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Martin Paver, CEO, Projecting Success

What has been your path to power?

I have spent nearly 30 years working in project delivery, mostly on multi-billion projects at the high end of the complexity spectrum. I also had the honour of leading a $10 billion PMO and a $1 billion infrastructure project. This experience helped me realise that as a profession, we try really hard, but consistently underperform.


In 2016, I spent a year investigating the reasons for project failure. I pulled together c20,000 lessons learned, expecting to apply advanced analytics and find the secret recipe. I was disappointed to discover that the lessons learned were mainly anodyne and biased abstracts that lacked context. We were applying 1970’s methods to capture our experience. It was clear that something had to change. Machine learning provides a capability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed – the answer to our dreams.


But part of the challenge was that project data is of variable quality and often misaligned to our use cases. In 2017, I pivoted Projecting Success to tackle this challenge. I spoke to the NHS and Network Rail at the time and struggled to gain traction – the vision was too bold and aspirational. In late 2017, James Smith and I founded the Project Data Analytics Community. We held our first Project:Hack in 2018, thanks to the support of Sir Robert McAlpine and Microsoft.


In 2019, we collaborated with Sir Robert McAlpine again to found the Construction Data Trust. In 2020, we launched the Project Data Academy and helped to found the Project Data Analytics Task Force. In 2022, we held our 13th community hackathon with c240 participants. Now the path to power isn’t a one-man journey, but a collective of an ever-growing community.

What impact has the pandemic had on your role?

Huge. We launched our Project Data Academy four weeks before lockdown started. Many of our primary learning and development focal points were furloughed. Consultancy fell off a cliff as organisations protected their cashflow. Our community events all stopped and we transitioned them online. We have had to be agile and nimble. I have had to cover a lot more ground across all aspects of the business, helping to grow from 12 people at the start of 2021 to 39 people now.

How do you bring your strategic views into discussions about data either in organisations or across industry?

The Project Data Analytics Task Force enables us to provide a united voice to help to shape the industry and how it prepares itself for a data-driven future. In my role as co-chair, I have the honour of working with a team of extremely intelligent, passionate and senior leaders who share a belief that we can transform how projects are delivered. We also hold regular events and panel sessions to help to shape the agenda.


What are your key areas of focus for the business in 2022?

Our primary area of focus is to ensure that we pour deep foundations, from our community-based initiatives through to technical depth. We are a values-driven business, so first and foremost we focus on doing what is right for the project delivery profession, our clients and our team. We believe that revenue will grow from our position of being a trusted and collegiate partner, rather than having to chase short-term opportunities. Our primary focus is to continue to develop these values, shape the agenda and continue to play a key role in driving the rate of change.


How do you apply your leadership skills a) within your own business and b) externally?

For me, it is a mixture of vision and values. Setting a direction for the business that pushes new boundaries and inspires people. Then putting a values-driven system in place that empowers people to make that vision a reality, supported by a very talented leadership team that really cares. In terms of externally, it is all about collaboration – focusing on delivering benefit for all, with a belief that good will emerge from it. Consistently do the right thing and don’t be afraid to take the untrodden path.


What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in this role?

The key skills/attributes have been vision, belief and resilience. A vision to see how an entire industry can be transformed, then plotting a path to make the vision a reality. The belief that, when united, we can make a huge impact that no single organisation could ever deliver alone. The resilience to roll with the punches on a journey that has been long and incredibly difficult, yet hugely interesting and personally satisfying.


How did you develop – and continue to develop – these skills or attributes?

By reaching out to, and listening to, a lot of very wise, passionate and hugely talented people.

How do you ensure that you are keeping pace with the goals and requirements around data to avoid lagging behind?

By working with some very clever and visionary people within my business, the Project Data Analytics Task Force and the community. We hold weekly lunch-and-learn sessions, combined with bi-weekly community meet-ups.. Initiatives such as the Construction Data Trust also enable us to stay plugged into and shape the emerging requirements of clients and the supply chain.

Martin Paver
has been included in:
  • 100 Influencers 2021 (EMEA)
  • 100 Influencers 2022 (EMEA)