The project profession

Some years ago, together with Alec Ray, I have written an article that was published on the Round-Up of the ICEC (International Cost Engineering Council) in December, 2013, and whose text can be found here below.

The earth of the matter was that while there are other professional organisations who impartially represent the entire profession, the “project profession” is divided into a plethora of organizations representing various specialties (project managers, cost managers, contract managers, risk managers, construction economists, planners, etc.) who do not speak with a unified voice. (http://www.icoste.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/ICEC-International-Round-Up-Newsletter-December-2013.pdf)

It is sad to consider that, four years later, the situation is still substantially unchanged.


How project professions are changing

In the early years of the new millennium, we began to think about how our profession was changing and how it would evolve in the coming  decades. I remember being interviewed  on the subject by La Cible in 2007.

In 2011 with the joint ICEC/IPMA conference in Portoroz, started a phase of cohesion in the profession, which we hope will result in a strong proposal of reengineering our profession as early as the World Conference in Milan in 2014.

After the meeting ICEC / IPMA we had in Dubrovnik few days ago, it is the right time to try to answer a question: Where do we stand?

The structure of all professions are changing, not solely for project management, but more holistically. Change is prevalent in the European Union, in the reform of professions in Italy and as such, all the project related professions have to be reconsidered.

During the ICEC/IPMA Dubrovnik Conference just past, a new problem was highlighted. A trend has commenced by some governments where  they  promote large infrastructure projects with an anti-cyclical approach to the economic trend.

Irrespective of the validity of Keynesian economic policies, the result is a growing unease by the electorate due to the lack of confidence in the ability to execute large investment projects on time and within budget. This matter really affects us directly and causes additional pressures on the profession.

Unfortunately, while there are other professional organisations who impartially represent the entire profession, the “project profession” is divided into a plethora of organizations representing various specialties (project managers, cost managers, contract managers, risk managers, construction economists, planners, etc.) who do not speak with a unified voice.

The result is that no one can demonstrate, with the due authority, the possibility that a project is carried out on time and within budget.

This fragmentation results in lack of representation both nationally and internationally,  lack of exposure, inconsistent or duplicated  standards and technical vocabulary and limited or unclear career path progression.  Consequently, there has been a decline in recruitment into the profession and enrollment into professional organizations.. Ultimately, what we need is a body representing all the project professionals, a kind of conglomerate or federal organization, where the various specialties can maintain their identity.

The ICEC and IPMA are considering if and how to become  active parties in the creation of this body by involving other professional associations (RICS, PMI, FIG Commission 10, FIDIC, DRB, NETLIPSE, independent associations of QS, etc.).

It is of paramount importance, however, to realize that there are semantic problems both within the associations and between the associations and the market, so the message is consistent, but lacking mutual understanding.

However, other items have to be taken into due consideration:

  • As things are now, the understanding of the nuances of the various certifications is unclear in the professional environment, as well as in industry and in the market.  Often the certifications are considered comparable, without an understanding of the levels within these. A policy of mutually agreed certifiable competence levels will be required.  We do not need to develop new elements or to define existing elements from another point of view. We should concentrate to structure the existing elements, to re-identify them with common understanding, to upgrade the training and certification of individuals.
  • The possibility to create certification paths (and hence career paths) with a number of transitional touchpoints between the certification types, enabling transition across specializations. This means that those who wish, for example, move from ICEC to IPMA certification or vice versa, can ensure their level of expertise is recognized, rather than restarting the certification process
  • More attention to the training and guidance will be required. An appropriate balance between generality and specialization, increased attention to continuing professional education.
  • More attention and alignment to market trends is necessary.

The threat comes from unrecognized internet certifications which are not linked to a professional organizations. The commercial advantage of these institutions is the complete lack of barriers to entry and low total cost of participation

In essence, if we do not actively pursue a common goal to consolidate the profession, the “project profession” will be diluted to the detriment of the reputation and value that certified professionals bring.

Gianluca di Castri – Alec  Ray

04/10/2013

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