Smartsheet’s report uncovers new truths about project management

Nigel Mendonca, Vice President for APAC at Smartsheet

Smartsheet, the enterprise platform for modern work management, released its inaugural annual Future of Work Management Report. The organisation surveyed thousands of Australian employees about project and process management at their workplaces.

What were the findings of the report?

The report found that over 4 in 5 Aussies (83%) say projects at their firm are sometimes, often or always managed by people who do not have a formal project management title or role, which has created “citizen project managers” who are stepping up to fill the gap.

In a slowly reopening world under macroeconomic pressure, Smartsheet’s survey shows that Australian organisations—regardless of industry—are experiencing a resource recession in which they must function with limited personnel, support, or employees with the proper training or experience. Nearly one in five (18%) of Australian respondents manage projects despite the function not being within the scope of their job title or job description.

50% of the respondents—the “citizen project managers” moving work forward—claim they were at least somewhat unprepared for the first project they managed and 17% were mostly or completely unprepared. Further, nearly all (90%) have seen or experienced negative consequences from the challenges of working with an improperly managed project team, including having to work more hours, duplicating work and missing deadlines.

“Australia’s talent shortage means more employees are expected to assume additional work that they are not trained or qualified for,” said Nigel Mendonca, VP for APAC, Smartsheet.

“Instead of accepting burn out and poor business outcomes, leaders have a unique opportunity to transform the way work is done for the better by thinking innovatively when it comes to project and process management,” Nigel Mendonca further commented.

What are the takeaways from the findings?

Although results show that we are in a resource recession, the study revealed an opportunity for firms to move towards a resource revolution. To do this, leaders need to shift away from measuring success against deadlines and instead focus on their people and implementing the right technology. In order to make this shift, the report found three key takeaways:

Support is sacred, and teams need more of it

Although the people doing the work recognise–and actively push for–support, the report found that 45% of Aussie respondents believe their firm doesn’t staff projects appropriately, with 31% saying projects are understaffed. Just 43% feel their company is investing as it should in tools and processes to address common project management challenges.

With so many doing project-based work today, there’s a great need for foundational project support, with regards to resources and tools, and senior leaders must recognise that, too.

The “middle work” is most critical to a project’s success

The middle work, or the tasks that make up a project, is where the project moves forward, but it can also be where projects break down. Nearly three-quarters of Aussies expect their firm to ask project teams to accomplish even more with less in the near future (73%), and over half of project professionals expect deadlines to stay the same moving forward (54%).

This shows that things aren’t slowing down, regardless of whether teams have the resources or tools to be successful. In order to overcome these challenges, teams need to focus less on deadlines and more on the middle work that will take the project from start to finish.

Report data shows that irrespective of deadlines, there is a clear connection between effectively managed projects and job satisfaction, with almost half (45%) of Australian employees reporting that when projects run smoothly stress is lower.

Repeated work is wasted work

Projects are only as good as the processes they’re built on. Since the middle work is so critical, the best way to ensure success is to take learnings and insights and turn them into scalable, repeatable processes. The report showed that when projects have an experienced project manager, respondents felt that work quality was higher (53%), more efficient (49%), within budget (42%) and that there was greater collaboration between teams (41%).

Click here to read the full Future of Work Management 2023 report and insights.