by Cindy W Anderson, Vice President, Brand Management, Project Management Institute
Disruptive technologies are reshaping industries and markets in unprecedented ways and at extraordinary speed. The organisations that will succeed in this environment are those that can adapt rapidly to new opportunities and challenges. Rather than seeing only threats, they recognise that disruption creates an opening that can give them a competitive advantage.
We are clearly in a period of profound change – change that is delivered through projects and programmes. Project management holds enormous value in helping organisations integrate emerging technologies to drive needed change, increase flexibility and improve speed. For example, artificial intelligence has the potential to automate more routine aspects of work and lend project leaders more capacity to play greater strategic roles in organisations.
Yet the full business value of strategic initiatives isn’t being realised. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® 2019 report reveals that organisations waste almost 12 per cent of their investment in project spend due to poor performance – a number that’s barely moved over the past five years.
A recent Brightline Initiative study, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows 59 per cent of senior executives admitted their organisations struggle to bridge the strategy implementation gap. The result? Only one in 10 organisations successfully hit their strategic targets.
So what can organisations do to better take advantage of emerging technologies to turn their ideas into reality? Our research points to a few recommendations.
Increasing your ‘PMTQ’
PMI is calling on project leaders to evaluate and bolster their project management technology quotient, or PMTQ. PMI developed PMTQ by drawing on insights from innovative companies that put a high priority on digital skills acquisition and knowledge, coupled with a commitment to a strong culture of project delivery.
PMTQ embraces the fundamental shift in how work is done. In the jobs of the future, workers’ time will more often be structured around a flexible portfolio of projects that will be increasingly tied to technology. Having strong PMTQ will be essential for anyone charged with implementing strategic initiatives in a world constantly being remodeled by technology.
Leveraging digital-age skills
Forward-thinking organisations are successfully leveraging disruptive technologies and managing their impact. In a recent Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report, Developing Digital-Age Project Management Skills to Thrive in Disruptive Times, we discovered that the successful management of disruptive technologies requires a specific digital skillset that overlays other essential skills.
What kinds of skills make the difference? Innovative organisations – those that rate themselves as effective in managing the impact of disruptive technology – have identified the critical digital-era skills that rise to the top of the list for prospective project leaders.
The top six include:
• Data science skills (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
Innovative organisations understand that project professionals must continually develop their skills as technology continues to evolve. That’s why they’re also investing in formal processes to help their project leaders develop competencies in these areas.
Nurture a culture of agility
Organisations with cultures that embrace change move quickly, decisively and effectively to anticipate, initiate, and take advantage of opportunities, yet they remain robust enough to absorb any setbacks.
For some, it’s about embracing a start-up mindset as they expand and launch projects in new sectors. For example, household appliance innovator Dyson announced a project investment to develop an electric car by 2020. Furniture manufacturer IKEA veered into the tech realm, developing software for a series of connected lighting products and launching a new augmented-reality shopping app. These innovators understand that navigating new business terrain requires them to expand their ranks of talent rapidly and recruit new types of expertise.
Invest in formal project management approaches
It is also essential that organisations continue to rely on proven practices in project management, such as effectively engaging executive sponsors. PMI research consistently points to the involvement of actively, appropriately engaged executive sponsors as the most important factor contributing to success with projects and programmes.
Effective executive sponsors bring thorough knowledge of a project or programme and how it connects to strategy. They also have the necessary skills and authority to clear roadblocks, the confidence to make quick and effective decisions, and the influence to champion the project with senior management.
In addition to the best practices that have been demonstrated to work in the past, leading organisations also look ahead to the “next practices” of tomorrow. They understand that success begins with identifying the right project approach for every initiative. That’s why they embrace the value delivery landscape – the full spectrum of competencies needed to deliver their projects and programmes in a digital environment. These include a variety of practices such as DevOps, design thinking, cognitive computing and more.
The only certainty today is change. As virtually every leader needs to meet the challenge of increasing market and customer demands, the organisations that thrive will stand out by their ability to adapt rapidly to new opportunities, and by their ability to recruit and develop talent with the right skills and mindset.
To learn more about PMI’s latest thinking on the future of the profession and what can be learned from organisations that have embraced technology as an opportunity, check out PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report.
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