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What does 2024 have in store for project managers?

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Next year will be a time of change and excitement, anticipate some of the profession’s influential movers and shakers. Project caught up with eight of them to hear their predictions for 2024…

Milla Mazilu, Chair, APM

In 2024, sustainability and social responsibility will continue to be major trends in the project profession. This is especially the case as organisations become more aware of their environmental and societal impact, which will drive an increased focus in all areas, including project planning and execution. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I also expect to see increased adoption of emerging technologies such as advanced analytics, blockchain and even quantum computing, which have the potential to revolutionise how projects are managed and executed.

Nick Smallwood, CEO, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and Head of Government’s Project Delivery Function

You’ll have noticed a lot of noise in the news about the effective delivery of the UK’s biggest projects and programmes. While we cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic and war in Ukraine have created further complexity for major projects, the reality is that we must persevere, adapt to new ways of working and find innovative solutions to the challenges we’re facing.

Growth must now take priority and that means delivering projects that represent value for the taxpayer, while achieving economic and social benefits. That may look like making tough decisions on major projects, such as the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2 — a lesson to all that we cannot rest on our laurels. We must keep assessing the effectiveness of our projects, so they’re nothing short of world-class.

Yetunde Adeshile, CEO and Founder, The Next Chosen Generation

In 2024, I’m particularly looking forward to diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) remaining on the top of the agenda for all organisations and in the project profession. The implementation of excellent DEIB strategies in organisations and projects has the potential to deliver successful outcomes. In the year ahead, I’m also looking forward to the fruitful outcome of the work that APM is doing to help organisations embed DEIB into their project management practices.

James Garner, Global Head of Data, Insights and Analytics, Gleeds Cost Management

Over the past year, there’s been a significant increase in the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools by companies and professionals, often without a comprehensive understanding of their intricacies or limitations. This trend, however, raises concerns about the potential gaps in knowledge and the risks associated with it.

As we step into 2024, I foresee the narrative around AI in project delivery following the contours of the Gartner hype cycle closely. Following the peak of inflated expectation, we’re approaching what could be termed the trough of disillusionment, where the initial enthusiasm might wane as the limitations and practical difficulties of implementing AI become more apparent. However, this phase is crucial as it lays the foundation for a more comprehensive discussion about the role of AI in our profession.

Bill Ochs, Project Manager, James Webb Space Telescope, NASA

As I look forward to 2024, I’m still concerned with the aftermath of the pandemic, the desire of team members to work from home and the benefits of being in the workplace. If not properly balanced, there’ll be an impact on the ability to build outstanding teams capable of conquering any challenge. The James Webb Space Telescope team wouldn’t have made the progress it did during the pandemic if not for the professional and personal relationships that had been built over the years of working closely together.

It’s the side conversations, hallway meetings, etc where typically problems are solved and a team strengthens. Humans are social beings and whereas working from home can help balance professional and personal lives, there’s always been a social aspect to our work lives that now seems to be getting lost.

Dr Alex Budzier, CEO, Oxford Global Projects, and Fellow in Management Practice, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

With all uncertainty comes great opportunities that make me look forward to 2024. The beginning of 2023 was a period of high inflation. Construction materials were expensive, energy prices shot up and labour was less available. Of course, an inflation spike like that creates headaches for projects – the impact of which sets many projects and the UK’s ambition for more offshore wind back. Yet, therein lies also an opportunity. Suddenly, there was a positive business case for diesel-free construction sites. HS2 has made great strides, which are good for the environment and will offer great value in a few product generations and hopefully see future adoption.

Paolo Quattrone, Professor of Accounting, Governance and Society, Alliance Manchester Business School

I hope that in 2024 we will finally come to terms with the realisation that when taking decisions in major programmes, even the most concrete such as bridges, airports and the like, imagination is possibly more useful than representation.

The meaning of data is not only given but also attributed by those who create and analyse these data. The truth is in that ambiguous space in between data as given and data as attributed. If project management is to evolve, it needs to develop tools, principles and mindsets that make inquiries in this ambiguity, knowing that it cannot be eliminated but also that its presence is what makes the profession so interesting and attractive.

IJ Samuel, Director, Programme Management, Turner & Townsend

For 2024, my focus remains to empower underrepresented groups to take on leadership roles, thereby fostering an inclusive working environment that integrates diverse perspectives for robust project strategies. I aim to leverage AI tools and data-driven insights to eliminate unconscious biases and promote fair project management practices that reflect the rich tapestry of our global society. Embracing technology-driven solutions for inclusive decision-making will be a key area of focus in 2024, and pledging to continue championing diversity and inclusion, not as an obligation, but as a cultural shift necessity to attract, retain and nurture a diverse range of perspectives in our profession.

Collectively, let us step into 2024 committed to fostering an environment where every voice is valued and every perspective is embraced without judgement, propelling us towards a more inclusive and innovative future in project management.

Read a longer version of this feature in the winter 2023 edition of Project journal


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