According to AXELOS’ Future Project Management Professional research, the project managers of tomorrow will need to embrace a wider range of skills and become even more multi-faceted. Project manager, Ana Bertacchini considers the implications for the profession.
How will the project managers of the future evolve from the professionals of today?
At the moment, typically, you might begin as a subject matter expert and be given the task of managing a project and need to learn the skills and seek out the tools you need while on the job. And you soon realize that project management is about more than the project: it involves reaching out to people, dealing with senior managers and evolving to cope with a wide variety of demands.
But how will this change for future project managers? AXELOS’ research highlights the areas of strategy, change management, risk management and agile. Why will these be so important to project managers?
This is challenging as even a “good change” is uncomfortable for people. This needs soft skills to get buy-in and to influence those involved at corporate or product level.
Project managers are accountable for delivery, but delivering a product and delivering value are different things. The challenge is being emotionally detached from the delivery process and adopting a strategic approach; this means being able to assess whether a project is still relevant or it’s more beneficial for the organization to close it down. Therefore, you need to question whether a project is the right thing to do based on the company’s long term needs.
Who is accountable and how do we rate risks? There’s nothing worse than imposing actions without rationale, creating an environment of fear. Projects driven by risk and regulation can be killed off if the risks are realized, therefore these projects need tight risk management. Conversely, if it’s a question of how useful a product is to customers this probably warrants less attention to risk, though it could cause a long-term reputational issue. Project managers need to ensure governance is in place to review and understand the risks.
As a project manager, if you’re not qualified in Agile you’re likely to miss the benefits. Equally, it has to be used appropriately. For example, in the banking sector you might want to deliver things quickly but it might be impossible. Using agile methods needs to be agreed ahead of the project and not based on having to meet deadlines, which has an impact on quality.
Agile is not just a way to do things faster and is not appropriate for every project.
How can project managers improve their capabilities in these areas?
You can’t lead without going through the pain yourself and that means you need to understand the granularity of various approaches. The skills you need to get things done can be the difference between success and failure.
It’s no longer possibly to get away with not qualifying in specific project management methods and tools. It also means you can’t rely on existing company methods: they might be obsolete in an industry that is constantly evolving, involves remote working and is cross-generational.
What project managers need is a mix of qualifications and soft skills development, along with feedback, knowledge sharing and organizational learning. My qualifications journey has included PRINCE2®, APM Practitioner, Agile practitioner and an MA in project management. These are stepping stones which need to be combined with continual professional development to remain constantly up-to-date with the latest knowledge.
Read our Future Project Management Professional report for more information.