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Shortage of project managers sends businesses scrambling

Sharon Florentine | March 20, 2014
When it comes to project management, many organisations find themselves understaffed and that's putting them at a competitive disadvantage, according to a study by ESI International.

Should You Build or Buy Project Managers?
If you're looking to add to your project management team, there are significant advantages to looking internally and developing the talent you already have, according to the survey.

The data showed that it's 8 percent to 11 percent less expensive to develop a mid-level project manager from within your organization than to hire one from without.

Many organizations report that they believe they can simply hire senior project managers when they're needed, but availability is a big problem, says Bashrum. As demand continues to escalate and supply of senior-level PMs drops, building a strong 'bench' of senior PM talent will be critical for future success, he says.

"Of course, there's the added, less-measurable benefit that, by developing talent from within, you build on their existing organizational and industry awareness that they've gained along with the development of skills and competencies," says Bashrum.

According to the survey, it can take up to 10 months to bring an otherwise experienced project manager up to speed in a new organization, he says.

Identifying Project Management Talent
Every organization has different project demands, but there's not one-size-fits-all prescription for identifying promising project management talent and grooming them for senior positions, Bashrum says. But there are a few best practices for strategically building a project management community, he says.

"The first thing to do is to bring in a third-party consulting firm skilled in project management development and training to assess the current state of your company's project organization and benchmark existing talent and their ability to execute on projects effectively," he says.

While some organizations attempt to make these judgments in-house, Bashrum says it's best to outsource this function, because it is difficult to be objective when examining your own organization.

Next, it is critical to anticipate and understand what the future competency requirements could be over the next year, three years, and five years; along with an understanding of how risk might impact those requirements, Bashrum says.

"Once you have a bead on the current and desired states of the project organization, you can start building and executing a development plan to ensure that you have the right people with the right skills at the right time," he says.

What should you be looking for? Well, the specifics are different for each organization, but in general, Bashrum says business acumen and communication skills are at the top of the list. He adds that negotiation skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also extremely important.

"On the more technical side, skills like risk management, scheduling and cost control, and quality management are must-haves for any organization," Bashrum says.


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