Project management: 2017 in review and looking ahead to 2018

Young girl standing against a wall looking forwards through binoculars

2017 was certainly an interesting year for project management and 2018 looks set to be equally eventful.

Ana BertacchiniIn a positive move for the industry, the Association for Project Management (APM) received its Royal Charter. This is a major step forward for the profession and takes it to the next level; weeding out people who fall into the role versus those who are highly qualified and giving greater accountability to those with recognized certification.

Methodologies are also evolving such as the PRINCE2 Agile® guidance and certification, training professionals in both methodologies at the same time. I fully expect this to continue in 2018. It’s no longer enough to know one or the other. You have to be prepared to implement several different tools in the current market.

And, of course, Brexit was a major upset and remains a cause for concern. The vote has sparked a low level panic about talent leaving London. It’s noticeable in discussions between European citizens about where to go next on a contract basis and also companies trying to work out how to attract teams from outside of the UK. At this stage any activity is only preparation. But I think it is, understandably, on everyone’s mind.

Looking ahead

In terms of what to watch for in 2018, changes to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are scheduled to come into effect in May. This has major implications in terms of data handling and consumer rights, and affects every industry sector. Organizations need to up their game and can no longer assume that Brexit will make the UK exempt.

The stakes are high – failure to comply could result in a £20 million fine or 4% of global revenue – figures which could bankrupt a small business and translate to billions in losses for a global bank. As a result, professionals capable of handling the huge transformation projects required will be in demand. In fact, I’ve already seen a big increase in job adverts specifically for GDPR project management.

There are also signs that career development is taking a new direction towards softer skills. I’ve spoken about the benefits in previous blogs and it’s also a message I’ve picked up from the APM latest conference.  We’ll see a noticeable shift towards cultural methodologies where interpersonal skills are developed to strengthen leadership and employee engagement. This is something I believe will continue throughout the year and be a real point of difference for project managers.

Uncertain times

Taken as a whole, these developments make it a good time to be involved, but there is an underlying climate of uncertainty.

The industry is going through a period of change in many ways. Even the Government review of the tax legislation IR35 is only serving to add to an already unstable environment. So what we have is a number of opposing tensions. Contractors versus permanent staff, UK citizens versus everyone else and major new regulation causing companies to panic and urgently seek project professionals capable of driving that change.

I think companies will try to ring-fence their talent but how they will do that against a backdrop of Brexit remains to be seen. People won’t sit around waiting for something to happen before they act. So it will be interesting to see what happens in the New Year – especially in the third quarter of 2018.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Ana Bertacchini

How to align project management to corporate strategy

How to use 'lessons learned' to reduce project failure

How project managers can always improve emotional intelligence

The multi-faceted project manager

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