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The revolution will be project managed

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It has been repeated ad nauseam, but the world in which we live and work is changing fast. The idea of a revolution is not an abstract, theoretical one that is yet to come – it is here in our midst. Not only are we seeing far-reaching and rapid change across society and the economy, but these changes are unpredictable and volatile. At the launch of our Projecting the Future (PtF) ‘big conversation’ at APM’s Manchester Conference last June, I emphasised the opportunity for our profession to thrive in this fast-changing world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn into sharp focus the importance of the project profession in dealing with dynamic change. It is a great opportunity for us all to demonstrate the profession’s capacity to provide expertise and leadership through the momentous challenges we are facing. But more than that, it is chance for us to position ourselves in the minds of senior business and public sector leaders as being at the heart of future change.

Over the past 10 months the Projecting the Future campaign has sought to identify future trends and view head-on some of the major challenges facing the project profession. The feedback we have been receiving consistently shows not only that ours is a profession that is rightly proud of its achievements to date, but more than that: ours is also a profession that is confident in the face of the challenges of the future.

Our first challenge paper, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: data, automation, and AI, emphasised that in every sector it is project professionals who are integral to realising the benefits promised by new technologies. Consider automation, many respondents to our recently published Salary and Market Trends Survey 2020 stated that they will benefit from automation over the coming years – with 69 per cent of those surveyed expressing their belief that automation will have a positive impact (vis-à-vis only five per cent who stated they believe the impact will be negative). This buoyant optimism extends beyond automation, with the survey showing a profession tackling unprecedented challenges with renewed positivity. Unsurprisingly, the survey also showed that the opportunity of technology continues to dominate the future agenda for project professionals, and 87 per cent of those surveyed identified technology as the number-one force impacting the way projects are managed.

As project professionals, we have the opportunity to use emergent or novel practices in our work – and as we’re being tasked to deliver transformation much more – confidence and ambition are rising. As confirmed by the Salary Survey, project management is an attractive career, with one-fifth of respondents having less than two years’ experience (that 71 per cent of this group are under the age of 34 suggests a significant proportion are just beginning their careers). Combined with the fact that business leaders are increasingly looking for the skills necessary to deliver change effectively, professionalism, which was once seen as a “nice-to-have”, is now an essential part of the project practitioner’s strategic toolkit. Our forthcoming paper on Future Work and Skills – the sixth in the series – will look at the skills our profession will need to adapt to future challenges.

For me, the single most inspirational message I have taken from all of our conversations over the past 10 months is that as project professionals, everything we do changes the world a little bit for the better. The chance to make those changes even bigger and more effective is the opportunity which makes being a project professional so exciting. The revolution is not abstract or theoretical – it is here in our midst and one thing is clear: this revolution will be project managed. So as we Project the Future and I encourage you to join the debate.

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