The nature of work is changing, and with the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence and robotics, jobs are being reinvented. Rapid advances in digital technologies mean that collaboration and communication through increasingly intuitive user-friendly interfaces could lead to fundamental changes in workplace structures and may offer new possibilities for productivity and creativity in the workforce. For project professionals and the PMO community, this presents two futures: firstly, increasingly capable machines replacing traditional professions and secondly, the reassuringly familiar.
Against this back drop the size and scale of projects and programmes is growing with ever more eye-watering budgets being demanded. Not only are these significant financial undertakings but also people investments, with an ever increasing workforce and supply chain organisations needed to deliver the investment. This poses a challenge for PMO’s and governance as the ability to control and hold accountability is near-impossible. Such large projects and programmes will result in a highly complex stakeholder field and being able to satisfy stakeholders’ needs and concerns with financial judgment will be challenging. Coupled with this, is the growing democratisation of projects with individuals providing commentary and criticism in the digital realm, which may be potentially lacking in accuracy. But this has the benefit of involving the stakeholders to interact with project decisions and for PMO’s to freely reveal data so that crowd-source ideas can be developed and ultimately implemented.
Collaboration and artificial intelligence, through the use of smart algorithms and mass data analysis, may provide the rigorous governance mechanisms required but will raise concerns over ethics and the moral compasses of project practitioners. This however will be a growing theme as the dawn of the Chartered Project Professional is near and mandates that an individually is ethically informed.
Automation and human-machine collaboration is just one of the trends and drivers researched in Future of Project Management, the latest Foresight publication launched last week. The other trends included in the research – all impact the future of project management across social, technological and economic domains - include Globalisation and Virtual Teams, Open Innovation Culture, Diversity of Workforce, Gig Economy, Changing Corporate Culture and Digital Construction and Project Complexity.
The findings in FoPM present an optimistic, inspiring vision for the project management profession. Even in a future where professionals across the world have been gradually replaced by increasingly capable systems, core elements of project management will still provide an irreplaceably human combination of leadership, integration of specialists, and ethical behaviour.
Future of Project Management (FoPM) is a partnership and collaboration between Arup, The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at UCL, and the Association for Project Management, with crowdsourced inputs from the global project management community. It is a compilation of best practice, emerging trends, and forward thinking. We hope it will be a thought-leadership resource for project teams seeking inspiration to find a better way, and an interactive site for debate about change in the project management profession. Most importantly, we want to create a virtuous cycle prompting more research to provide fresh insight around the future of the profession.
As part of the series of Chartered papers that APM has been developing, it seemed appropriate and relevant to address the importance of technology to the development of our Chartered profession. The fifth in its Road to Chartered series is entitled “The robot profession – the role of project professions in the digital future’. This paper looks at the sort of principles that professions need to arm professionals with insight to the dynamics which successful digital transformation must address for success.
I encourage anyone involved in projects or delivering change to explore FoPM and share your thoughts and ideas.
Thomas Worsnop, project manager at Arup
Future of Project Management can be downloaded from www.arup.com/fopm.