Project management ‘contributes £156bn to UK economy’



The size and value of project management to the UK economy and society has been benchmarked for the first time in a major new report.

Commissioned by the Association for Project Management (APM) and conducted by PwC UK, research has identified that project management in the UK generates around £156.5 billion of annual Gross Value Added (GVA) and that an estimated 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) are employed in the profession.

This means around 7.9% of UK employment FTEs delivers 8.9% of total UK GVA.

Entitled ‘The Golden Thread’, the new APM and PwC report seeks to highlight the contribution of the project profession to all aspects of UK plc, and reveals that the profession generates GVA that far outstrips other cross-business activity such as design, law and marketing.

Debbie Dore, chief executive of APM, welcomed the report and said: “Project management has for too long been cast as a ‘Cinderella’ or ‘hidden’ profession, working hard behind the scenes to ensure other’s success. But this new report recasts the profession into the role of a ‘golden thread’ - a seam that runs through UK plc, helping to develop new services, drive strategic change and sector-wide reform. In short, this report finds that the project profession is a thread truly woven into the fabric of UK societal and economic success.”

Having established the real value of the profession, APM, the chartered body for the project profession, is now building on these findings to raise a red flag, warning of the factors that could inhibit the potential growth of the profession’s economic contribution. Of particular concern is the potential for a growing skills gap which, if not addressed, could lead to the rise of the ‘accidental project manager’ - employees without any recognised professional standards or training, who are given project management roles - decisions that can often jeopardise project success.

Debbie Dore added: “Our report suggests that the contribution from and demand for the project profession is more extensive than many commentators thought and is set to increase. This could lead to demand for qualified and experienced project personnel starting to outstrip supply - ultimately leading to the failure of increasing numbers of projects.

“That’s why this report highlights to business, government and the education sector, the importance of training, development and professional standards (such as chartership) as the best way to develop a talent pool that is to scale and fit for purpose in today and tomorrow’s world.”

PwC interviewed over 400 businesses for The Golden Thread and concluded that, as recognition of the importance of good project management grows, so too does the level of optimism among organisations in all sectors about the future of project management. A total of 40% of those interviewed in this research predicted a growth in projects, and 34% were expecting project budgets to grow over the next three years.

However, the report concludes that challenges remain - with over half of organisations (52%) expressing concern over the current uncertainties caused by government policy - and just over one third (35%) ranking this as the single greatest challenge of the past three years – with 56% of businesses forecasting that this will still be an issue by 2021.

Skills and capability shortages were also cited in the report as a potential barrier by a third of organisations questioned. Having access to enough people with the right project management skills and capabilities in the UK is a concern for 39% and financial pressures leading to severe cost containment issues is a worry for 37%. 32% and 39% of businesses respectively expect these to continue to be a challenge in the next three years.

Types of projects undertaken vary from sector to sector, but overall IT and digital transformations and new product development projects tend to dominate with 55% and 46% of organisations respectively having undertaken these types of project in the past year. Perhaps not surprisingly, in the construction and local government sectors, fixed capital projects are the main project type undertaken.

Sandie Grimshaw, partner at PwC UK, explained the need for the UK to focus on skills further: “As ‘megaprojects’ increase in size and complexity, project professionals’ skills and attributes will need to change and adapt to handle media and political pressure along with strategic stakeholders in ways that are akin to professional diplomats.

“Whilst the UK has a strong and growing number of project professionals, this research helps to provide a better baseline for the skills sets and numbers of professionals required to support the capability for delivering projects – both large and small – in the years ahead.”



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