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Positivity of the profession evident at APM Project Management Conference Edinburgh 2019

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There was an unmistakable positivity about the growth and development of the project management profession at this year’s APM Project Management Conference Edinburgh, sponsored by 20/20 Project Management, which took place on Thursday 21 March at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The theme of the conference, Power of the Profession: Achieving Greater Project Success was reflected in the discussions and questions with a diverse range of speakers, exhibitors and delegates on the day, which boasted the largest conference APM has ever delivered in Edinburgh. Sub themes Sustainability (acknowledging the Scottish Government’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and Investing in the Profession captured the imagination of the audience, reinforcing the impact for good that the project profession has and will continue to have.

APM’s chief executive Debbie Dore kicked off the positivity message with a speech emphasising the increasing visibility and respect the profession continues to experience since the introduction of chartered, underlining APM’s role to achieve recognition for all those in the profession who have and continue to invest in their careers.  

In an opening keynote address British economist, academic and journalist Dame Frances Cairncross DBE addressed numerous challenges facing our world, such as global re-balancing of power (by 2030, China and India’s middle classes with have the same spending power as the US’s), progress to tackle climate change (in the US, solar power is half the cost of any fossil fuel), and the rise of capitalism without capital (citing the worlds largest taxi company – Uber – owning no cars, and the world’s most popular media company – Facebook – creating no content).

“This will be a decade of momentous change; something really remarkable has happened in our lifetime,” Frances said, referring to technological change. “It’s not one thing; it’s a combination of a number of new technologies working together that has resulted in innovation and a practical change in behaviour. There have been huge increases in efficiency, but it’s very hard to measure because largely the technology is free. We are yet to see the full impact on many industries, such as public services.”

Frances left the audience with a positive message about the state of the world – people are healthier, there are more options for wealth, and the age of AI is only just starting – with great potential for good.

The two stream sessions, Sustainability and Investing in the Profession started with two high impact presentations from Hollie Woodard, head of diversity and inclusion at VolkerWessels UK and Andrew Hepburn, director of major programmes at Openreach.

Hollie presented a compelling case for both individuals and organisations to embrace diversity for a stronger future profession, and how project professionals have a responsibility to convey that the profession is for everyone, no matter their background.

Andrew presented a case study of a challenging but hugely rewarding project – to provide fibre broadband connectivity to the far reaches of Scotland. He talked about the importance of working closely with suppliers to deliver, and emphasised the impact the project has had to small businesses and communities, therefore working towards many of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

An emotive and inspiring presentation then followed from speakers Allyson Blue and Annabelle Armstrong-Walker from Renfrewshire Council. Allyson and Annabelle enlisted the help of young people to tell real-life stories that demonstrated the positive impact made by the APM award winning project ‘Tackling Poverty in Renfrewshire’. Allyson and Annabel laid out the learnings from the project, including the importance of innovating and working flexibly, that other councils could utilise to achieve similar success in the future.

Andy Tozer, Learning & Development Director of BP then challenged the audience to consider “what type of project lets you be you?” explaining the importance of project professionals to take a step back from the day to day tasks, carefully define the legacy they wish to leave and seek recognition for the benefits they deliver in their projects.

Following lunch Stewart Miller and Martin Munro from Glasgow University presented a detailed report of the positive work they had achieved with the redevelopment of Glasgow University’s Gillmorehill campus – tying each element back to the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals and giving project professionals plenty of food for thought about weaving sustainability into their own project practices.

Chief Executive of Leidos UK (which also sponsored the conference’s Investing in the Profession stream), Matt Wiles CB CBE delivered an absorbing presentation about attracting and developing new talent within their organisation. Leidos’s keys to success include clearly defining a career path for project and programme professionals, auditing skills and recognising achievements along the way.

Closing the day with a perceptive keynote speech about the current ever-changing political landscape was journalist and broadcaster Isabel Oakeshott. Isabel provided an insightful view of the key players on today’s political stage and what could happen in the very near future, defining the unprecedented nature of the time we are living through.

Tony Marks, Chief Executive of the conference’s headline sponsor, 20/20 Project Management, summed up the day. “The APM Project Management Conference Edinburgh provides the Project Management community an opportunity to hear from a high calibre of speakers with unique topics of discussion. Every year the quality of the conference gets better and better, and this year was exceptional in terms of both content and attendees.  We very much look forward to supporting it again next year.”  

The next APM Conference in the Power of the Profession series takes place in London on Thursday 2 May. For more information, visit the conference pages.


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