Project managers playing larger role in organizational agility

Tech-savvy project professionals with business skills are highly valued for their ability to understand and facilitate change.

The only constant in life is change, and change is accelerating quickly. That's why executives are rebuilding and re-envisioning their organizations with an eye to agility and creativity.

According to the Project Management Institute's (PMI) sixth annual Pulse of the Professional survey, 53% of executives said they place a high priority on building organizational cultures that are receptive to change. For the first time, they identified organizational agility (35%), choosing the right technologies (32%), and securing relevant skills (31%) as the factors they see as the most important to achieve future success. 

Forty-nine percent of respondents also said investing in technology and digitalization (44%) are the most important areas to focus on over the next three to five years. 

SEE: Scrum meetings: The do's and don'ts (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

"When I think about the capabilities that organizations need today to remain competitive and relevant, you want people with strong technical capabilities, regardless of what role they perform in the organization," said Mike DePrisco, vice president, Global Solutions at PMI. "But, for organizations to truly be successful, to stay forward-leaning, you need employees that have power skills. It's technical skills plus the ability to think creatively and demonstrate some leadership and have influence in the organization."

This is called "design thinking," DePrisco said, a methodology being adopted by all manner of organizations today. According to the report, 59% of organizations have used this approach to explore and solve problems.

"We look at every single challenge from a design-thinking perspective. We observe the challenge from the point of view of different stakeholders, understand the key pain points and generate ideas to address these challenges together with our clients. Then only at that point in time do we define the solution." Luca Giraudo, PMP, senior manager, Accenture London

"We look at every single challenge from a design-thinking perspective," said Luca Giraudo, PMP, senior manager, Accenture London, in the report. "We observe the challenge from the point of view of different stakeholders, understand the key pain points and generate ideas to address these challenges together with our clients. Then only at that point in time do we define the solution."

To facilitate these types of problem solving approaches, project managers will have to focus on more than just scope, time, and budget, the report said. They need to develop leadership skills as well as technical skills. That is why organizations are investing in developing a workforce that has the technical (68%), leadership (65%), business (58%), and digital (50%) skills. Empathy also is cited as an important skill needed to build the strong relationships that are required to support organizational change. 

"Organizations that stick with the status quo risk not just treading water, but sinking," the report said. "Now an essential business asset, change happens through projects. Organizations are undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift in which projects are no longer adjacent to operations but instead primary to how work gets done and problems get solved. … In many ways, the organization is its projects—led by a variety of titles, executed through a variety of approaches, and focused unwaveringly on delivering financial and societal value. This is what we call The Project Economy."

The report specifically cites artificial intelligence (AI) as an area that will disrupt how projects get done. 

"In the future, artificial intelligence will be doing a lot of the reporting and administrative work," said Priscila Duarte, PMP, technical delivery manager for Microsoft, Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the report. "So it will be important for project managers to invest in their leadership skills and other people skills because those will never go away."

SEE: Special report: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To further increase organizational agility, respondents said they are focused on developing organizational cultures that are focused on delivering customer value (70%), are more receptive to change (53%), that invest in technology (53%), and value project management (46%).

Project management also plays a big role in this year's survey. Most executives (69%) said they place a high value on project management. So much so that 47% have defined a career path for project professionals and 51% said they require some sort of project management certification. Organizations that place importance and value on project management have a higher success rate in meeting their goals, budgets, scope, and reduce the likelihood of project failure, DePrisco said. Organizations that do not view project management as strategic report that, on average, 67 percent of their projects fail.

"Organizations that place importance and value on project management have a higher success rate in meeting their goals, budgets, scope, and reduce the likelihood of project failure," DePrisco said.
Companies that are future-focused and project-orientated adopt these three tenets:

  • Ability is agility: Organizations that can fail fast and pivot to what's next are best positioned for the future.

  • Technology rules but people influence: Executives and project leaders must have the training, processes, and talent to get the job done right.

  • It's a project leader's world: With so much change, executives are increasingly turning to project leaders to help them turn ideas into reality. 

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Planning schedule concept vector illustration in flat style

Image: SiberianArt, Getty Images/iStockphoto