Association for Project Management
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APM Vice President discusses the future of the project Profession as he steps down from role

Paul Chapman, APM’s Vice President since 2020, will step down from the role at the end of May 2024. Paul’s involvement with APM has also seen him serve as a Board Trustee and volunteer. He is also Director of the UK Government’s Major Project Leadership Academy, having previously established the MSc in Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School, Oxford University.

Here, he shares his personal and professional highlights from his time as APM Vice President and his thoughts on what the future holds for project management.

Paul Chapman

What have been some of your highlights during your time as APM’s Vice President?

Watching the profession mature – seeing that now there's a firmer understanding of what project management is and what the profession does. ‘Project manager’ used to be a general, loose term. Now, it has become something more specific. It’s also great to see a more formal sense and community interest in the project profession.

One memory that stands out is attending a Change Management meeting in Birmingham during my first few years at APM and seeing that, out of the 100 people there, half were women. This contrasted with a lot of other events at the time where the vast majority of attendees were men; a sign that APM was doing something different in a good way.

What changes have come about in project and programme management over the past four years?

There have been several areas I’ve seen improve since my time at APM. One area has been an increase in diversity of sectors and members. This has been an encouraging sign. The profession has benefited enormously from the variety of people all bringing diverse ways of thinking.

APM has also worked hard to develop entry points into the project profession to allow younger professionals an easier path into it, with chartered degree routes and experience apprenticeships.

A lot of other things in the profession have stabilised. A question that many thousands of people ask themselves every day at work is ‘what do I have to do to get this thing done?’ The answer is project management. The answers are there. The profession is more consistent in its approach to many things now than it was in recent years.

What do you think the next ‘big thing’ will be for the project profession?

My belief is that the future is already here, it's just not widely distributed. The danger is that things become fads and then everyone charges off in that direction. But when you let the air out of it, it becomes a different proposition. For example, the arguments around methodology and the hype around agile has come and gone. Agile is still useful of course, but the hype has gone.

Sustainability as a topic will be a priority for a lot longer. I think there's a lot of passion and a lot of commitment to delivering a better tomorrow within the profession. It will take a while, but if we could do that quicker, that would be good. But the stuff that's meaningful and worth doing... sometimes it requires the persistence, hard work and then it delivers its benefits in two or three years' time.

It’s clear you’ve helped develop the profession. Do you feel you’ve developed professionally through the Vice President role?

I've met really interesting people who I have enjoyed talking with, listening to, and learning from. Someone who stands out is Gill Hancock, APM’s Technical Content Lead. I spent a while chairing APM’s Professional Standards and Knowledge Committee. A lot of good people served on that, but Gill stood out. That committee couldn’t work without her.

John McGlynn was an excellent chair of APM’s Board. Mike Robinson, Company Secretary, has been great at the mechanics of organisation and getting things done.

I'm just left with a much warmer and encouraging feeling that the trials and tribulations that the world faces can be overcome because there are good people out there who actually care.

What advice or words of encouragement would you offer to your successor?

Just enjoy your time and embrace the opportunity to meet people at these various levels and events. They are worth talking to. Make sure to visit the Interest Networks. Their passion in their respective topics is inspiring and they offer amazing insights down to the smallest detail.

Additionally, there’s still a lot of work to be done. With over two million people in the profession, there are still a lot of people APM hasn’t reached yet. Constantly ask questions: who's missing and who's underrepresented? You’ll find a lot of ways APM can still grow.

What’s next for you, Paul?

I’m really interested in efficacy – does something work? Did it deliver value? Did it deliver intended benefits? And always trying to get a better answer to those questions. I’ve recently published a paper that investigates efficacy and have another coming up. One looks at benefit cost ratio of transport infrastructure projects. The other looks at net present value of transport. That’s what I'm interested in looking into further through research at Saïd Business School.


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