Projecting the Future: let’s start a big conversation

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If the project profession is to keep thriving in a fast-changing world, we have to actively shape our future. Next week’s conference in Manchester marks the start of a new APM conversation about how.

The world in which we work is changing fast. We see it everywhere around us. New technology creates unimaginable opportunities – and could transform working life over the coming years. Sustainability and the threat of climate change demand that we find clean routes to economic growth. The quiet revolutions in human health and longevity are giving more and more of us the prospect of longer lives, but our social care systems are creaking.

In this changing world, what is the role of the project profession? And how do we build our readiness so that we don’t just survive, but thrive?

Those questions are at the heart of Projecting the Future – an exciting new initiative launching at the APM Project Management Conference in Manchester on 26 June.

Running throughout the coming months, Projecting the Future will be a ‘big conversation’ about our place as a profession in a fast-changing and complex world.

It’s our profession that will on the one hand be tasked with leading transformative change, from digitisation and the creation of ‘industry 4.0’, to the delivery of major public infrastructure. On the other, we can see the ‘projectification’ of work gathering pace all around us, as professionals of all backgrounds spend more and more of their time working on delivering change, rather than simply managing the status quo.

Project professionals should be leading the way. To do so, we have to actively shape the future. We need to be ambitious. I believe we need to be better at showing how we add value to the benefit of business and society as a whole. We need to challenge long-established ideas about managing and valuing the benefits of projects. And we have to challenge ourselves too, thinking about the skills and mindsets we will need in the years ahead. If tomorrow’s digital economy is ‘industry 4.0’, what does ‘PM 4.0’ look like?

It’s time for us to take the next step on our journey from the technical function that emerged with the dawn of the computer age, to becoming more widely recognised as a true leadership and delivery profession.

How we do that is the focus of Projecting the Future. Over the coming months, we will seek to tap into the expertise of project professionals from across APM’s membership in every part of the economy. We’ll also be reaching out beyond the boundaries of our profession: talking to project sponsors and decisions makers – our customers – as well as to experts and leaders in the fields that will be influenced by our profession in the years ahead.

We don’t claim to have all the answers – or even to have thought of all the right questions. They will be crowdsourced from you. We also want to hear from you about the best, most exciting and innovative approaches to project delivery that you’re developing and delivering, helping to show what the future could be.

Whatever your career stage, your sector or your role, we’ll welcome your views. Whether it’s commenting on the content that we’ll be publishing on the APM website – starting with a discussion paper next week – by joining the conversation on Twitter or APM’s LinkedIn group, joining us on a webinar, or by helping us develop new case studies; every contribution will be important. There will also be numerous chances to discuss these crucial issues in person at APM events around the country in the months ahead.

We can be immensely proud of the project profession’s evolution to date and at the same time be ambitious to achieve more. We should be able look at major businesses and public sector organisations in 10-15 years’ time and see as many chief executives with project backgrounds as we see with financial or legal backgrounds today.

It will be a long journey, but the conversation we start next week will be an important step on the road.

Register for the APM Manchester Conference, Power of Projects: unlocking the future on 26 June, or you can sign up for the Projecting the Future – a Big Conversation webinar on 1 July.

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Posted by Tim Banfield on 17th Jun 2019

About the Author

Tim Banfield is chair of APM’s Projecting the Future Group and a director with the Nichols Group. He was previously a director of the Major Projects Authority, and was a director of the National Audit Office.

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