Project managers seeking training funds have new evidence that training improves project success rates, thanks to a survey that links the two.
The survey, conducted online and over the phone in April by project management training and consulting firm Project Management Solutions, asked respondents to share how much money they spend on project management training, the types of training methods they use, the effectiveness of those methods, and the outcomes they've achieved as a result of training.
Survey respondents reported that their project management training initiatives improved eight aspects of business and project performance by an average of 26 percent.
Stakeholder satisfaction benefitted the most from training, improving 29 percent, followed by
- scheduling (27 percent improvement)
- decrease in project failures (26 percent improvement)
- keeping projects on budget (25 percent improvement)
- gathering requirements (25 percent improvement)
- quality (25 percent improvement)
- productivity (25 percent improvement)
- time to market (24 percent improvement)
The study corroborates research that IDC (a sister company to CIO.com) published in 2006. IDC concluded that training was a key factor in project success and noted that projects that devoted between six and 10 percent of their budgets to training were twice as successful as projects that devoted four percent or less of their budget to training.
Deborah Crawford, EVP of Project Management Solutions and president of its training division, says that survey respondents' assessments of the performance improvements their organizations derived from training were largely qualitative; that is, they were based on a combination of respondents' gut feelings, experiences and observations. Crawford adds that the respondents at organizations with mature project management offices (PMOs) had metrics that directly linked project management improvements with training. One such metric is erosionthe number of project hours not billed for. One company noted that erosion decreased after project management training.
Survey respondents spend on average $2,211 per person per year on project management training. Small and midsize companies allocate an average of seven days of project management training per person per year, while large companies devote five days of training per person per year.
The Most and Least Effective Forms of Project Management Training
Not all forms of project management training are created equal—or are even effective, according to the 262 business executives and managers, PMO directors, and project and program managers who participated in the survey. They measure the effectiveness of project management training based on evaluations that training participants fill out, positive changes in how project resources do their jobs, assessments of knowledge gained, and based on business results that can be clearly linked to the training.
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents rated instructor-led classroom training as the most effective method.
Crawford says survey participants ranked instructor-led classroom training highest for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to network, to spontaneously ask questions and share experiences, and to learn in an environment that tries to mimic actual project team dynamics.
"The instructors are typically seasoned project managers who have a lot of war stories," adds Crawford. "They felt hearing lessons from someone who has the scars is invaluable. There are also a lot of breakout groups and exercises. Students work with each other to resolve problems and handle conflicts."
Blended techniques, which combine instructor led-classroom learning with some combination of self-directed e-learning, instructor-led e-learning (such as webinars), or technology-delivered training (such as CD-ROMs or podcasts), ranked second, with 53 percent of respondents casting their vote.
Technology-delivered training did not fare so well, even among IT professionals, says Crawford. Less than one-third (29 percent) of respondents deemed self-directed e-learning to be worthwhile. Fewer (27 percent) considered instructor-led e-learning to be valuable. One-in-five (20 percent) think technology-delivered training is useful.
When asked why readers should trust the results of Project Management Solutions' survey (since it's in the company's best interest to show the business benefits that stem from project management training), Crawford clarified the goal of the study. She said it was to help set expectations around the impact that training can have on project and business performance.
"It's in our best interest to make sure people see results, not to train for training's sake," says Crawford. "There are situations where we won't offer training because we don't think an organization is ready. [For example,] They may need to have project management processes in place."
Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Project Management and Outsourcing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Meridith at firstname.lastname@example.org.