The Great Talent Gap

In Project Business Management



By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany



“How merit is with luck connected,
Is to suckers all unknown.
If the philosopher’s stone was theirs,
they’d lack a philosopher for the stone.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust II


A new survey confirms that Project Business Management (PBM) is a fast growing discipline in today’s reality of project management. It is nevertheless underrepresented in associations, literature, and education.

As the specific needs of project managers in customer-facing projects are so widely ignored, people have to develop their professional skills mostly based on trial and error. This is a costly approach that impacts the profitability of their employers as much as their own income.


Dear Project Managers, Again, We Need to Talk About Money

In my last PM World Journal article[1], I suggested that project managers should foster the skills needed to do customer projects. They should do that in a way that these projects are successes for both the paying  customers and the own organization. Ensuring monetary income from a customer project for a contractor is foremost not greed but giving the company the lifeblood for survival, growth, and development.

As a result, I had many discussions with colleagues from project management and related disciplines like governance (PMOs[2]), educators. I had also many discussions with project managers from both sides customers and contractors.

All agreed that there is a talent gap that makes it difficult for project managers to run customer projects as customer-facing profit centers. The income should reflect the responsibility of the project manager as the manager of an income stream for the own organization, but also for the deliveries and services provided to the customer, whose business success to are larger or lesser degree depends on the performanve of the project manager.

There was however not much agreement, how project managers in customer projects should be paid and whether they are currently rather overpaid or underpaid. Here are some comments:

  • “The project managers of our contractors generally come in expensive cars to meetings. They are definitively overpaid, and the companies that send them suck the blood from us.”
  • “As a PMO manager, I am governing a portfolio of customer projects. The profit that our project managers create is too small, so they should not be angry that they do not get paid very well. If they help us make more profit, we can pay them better.”
  • “I am a project manager in a project, and we are the prime contractor. I always have the feeling that the project manager on customer side is much better paid, and I have the same feeling when I meet the project managers of our many subcontractors. We are the ham in the sandwich, and as we are organizing the project but are not doing the productive work, we are expected to be cheap.”
  • “I have strong experience in several software service delivery companies and in these companies it’s very easy answer to your question – PM’s who work on customer projects have high visibility, high appreciation and high salaries.”
  • “We hire project managers for customer projects in high technology. While certification gives an indication of people’s project management skills, no certification validates the business skills needed to do projects against payments.”

There is a common saying in quality managing: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”[3] The differing opinions show that we need better data on customer projects and many other aspects of Project Business Management (PBM). That data is so far not available. I therefore decided to obtain such data in form of another small survey performed between 13 and 27 May 2018. During the two weeks, I received 325 responses. The results of the survey are published here for the first time.


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How to cite this article: Lehmann, O. (2018), The Great Talent Gap in Project Business Management, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue VI – June. Retrieved from https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/pmwj71-Jun2018-Lehmann-The-Great-Talent-Gap-series-article.pdf

Editor’s note: This is the 8th in a series of articles by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016. See full author profile at the end of this article. A list of the other articles in PM World Journal can be found at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann.

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany



Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc., PMP, is a project management author, consultant, speaker and teacher. He studied Linguistics, Literature and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree. Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, USA and Asia in methodological project management with a focus on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998, and served five years as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter until April 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch”, analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and can be contacted at [email protected].

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the book “Situational Project Management: The Dynamics of Success and Failure” (ISBN 9781498722612), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2016.

To view other works by Oliver Lehmann, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann/


[1] (Lehmann, 2018)

[2] Project management offices

[3] (Revelle, 2004, p. 34)