New PMI Report Identifies Steps for Successfully Navigating Complex Projects


Average budgets and risks are bigger—but successful organizations manage complex and general projects using the same practices and techniques, study says

18 September 2013 – Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, USA – The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has announced the release of Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: Navigating Complexity. Expanding on findings from the 2013 Pulse of the Profession, which revealed that companies risk $135 million for every $1 billion spent on a project, the new complexity report reveals that average budgets for projects that are highly complex are nearly twice as large than those with lower levels of complexity—using significantly more resources and putting even more dollars at risk for the organizations managing them. 

130918-pmwj15-navigating-IMAGEAlthough there may be a perception that navigating complex projects requires a different set of skills or capabilities, PMI’s research proves otherwise. Regardless of the number of highly complex projects, organizations are managing projects with relatively the same set of project management techniques, methods and practices, and have about the same level of project management maturity.

Further, PMI’s research confirms that a project’s success or failure is not determined by the degree of complexity, but by the mix of capabilities applied.

While the new report finds several commonly reported attributes of complex projects, including ambiguity and divergent stakeholder agendas, there are no universal parameters for defining complexity. Engaging in debate about a definition may only serve to distract organizations from implementing practices that will improve the outcomes of all projects and programs.

As reported in the 2013 Pulse of the Profession, high-performing organizations have mature project management practices, align their talent management with organizational strategy, and are significantly more likely to be highly effective communicators. High-performing organizations achieve an average project success rate of 80 percent, and risk 14 times fewer dollars than low performers. Considering that average budgets for highly complex projects are nearly double those with less complexity, success in this area translates into a big boost to the bottom line — and requires more attention from organizations.

Additionally, the complexity in-depth research finds that high performers are focusing on specific capabilities within these three broad areas to manage highly complex projects:

  • Create a culture of project and program management with engaged project sponsors. Organizations with mature project management practices average a significantly higher percentage of projects meeting original goals and business intent compared to organizations with less mature practices. Pulse research reveals that 79 percent of projects undertaken by high performers have active project sponsors, compared to less than half (43 percent) at low-performing organizations. 
  • Assess and develop talent with a focus on fostering leadership skills. Among successful organizations, leadership development is most aligned to organizational strategy. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Talent Management revealed that 70 percent of organizations have aligned their leadership development program to organizational strategy. 
  • Communicate effectively with all stakeholder groups. As revealed in PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications, one out of two failed projects can be attributed to poor communications. High performers report that effective communications to all stakeholders—more than any other factor—has the greatest impact on highly complex projects, and place more importance on effective communications than low performers do. 

Consistent success of projects, regardless of the level of complexity, stems from mature project management practice that is rooted in sound fundamentals, including effective stakeholder management, transparent communications, engaged project sponsors, and strong alignment of projects and talent development to high-level strategy. With a solid project infrastructure in place, organizations can achieve success by adapting to and addressing the myriad factors that contribute to project complexity. 

The 2013 Pulse of the Profession™ In-Depth Report: Navigating Complexity is the latest follow-up study to PMI’s benchmark 2013 Pulse of the Profession™ report, which charts the major trends for project management.  To access PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ please visit www.PMI.org/Pulse.

Conducted since 2006, PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ is the annual global survey of project management professionals. The Pulse of the Profession charts the major trends for project management now and in the future. It features original market research that reports feedback and insights from project, program and portfolio managers, along with an analysis of third-party data. The newest edition of the Pulse features statistically reliable feedback and insights from project management leaders and practitioners across North America; Asia Pacific; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and Latin America and Caribbean regions

PMI is the world’s largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession. PMI’s professional resources and research empower more than 700,000 members, credential holders and volunteers in nearly every country in the world to enhance their careers, improve their organizations’ success and further mature the profession. PMI’s worldwide advocacy for project management is reinforced by globally recognized standards and certifications, extensive academic and market research programs, chapters and communities of practice, and professional development opportunities. For more information, visit www.PMI.org, www.facebook.com/PMInstitute, and on Twitter @PMInstitute. 

Media contact: Megan Maguire Kelly at [email protected]. 

Source: PMI