26 June 2019 / 9:00
Smart phones dependent lives, thinking machines replacing humans at the workplaces, social media-based societies and fast-paced technological penetration in day-to-day living are just the tip of the iceberg examples of irreversible changes that human civilization is going through currently. These changes are redefining behaviors and professional norms. Like other professions, project management needs to respond to these changes to be ready for the future and to remain as an attractive profession. Thus, the time has arrived for project management (PM) to rediscover itself.
The question then is how PM should change or what kind of changes should be implemented within the profession for it to become future-ready and aligned with the ongoing social and technological changes. The answer is obviously not an easy and straightforward as such.
In order to find the answer, below we identify some focal areas where PM as a profession will embrace change or need to change in coming times. We use these areas to draw up a “Project management Change path 2020 to 2025” describing several directions and elements of PM change over five years. Needless to mention that the identified focal areas are meant to build an initial thought and should not be taken as conclusive or exhaustive in nature.
Focal areas of Project management (PM) Change Path 2020 to 2025
- PM Thinking path change
For PM to rediscover and become future-ready, the most important area of change is the change in PM thinking. Change in PM thinking is about accepting, adopting, and practicing the new ways of managing projects that are aligned with the changing times. PM thinking path change is necessary to see a different perspective of future of PM and be open to adopt that new perspective. Without PM thinking path change, the real change may not be possible. Having a new vision of PM, being ready to use new standards, technologies, management paradigms, and leadership traits are some of the elements that embody the PM thinking path change.
Some of the thinking path change will occur naturally due to influence from publicly available information, interaction with people and peers, and self-learning behaviors. Whereas, other sources of thinking path change will be trainings, dedicated efforts within organizations to change people’s thinking through seminars and HR department programs, organizational re-structing, and managed change through implementation of new technologies, hiring of new CEO and/or senior managers etc. PM thinking path change may also occur due to dedicated programs organized by PM bodies to highlight the need for change and defining the anchors or the key elements that embody the thinking path change.
- PM education path change
Education remains one of key paths of change if PM is to rediscover itself successfully. Currently, PM education is very much best practice standards and guidelines focused. However, learning best practices and standards is not sufficient as often the best practices are not practiced in the real life PM. It creates a void/gap in learning and practice. Therefore, PM education path need to change over next five year to not only try and plug the gap between education and practice, but also focus on providing learning on the use of latest standards, techniques and technologies in PM. In particular, providing learning about how machines and technologies can work effectively with people should also be the focus of this path of change.
- PM certification path change
PM certification is a vehicle to acquire specialized knowledge delineated in the documented standards and guidelines of PM bodies. Having PM certification serves as an evidence of conformance or non-conformance to possessing acceptable PM knowledge.
However, in hindsight, the current pattern of PM certification path seems to be one-dimensional and thus needs to change to become more inclusive. PM bodies need to consider partnering with other certification providers to provide packaged certifications such as PM artificial intelligence (AI) combo certification. This does not mean to just combine two subjects to offer combo certification. But, what it means is that PM knowledge is contextualized to use of AI in PM, so that a person having packaged combo certification is considered possessing latest knowledge of using AI in PM, in addition to contemporary PM knowledge.
- PM Skills development path change
The current focus of PM skills development path is on people management skills and learning PM standards and practices. Such a focus is very limiting in changing times.
The fast-growing technological developments require people and machines to work together synchronously to optimize the efforts and outcome of efforts. Therefore, PM skills development path need to change to include skills that provide learning about how to work with machines more effectively, in addition to current focus of working with people effectively. The machines could be AI devices, complex computer systems, and other mechanical systems and equipment that are used for project delivery.
- PM leadership path change
The changing times necessitate change in PM leadership path as well. PM leadership is not about completing required PM certification(s) and becoming qualified to lead the project teams. In next five years, it is expected that PM leadership path will change with focus on building leadership traits such as having a vision about how to work with technologies and thinking machines, having strategic and operational understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of the product/service being created for the client, knowing self-skills development path, knowing what PM skills should be developed within the organization, and knowing how to lead teams of people and machines.
- PM planning and execution path change
In current form, PM planning and execution is predominantly driven by the methodologies and best practices enshrined in the PM standards of various PM bodies. However, the changing times require changing this approach.
As human-machine interaction is expected to grow, the guideline PM standards need to change over next five years and take into account the role machines will or could play in planning and execution of projects. In hindsight, the current standards need to incorporate new processes and protocols for machines to be involved in project planning and execution, and ultimate delivery of projects.
It is important to keep in view that machines and technologies with their processing power could help execution of various planning and actual work processes faster and more effectively. Therefore, PM needs to evolve to take benefits of these opportunities.
- PM knowledge development path change
The knowledge development path needs to change to ensure that the PM knowledge development is more inclusive and aligned with ongoing social and technological development. PM knowledge development seems somewhat stagnant and slow in many ways. The current set of traditional, Agile or Tragile project management approaches include tools and techniques, some of which have been created 100 years ago. It shows that either new knowledge is not being created, or there is no new knowledge to update the current PM approaches.
It is expected that over next five years, PM Knowledge development will benefit from socio-technical changes such as use of social media, AI, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for day-to-day life and business activities. PM Knowledge development path change could mean involving AI devices to collect data, observe project planning, execution and control activities; and then perform simulations to identify new ways of project planning and execution. All these efforts will ultimately lead to documentation of new processes, tools and techniques to update PM standards or create new standards.
- PM technologies path change
It will be stating the obvious that the use of latest technologies is critical for the success of all types of businesses. Since projects are created to support businesses, therefore, projects need to use latest technologies not only for the creation of project’s product but also for the PM processes that create the product. Therefore, there is a need for change in the PM technologies path over next five years to make PM future-ready through adoption, acceptance, and assimilation of latest technologies for management of projects.
The widespread use of PM across various types of business segments means the range of technologies that can be used in PM is also wide and varied. Some top contenders that will help in technologies path change include use of big data (BD), social media (SM), AI, AR and VR. However, just naming these technologies is limiting, as use of technologies are dependent on the industry and business segment. It is, therefore, expected that PM technologies path change is broad in scope, allowing assimilation of wide range of technologies for PM to stay relevant in changing times.
- PM marketing path change
PM marketing plays a key role in advancement of professional boundaries. Currently, PM marketing is done through many channels including PM bodies, PM education and consultancy providers, PM certification training and learning providers, and PM related resources and blogs outlets, just to mention a few.
PM marketing path change is required as PM marketing should not revolve around disbursement and enhancement of PM knowledge alone, as it seems to be currently. PM marketing needs to be effective to entice and engage the best brains to join PM community and the profession. Human element is critical for the growth of PM profession, just like any other profession. Therefore, PM marketing path change should be focused on highlighting PM as a profession that fosters and allows creativity and building new thought, provides opportunities for growth, offers career expansion, and strong community support, just to mention few.
Changing times require adapting to new realities and becoming ready to move forward. Human civilization is certainly going through an era of irreversible changes. It means people and professions need to adapt to changes to be sustainable in short and long terms.
PM being a dynamic and widely used profession needs to adapt to new realities and changes in many ways. We have highlighted some of the focal areas where such changes need to happen for PM to remain attractive and relevant profession. Obviously, neither the focal areas nor the anchors of change discussed under each of the focal areas are exhaustive in nature. But surely, they provide food for thought and avenue for further deliberation.
Professor Jiwat Ram
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