Project managers need to skill-up to thrive in the “transformation economy”

New research by AXELOS, global custodian of PRINCE2, the practiced project management methodology, has suggested that the project manager (PM) of the future will be valued above all for creativity, flexibility, agility, emotional intelligence and alignment with the strategic goals of the business or organisation. 90% of PMs currently say they need a stronger strategic vision that aligns with the goals of the business.

Over five million people are employed in project management roles across the UK, covering the public sector and commercial sectors such as IT, financial services, construction, engineering, pharmaceuticals, health and manufacturing.

The numbers are set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years, according to 76% of project managers, as project management moves from being a specialist discipline to a generalist business skill.

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For full-time PM’s who are able to skill up and bring agility, creativity and flexibility to projects, the rewards will be great: they will benefit from higher earnings as they tap into the gig economy, while professionals who can drive the strategic organisational vision and achieve business transformation will be rewarded with senior management roles and even welcomed onto the board.

AXELOS commissioned the survey in advance of the Summer (July) 2017 launch of the latest evolution of PRINCE2. The methodology has been updated to reflect developments in business practices over the past decade and now places an unprecedented emphasis on tailoring projects to the specific needs and objectives of an organiSation and its environment.

The survey covered 187 senior project managers, representing such organisations as NHS Blood and Transplant, the Crown Prosecution Service, VISA, Meggit PLC and the Ambition Group.

Most of them (76%) feel that the job title ‘project manager’ will, over time, be superseded by ‘business manager’, while the title ‘transformation director’ will define the supercharged PM of the future.

Parag Gogate, managing consultant, Ambition Group, an international consultancy that works with organisations to accelerate business change, commented: “The pace of change in today’s business environment is immense. This means that project managers need to be more strategic, flexible and adaptable so they can effectively respond to the emerging transformation economy – ‘do agile’ and ‘be agile’.”

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“But it is not just the project manager that needs to evolve, so does the senior leadership mindset. To truly bring about business transformation and embrace all the benefits of the technology age, senior leaders need to learn how to communicate their strategic vision and objectives with clarity if they are to drive transformation from the top down.”

Six out of ten believe that artificial intelligence and machine learning will have a profound impact on the profession: 59% say that automation will replace many routine PM tasks, while 90% predict that project risk will increase, requiring PM’s to develop new skills to overcome this challenge.

At the moment, PM’s too often seem to lack the strategic skills and vision required to accelerate their career: 90% of respondents say that they need to be better at understanding and aligning themselves with the strategic vision and goals of their organisation.

If they want to survive and thrive in the brave new world of business, they need to sharpen their skills in key areas: strategy, business analysis, change management, organisation[al] diplomacy, influencing and relationship-building.

All PMs need to embrace agile working practices

Eight out of ten PMs (84%) agreed that agile working practices will only grow in importance, becoming standard across all industry sectors, not just software development and IT. With clients and stakeholders already wanting to achieve results faster and more flexibly, 89% of PM’s are aware of the need to up their game.

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Peter Hepworth, chief executive officer of AXELOS said: “Time and again we hear that the only constant in the world is change. Over recent years project management has undergone a transformation and it will continue to do so at a rapid pace as it responds to evolutions in business practices. Project management will evolve to become a more generalist business skill, giving professional project managers an opportunity to add value at a strategic level, and in some instances further their position within an organisation. But project management professionals need to broaden their skills and embrace issues of strategy, change management, risk management, stakeholder engagement and agility if they are to realise their organisational goals.”

“The PRINCE2 update is a response to developments in business practice. This latest evolution of the world’s most-practiced project management methodology places greater emphasis on how to tailor PRINCE2 to the needs of organisations and the project environment, and that includes the management of risk and of projects that make up larger programmes. The update again consolidates a wealth of real-life experience gained by the worldwide AXELOS-accredited community. This means it can be trusted to provide practical, authoritative and relevant guidance, enabling anyone with a project to manage to get the best out of PRINCE2 – and to achieve success for themselves and their organisation.”


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...