AXELOS' First Annual Benchmark

The Value of Project Management Excellence

I always think of value as an important word. A word whose equation needs to be spelt out in a manner like Philip Crosby’s famous Quality is Free.

Crosby meant that the cost of quality is smaller than the benefit from quality. Crosby's message is that by ‘doing quality’ you get a bigger return than the initial investment. He gave us a Cost-Of-Quality equation.

I'll give a Value one: V = B - C.

Front CoverAxelos’ paper “The Value of Project Management Excellence The search for competitive advantage” could be subtitled “Project Management is Free (and a survival must have!)”.

The cost of project management is less than the size of the benefit returned because projects are always investments and better investment decision making and conduct reduces costs and increases returns.

But the more concerning message is that this benchmark finds that project capability has to improve just to keep pace with the growing change rich pressures on organisations.

The First AXELOS Annual Benchmark Study

This paper is the first annual survey by axelos. The body of its arguments are based on the results of polling the project management community from multiple: Geographies, Industries, Organisation sizes and Role titles.

The dominant groups in each category are European IT project managers in organisations of more than 10,000 people but the next biggest group is respondents from companies under ten staff. The range of countries, industries and roles is equally wide.

You can download your own copy >>>here<<<

As a paper from a supplier it does not make multiple claims to justify its own products. They are only mentioned in the context of “how well know are various frameworks?” PRINCE2 comes top and PMBoK-Guide is second.


The structure of Axelos’ first annual benchmark study is 1-Foreward, 2-Executive Summary, 3-Today’s Pressures, 4-Maturity, 5-Challenges to success, 6-Methods 7-Agile, 8-Learning & Development, 9-Conclusions and 10-Profile of Survey participants.


That front cover sub-title “The Search for Competitive Advantage” is the tag-line that attracted my curiosity. I always want to answer “How do we improve the state of the art?”.

A Personalised Summary

If I just select and merge key points from across the chapters then what I read is that the pressures for an advantage are evident throughout the survey’s responses. Project manager’s believe there organisations face

  • Increased competition and risk
  • Reduced time and budgets plus distributed teams, admin overheads, weak tool-sets and changing project briefs
  • Not much established process and even less evaluation of it.

Selecting from a different perspective the assertions are that advantage arises from:

  • Increased clarity of organisational strategy and improved project alignment
  • A mature and integrated Project Management Office
  • Investment in staff capability, particularly by CPD – Continued Professional Development
  • Project reviews


The last element – the use of reviews gets a lot of focus (22 mentions, CPD gets 16) while the assertion is that failure comes from a number of sources: Unrealistic timeframes, Changes to the project brief, Poorly understood risks, and the wrong people involved. Each has a statistical assessment quoted to justify it.

The whole of chapter 8 is about capability development. The findings here are that mostly what is wanted, what is needed but what is less supported than it might be is on-the-job learning by doing and experimenting.

L&D and Maturity

I may be biased to believe the L&D points as my "improve the state of the art" focus has recently been on building just such an approach in a global engineering firm.

The short agile chapter more or less says "individuals are very enthusiastic but organisations much more reserved about adoption". Easily understood I think as on the CV/ resume agile helps mobility and reward - all upside - but does it does not guarantee an improved bottom-line for organisations. That needs broader maturity.


This report shows us the drivers behind why we need to invest in responses to the challenges. In aggregate then the evidence presented says "the causes of failure are the challenges that we are seeing grow around us."

I interpret that as "improve to just stand still".

What is needed to improve is to invest in project managers: more of them, more capable ones with more influence at the top table!

An investment (V) that is paid for (C) out of the improved benefits (B), reduced uncertainties (B) and reduced failures (B) from increased future business change pressures.

One Other Point!

The most striking report statistic is that Australian project managers get paid a lot more than US project managers who get a lot more than UK project managers who get a lot more than Indian PMs. The ratios, all in GBP are mean salaries of 83k to 74k to 52k to 22k!


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