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Key highlights for project success from the APM Power of Projects conference 2021

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Our Power of Projects virtual conference saw over 30 expert speakers who delivered a range of thought-provoking and interactive sessions from 7 to 11 June about factors that lead to project success. We’ve collated some of the key highlights from this year’s conference below covering topics such as agile, leadership and diversity. Here’s what you need to know so you can keep delivering successful projects:

1. Embody high level values of agile

Most of the myths surrounding Agile are untrue; it’s simply a well-established, easy to understand and highly effective framework that can be used across multiple project types.

Instead of getting stuck on the nitty-gritty, why not try and embody some of the high-level values of the Agile manifesto? Focus on collaborating with your customer, concentrate on your team interactions, be responsive to change and devote yourself to making something.

2. Create and enable a diverse team

Diverse teams contribute to more successful projects. Project professionals should seek diverse teams and encourage participation. For example, supporting and collaborating with LGBTQ+ staff members in projects when planning and designing spaces in our cities to better understand the challenges, needs, aspirations and hopes of LGBTQ+ people.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) leads to smarter, more innovative projects. It boosts more intellectual potential at the project levels. Diverse teams and staff members bring with them different perspectives, ideas, criticisms and knowledge, and so contribute to more successful projects, and more diverse organisations.

3. Balance qualifications with practical experience

There’s no single route to becoming a project manager; it’s common for project professionals to come through academic routes and backgrounds, apprenticeships, graduate schemes or alternative career paths.

If you’re coming to the project profession from an alternative career path, use this to emphasise your specialist knowledge or experience, alongside transferable skills.

To land a project management role try to have a balance of qualifications alongside practical experience. To get opportunities make sure you familiarise yourself with the language, know what you’re talking about and build your network. Why not join the APM Hub where you can connect with lots of APM members?

Having a good balance of knowledge and experience will help you manage a project through to successful delivery.

4. As leaders, we must become better listeners

In this highly unpredictable world, we can safely leave standard, repetitive work to be done by artificial intelligence. To solve difficult problems like tackling a global pandemic, saving the planet, or getting to Mars, we need to unleash our creativity.

Tapping into our own and our team’s inner drive (or intrinsic motivation) is vital to unleashing creativity and talent. Leaders can gain insight into what inspires and excites their team (as well as themselves) by understanding three keys to intrinsic motivation:

  • Autonomy – an urge to self-direct
  • Mastery – an urge to get better at something that matters to us
  • Purpose – an urge to do what we do in the service of something greater than ourselves.

5. Utilise data for effective decision making

A lively discussion with the panel highlighted the need for projects to move from hindsight through insight to foresight using project data analytics (PDA) to help deliver this transition and ensure better project outcomes. We need a greater shift to evidence (data) led decision making, defining up front what data is required to make those decision and ensuring that each project has a clear data strategy for capturing and recording data.

PDA will enable project professionals to have better insight into measures beyond typical parameters such as time, cost, and risk, etc, into areas such as measuring the wellbeing of the project team which may be a leading indicator of emerging challenges on the project.

6. Understand the potential of data and analytics is great

It’s important for firms to look beyond the tech and understand what their business will look like in a more data-enabled world - not 10 years out, but 10 months out. There will need to be significant changes to processes, governance and ways of working (alongside tech) ensuring these changes are being planned.

Avoiding too many ‘proof of concepts’ (POCs) is important; although they appear useful they rarely provide a platform for future development. Instead, utilising ‘lighthouse’ projects offer similar benefits to POCs but in a way that also addresses governance, ownership and future support.

If you enjoyed the material covered in our Power of Projects conference, or missed out and want to learn more, you can watch on demand (🔒) from 13 July. In the meantime, why not attend our other upcoming events? We will continue to have meaningful, in depth expert discussions on important topics for the project profession, so come along.


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  1. Faith Alfred
    Faith Alfred 18 June 2021, 01:21 AM

    Thank you for this

  2. Anna Croxall
    Anna Croxall 25 June 2021, 12:58 PM

    Thank you, Katherine. I'm interested in learning more about the differences between PoCs and lighthouse projects - could you point me in the direction of where I can best research this please?