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Projecting future success - the pivotal role of agile project management in the new work ecosystem

At the dawn of the decade, transformation sat high on the global business agenda. The onset of the fourth industrial revolution had sparked digital disruption, and the agile mindset was being adopted increasingly worldwide. The upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering immediate fundamental change to myriad business practices, has highlighted the pressing need for even greater organizational dexterity. 

Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute (PMI), a global association for project management professionals, senses a watershed moment, “There will come a point when organizations will step back up, adopt new ways of working and become ‘gymnastic’ in their ability to pivot quickly to meet changing demands.”

Following an initial phase of resolution and stabilization, organizations will need to reimagine what the future holds for them, a task set to land at the feet of project managers. “We will see a demand for our community as companies around the world reinvent and reboot themselves,” predicts Prashara. “But someone has to do the rebooting.”

Projects are the core conduits of change - fundamental to solving problems and getting work done. But to unleash the transformational power of what PMI calls The Project Economy requires a reshuffle of traditional organizational structures to recognize the pivotal importance of the Project Management Office (PMO).

All too often, the PMO sits separately from the rest of the organization, a disconnect that hampers the achievement of collective goals. “There are disciplines ingrained in the PMO that we could really learn from,” observes Prashara, citing flexibility and a sharp focus on substantive value. Put simply, PMO integration equals better organizational outcomes.

Along with the traditional skillset requirements, such as project planning, an agile, future-ready project professional will need a firm understanding of the capabilities of evolving technologies, such as the power and potential of 5G and automation. There are few better observation points for spotting the tech-driven opportunities for structural synergies and procedural enhancement than from the PMO’s chair.

Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of PMI

But project management also equals people management. A recent PMI study showed most organizations place an almost equal emphasis on developing leadership skills as they do technical skills (65 percent and 68 percent, respectively). “People skills are what make you unique,” says Prashara. “What makes you who you are is your empathy, your desire for leadership skills, and the learnings that you take from personal interests and experiences.”

EQ, or emotional intelligence, can be difficult to quantify. With the current upswing of remote working and the usual forms of body language and communication limited by video conferencing tools, power skills have become increasingly relevant.

With the demand for their services moving beyond traditional roles, project managers need to be highly enabled and continuously learning. PMI sees itself as the go-to place for all things project – a digital encyclopedia for project managers to tap into information in real-time and collaborate with other project professionals around the world.

The organization recently launched the Basics of Disciplined Agile (DA) course; the self-paced online course lays the foundation for Disciplined Agile and covers the core principles of business agility. Its eight modules simulate real-life scenarios that illustrate context-driven options from a range of industries and situations, giving project professionals the tools and freedom to choose the right form of agile for their particular project - their own way of working or ‘WoW’ - in order to achieve the best outcomes. The next addition coming to their portfolio, Organizational Transformation I, is an online course that ensures professionals have the awareness and skillset required to respond to change and play a role in their organization’s transformation efforts.

With reduced resources post-pandemic, organizations will reap the benefits of empowering project managers with the tools to prioritize agility and the business case to back it up. Taking a holistic view of the rebound, Prashara envisages a collective structural open-mindedness which will present a unique opportunity for a wider societal reset.

“I think we will see a mass co-collaboration as organizations and industries get together to think about how they reinvent themselves in a much more proportionate way, balancing economic wealth with social responsibility,” he predicts.

Equipped with the right insights and methodologies, this is a task perfectly suited for agile project professionals.

Find out more on Project Management Institute

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