Where are all the Senior PMs…2011?

A year on from the last post about a shortage of Senior PM’s looking for roles and the industry is in the same (if not worse) position. Perm SPM’s…

A year on from the last post about a shortage of Senior PM’s looking for roles and the industry is in the same (if not worse) position. Perm SPM’s looking for a new role is now approaching 7:1. Whereas people looking for freelance SPM is more equal, if anything there are slightly more freelancers than roles. One change since my last post on SPM’s is there are now a lot of freelancers with the SPM title (and rates) that might be considered a PM level in a lot of agencies.

Looking at both the freelance and perm roles available combined means there are almost certainly not enough digital project managers working in the industry.

What does this mean?

• Companies hire freelance SPM’s to cover work and it affects their margins.
• Perm SPM’s who haven’t switched to freelance are working harder to cover more work and sometimes have to pick up on projects if freelancers haven’t delivered.
• Decent freelance SPM’s should have a steady supply of work!

Some thoughts and ideas to reverse the trend?

For agencies….
• Be more open minded about the talent pools from where you recruit and invest in heavily training. Why not re-train a developer in your agency that has the right mindset. Or better still hire a PM from a software background and develop their skills/knowledge.
• Start paying better salary’s for perm SPM’s and factor in career development plans to progress PM’s through your organisation. To put it into perspective an SPM on £50k could earn £65k as a freelancer (assuming they worked every day for 10 months of the year on £300 per day).
• The life of a PM is a tough one; protecting agency margins and keeping clients and other agency departments happy. Even the most diplomatic PM can get on the wrong side of people in other departments and sometimes the issues can be tracked back to badly run processes and heads of PM departments without the internal clout to address and resolve these. If you have high staff turn over in your PM department (and then struggle to recruit because of a shortage of talent) then maybe the solution might lie with the management structure of your organisation.

For freelancer SPM’s…
• Often when freelancing your skill base flat lines, as when interviewing for a role you are judged by what you have done previously and then offered a role to do the same (or less) for someone else.
• Sometimes the agency’s best work will go to their perm PM team and unless you are a specialist (e.g. a video and digital producer combined) this may effect the quality of projects you work on.
• Finding a company that will invest in your development and give you progression could be a good option. Though taking a pay cut to do more of the same might not be! However, it is worth remembering that taking a permanent role means you get paid holiday’s and benefits.

SPM’s working permanently…..
• You are in a good place to manage your career and look for progression and development opportunities.
• If you are considering switching to become a freelancer you should try to maximise your progression opportunities in your current company before making the move. Earning £800 more monthly might not satisfy you for long.

The future outlook….
The lack (could read absence) of agencies hiring of junior PM’s during the recession means this issue will become far worse in years to come. Also the fact that digital projects are becoming very specialised and agency models vary greatly the problem is going to get much worse before it gets any better.

Generally there are no formal digital PM standard courses, of course institutes such as Prince2 and PMI organise general PM training, why don’t the big players in digital get together to organise some industry standard training to develop the talent pool and make digital project management roles more accessible to people entering the market or growing their skills.

My final thought would be that the industry look into remunerating perm PMs’ differently, perhaps giving bonuses for the delivery of projects on time/budget that meet client (and agency) expectations. More people would consider perm vs freelance and agencies would be paying for results.

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