Significance Of Project Management Skills For Thriving In Disruptive Times

PMI-supported analysis has found that employers around the globe will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles


It is easy to forget today that the term “project manager” was seldom considered a profession by many when Project Management Institute was launched - yet project management has grown into a globally recognized and valued profession over the decades since. A 2017 report from Dell Technologies estimated that as many as 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not even been invented yet. Figures like this can cause understandable concern, but the growth of the project management profession itself reminds us that new opportunities emerge as disciplines mature and grow in adoption. 

This is especially true for project professionals, who will likely only see their skills only continue to grow in demand over the next decade as organizations seek their expertise and skills in grappling with the effect of disruptive technologies. PMI-supported analysis has found that employers around the globe will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles, particularly in rapidly developing economies like India and China, which will represent more than 75 percent of total project management-oriented employment.

But the project manager of the future will be called upon to drive even greater value than the traditional metrics of delivering projects on time and on budget. A common theme in PMI’s most recent body of research and thought leadership reflects that the role of the project leader will continue expanding. Tomorrow’s project manager will wear many hats: innovator, strategic advisor, communicator, big thinker, versatile manager, and more. 

Along with the migration from business cards to LinkedIn profiles, job titles will continue evolving as well. Today we see project managers; team leaders; scrum masters and product owners; delivery, implementation, and change managers; and transformation leads, among others. We also often see the lead project role evolving from “project manager” to “project lead” — and even project executive in some organizations — a reflection of the expanded, essential role these professionals play in leading through disruption.

In this new professional reality, project leaders, regardless of their title, must continue to demonstrate the full range of competencies demanded of project professionals. Solid technical skills remain necessary but must be complemented with capabilities in leadership, as well as strategic and business management skills. At the same time, organizations also need project leaders who maintain an ability to learn and keep pace with technology. 

Large and small organizations alike are aggressively investing in and expanding their capabilities in emerging technologies like cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence.  
 But successfully navigating such disruptive technologies requires talent who has developed a truly digital skillset. When we think of the term “digital skills”, we may often think of computer-oriented tasks such as coding or software development. However, practitioners can’t neglect the human-side of driving change and leveraging technology. In an era in which many routine tasks will increasingly be automated, the professionals will gain a competitive advantage by strengthening their skills in the areas where machines can’t match humans – inspiring teams, leading with empathy, and mentoring colleagues. In short, it is crucial that project leaders develop their Project Management Technology Quotient, or PMTQ – the ability to adapt, manage, and integrate technology based on the needs of the organization and project at hand.

Top drivers to effectively manage disruptive technologies: 

  • Skills, training, and development: Innovator organizations see the most important digital-era skills for prospective project leaders as:
  • Data science (data management, analytics, big data)
  • An innovative mindset 
  • Security and privacy knowledge
  • Legal and regulatory compliance knowledge
  • The ability to make data-driven decisions
  • Collaborative leadership. 

It is worth noting how many of these skills are what we might traditionally call “soft skills” (a term sorely in need of being reconsidered – after all, they are very often the toughest skills to cultivate). 

  • Tools and approaches: Project leaders are using multiple approaches, including collaborative platforms and work management tools, along with emerging, hybrid, and traditional methods to help them deliver value. Project leaders must consider themselves ready, willing, and able to expand their toolkits to meet the unique needs of each project.  
  • Culture: Innovators are creating a culture that views disruption as an opportunity to enable greater agility. They value the technological shift toward a digital environment as they encourage their project leaders to take advantage of flexible practices and new tools - paving the way for a continued evolution to an environment where people and machines work together toward more successful outcomes.

The need for enhanced digital skills is especially acute in India, home to a sizable youth population, with the working-age population increasing by 1.3 million new workers each month. In order to fully seize what could be a tremendous demographic opportunity, organizations across India in every sector are well advised to focus on cultivating robust project management skills. Indeed, a clear trend that PMI has identified in its research is that leading organizations report that they invest in formal processes to develop project leaders’ competencies in these skills. After all, even in the age of tech disruption, it is still critical for organizations to draw upon proven best practices in project management – engaging executive sponsors, executing projects that align to organizational strategy, and keeping a careful eye on scope creep.

Organizations that succeed in this age of disruption invest in their talent to enable increased productivity, create greater efficiency, and promote innovation. Forward-thinking organizations empower employees to experiment with different ways of organizing work and offer robust training to broaden their capabilities. They create roles, assign titles, and empower their teams to select the project management approach most appropriate to ensure success. 

Such organizations are not only embracing the future but are shaping it through the successful implementation of projects. In the years ahead, the world is likely to continue the recent trend of evolving to a project-oriented economy – one in which work is organized around portfolios of projects rather than jobs defined by bulleted lists of static responsibilities. And in the project economy, it will be the organizations that invest in project skills and continuous learning that will reap the rewards. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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