10 Key Arguments Why Project Management Continues To Grow


By Martin Sedlmayer







There are literally millions of reasons why project management will continue to grow, despite the prophecy of doom of a few agile popes. Why? First of all, because more than one-third of economic value added today is realised in projects – and the trend is increasing. Next, because change is the only constant in life, and this change must be properly managed and appropriately led. And very importantly, results usually must be integrated into legacy processes, and the ever-increasing complexity of the projects must be well-managed. Because exceptional leadership is required; and CEOs require clear structures to ensure that the business remains compliant. Then, an ever-increasing proportion of work is organised on an international, interdisciplinary and intercultural basis to achieve the best results – which requires more and more transformers and prevailing realisers—and not just producers of hot air. Last but by far not least, because the generation Y is leaving the universities and getting into management positions. With them, the focus of work shifts from having a job to meaningfulness of living – something which projects very well support.

The core reason why project management continues to grow is actually quite simple and logical: As long as there are projects out there, people will be needed to care about projects and implement them – against all headwinds and all inconveniences. Example: have you ever sailed on a ship, or flown in a commercial aircraft without a responsible person, coordinating and leading the journey (usually called the captain)? That person, properly trained, and with the necessary competences, who guides the ship or the aircraft professionally, even in bad weather conditions, or through heavy traffic?

Whether we continue to call this core function – the captain of the project – project manager is a totally different story. But the profession of project management as such with all required competences will continue to existing and even grow, at least as long as there is a captain on board of a commercial aircraft.

But before we can start the discussion regarding the future needs of project management, we must achieve a common understanding on what exactly is a modern project manager and what kind of tasks he or she must execute.

A project manager from today’s point of view

In the new ICB4 (IPMA, 2016), IPMA defines a project as “a unique, time-limited, multidisciplinary and organised undertaking to achieve defined work results within predefined requirements and boundary conditions. The project focuses on providing a predefined result with its own organisation”.

IPMA distinguishes projects from programmes, which are set up to implement strategic changes and realise benefits. To simplify, this article does not make a distinction between projects and programmes: the term “project manager” shall be used for the executive person of a project of all kinds. However, it is a fact that project management is developing towards programme management, because change and benefit realisation are rapidly becoming part the core of any project and because more often a “predefined result” is not available in an early stage of an endeavour – that is also one of the key drivers for agile software development.

Change versus stability

The various basic definitions of projects or programmes including IPMA (IPMA, 2016), PMI (Project Management Institute, 2013), Hermes (ISB, 2014) or agile program management (DSDM Consortium, 2014) contain seven core characteristics:

  • Certain uniqueness
  • Time limitation
  • Multiple disciplines
  • Own governance
  • Delivering results (from simple and predefined to highly complex, strategic transformations)
  • Implementation of change or even transformations
  • Realisation of benefits

With these characteristics, projects obviously differentiate from line functions that focus on efficient day-to-day production of any kind of products or services.

While a project is unique and limited in time, the line organisation continues for a longer period and produces products or services repetitively. That is the main reason why a specific organisation with individual governance (project management, support, teams, control bodies, etc.) are created for each project. Furthermore, line organisations are predominantly monodisciplinary (finance, marketing, production, etc.), but projects are organised to manage multi-disciplinarity, and organised to integrate all involved parties.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published in German at https://societybyte.bfh.ch/2016/12/07/projekte-brauchen-richtige-projektleiter-10-argumente-fuer-die-zukunft-des-projektmanagements/. It is republished here with the author’s permission.



About the Author

Martin Sedlmayer




Martin Sedlmayer
leads complex changes as a programme manager. He has worked in the domain of project management for more than 30 years, as a project manager, programme leader, portfolio manager, and leader of project organisations.

His special interest is the issue of competence development in project management. He was project manager and lead editor for the new ICB4® (global competence standard for individuals working in project, programme and portfolio management). Currently, he serves as Vice President of IPMA’s Executive Board for Products and Services.

Martin is IPMA Level A® certified, acts as an assessor for fifteen years in various countries and holds a MBA in International Management from the University of Applied Sciences in Berne Switzerland, the University of Freiburg Germany, the State Polytechnical University of St., Petersburg Russia, the Babson College of Boston USA and Jiao Tong University of Shanghai China. He publishes regularly, speaks at conferences and events worldwide.

He can be contacted at [email protected]