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Monday, 22 February 2010 13:13

Project managers flood Melbourne


Around 650 project and programme managers are expected to descend on Melbourne this week for the Project Management Institute's (PMI) Global Congress - just as demand for IT project managers is again on the march in Australia.

According to IT recruiters, project management skills are again being sought as companies take the dust-covers off projects shelved during the worst of the global financial crisis. The rollout of the national broadband network is expected to drive additional demand.

According to recruiter Candle ICT demand has already started to accelerate in Australia for business analysts, programme and project managers and test analysts.

Mark Langley, vice president and chief operating officer of PMI, acknowledged that demand for project managers had been impacted from the end of 2008 as companies squeezed out any cash they could to build up balance sheets.

'Project managers were impacted, but possibly not as much as people would have expected. Organisations have learned from previous downturns that you cannot stop R&D because eventually you come out (of downturns)behind the competition,' Langley said.

He added that Australia had suffered less than many other markets from the downturn. (An OECD report released last week confirmed that Australia had survived the downturn better than most other markets.)

The PMI is itself hoping to expand and in January opened an Australian office, based in Sydney and headed by Anwar Benjamin. It also announced today that it had accredited the University of Sydney's Masters of Project Management Course. PMI claims it has 6,800 Australian members.

The Institute will be competing for new members with the Australian Institute of Project Management which will hold its conference later this year in Darwin. Both groups have the intent of raising and maintaining the professionalism of project and programme managers.

As Langley acknowledged at present 'there is no control over the name,' and pretty much anyone can hang a shingle and claim to be a project or programme manager. By providing professional development, assessment and accreditation both the PMI and the AIPM seek to lift professional standards and encourage enterprises to use accredited specialists.

Of the 6,800 PMI members in Australia, around 5,000 are certificated according to Langley.

The keynote speaker at this year's PMI conference is Scott Berkun, author of The Art of Project Management. Berkun, who was programme manager for Microsoft for versions 1.0 through 5.0 of Internet Explorer, will outline; 'What it is about project management that inventors need to learn, and what project managers need to learn from inventors.'

Speaking to iTWire in advance of the conference, Berkun said it was important to develop trust among people working on a project. At present he said; 'Most managers fail to pay attention to what they say versus what they actually do.'

Developing trust required members of a project team to clearly spell out what they would do and then actually do it.

It was also important to create a culture that encouraged healthy and respectful dialogue. He said from his experience at Microsoft it was clear that teams with a flatter, more inclusive culture achieved better results than 'those which were hierarchical.'

Berkun noted that an impressive business title did not always signify its holder had a monopoly on the best ideas and that it was important project teams paid attention 'to the quieter voice but smarter brains.'

He said that Google was an example of a company which had tried to scale an egalitarian development effort, and did it better 'than the typical American organisation.'

Asked what kills IT projects Berkun nominated a failure to make clear expectations and  an unwillingness to experiment and tolerate so-called failures.

'Project managers need to understand they won't get difficult problems solved right the first time. They need to sequester time and budget for people to do experiments.

'Experiment has to be part of the project manager vocabulary.'


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