, a lack of resources or time is leading to cutting corners at both a strategic and operational level. Awareness of project management methodologies is high in the industry. However there is a gap between awareness and uptake. Unfortunately organizations are under-investing in the development of their project managers, which the research shows has far-reaching consequences.”

Today’s project management pressures

Project managers (and the projects they’re responsible for) are not immune to the effects of a changing global economy. In fact, the majority of project managers acknowledge that there is increased business competition which is causing a variety of knock-on effects. Some findings:

  • 76% states that “The business environment has become more competitive”
  • 74% states that “Budgets and timelines are tighter as clients/ stakeholders look for more value from projects”
  • 65% states that “PMs are expected to deliver more projects over a shorter time frame”

Furthermore, evolutions in technology bring their own set of challenges resulting in greater complexity in project delivery, increased project risks and an impact on profit margins.

Project management maturity within organizations

The maturity of project management in many organizations is still behind where it needs to be to meet the increased demands of more projects within existing timeframes and budgets. One measure of maturity can come from the P3M3 Maturity Model, yet:

  • less than 20% of organizations described themselves as having established processes in place, with ongoing improvements based on monitoring and feedback
  • only 53% of project managers describe the project management function as “influential”

Although it is encouraging to see that PMOs are in place in more than half of organizations, their integration at the highest level is far from where it needs to be. If project management continues to be under-represented at a senior level then this will impact on the successful delivery of projects.

The challenges faced by project managers today

At the head of the list of the challenges faced by PMs today there is “over-ambitious timeframes” for projects, followed closely by “changing project briefs and moving expectations”. In the context of increasing project numbers to deliver in the same timeframe or less, plus the relative isolation of the PMO in organizations, these are serious challenges for project managers. Following in the list there are also challenges like “poor communication”, “absence of the right people for the job”, “unrealistic budgets” and “inefficient work practices”.

  • Half of project managers felt their project didn’t have the right people in place, which led to project failure in 43% of cases
  • 56% of project managers had witnessed significant changes to the project brief and expectations and this led to project failure in 48% of cases


Agile continues to be a hot topic within project management. There is a huge appetite amongst project managers for agile techniques, yet this enthusiasm isn’t apparent at an organizational level. Why are so many organizations wary about adopting agile? It could be due to a lack of understanding as ‘agile’ is still perceived as the latest buzzword. Project managers need to educate the business about the value of agile to help deliver the number of projects that organizations are now demanding. Organizations need to get on board with adopting agile techniques. Working in an agile way allows project managers to respond to evolving business needs but still the appetite for adoption at an organizational level is low.

  • 77% of respondents seeing value in working in a more agile way and just 2% seeing no value in it
  • Less than half (46%) of respondents said there is significant appetite for adopting agile techniques within their function and this falls further to 39% at an organizational level

Learning and development

This research has identified a lot of challenges facing project managers, but there were also some positive findings too, especially around ongoing development. Continuing professional development (CPD) is an activity that is commonly associated across professions such as accountancy, medicine and law. However, the majority of project managers recognize its importance and are actively participating in CPD. The only thing that could hold them back is a lack of investment from organizations. If you delve deeper both individuals and organizations are on the same page. Individuals want to do their job more effectively and organizations want to improve the effectiveness of their teams.