Straight Talk on Project Management

IT PM of the future

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The IT Project Manager of the future

Much has been written about the Project Manager of The Future lately, which is encouraging.

A lot has been written about the impact of AI on our industry too, so it’s nice to know that our profession has a future!!

I asked some colleagues, clients, friends and industry leaders what they thought would be the key strengths of The Project Manager of The Future. Their replies made really interesting reading. From entrepreneurial nous, to calm under pressure, and from soft skill mastery to always being the right-person-doing-the-right-thing-in-the-right-way-at-the-right-time (no pressure) – this is what they told me … distilled down into a nice five-minute read!

To be The Project Manager of The Future 

Be an Entrepreneur.

What? You’re a project manager and you don’t already have CEO on your CV?

Increasingly, project leaders are exhibiting entrepreneurial skills. The most successful project leaders I know are among the best strategic thinkers, and their perception, analysis and interpretation of market trends and forecasts is manifesting real business difference through IT.

All of this while doing the day job – delivering the deliverables!!

I asked a handful of PMs what one skill they felt they used more now than they did five years ago: business informed analysis (they told me that they were setting and achieving objectives based on market forecasts, including having the savvy to lean on Business Analysts more); negotiation with stakeholders; and strategic thinking – creating a business-led vision, focus on capabilities, keen eye for opportunity, awareness of market impact and measurable performance.

A PM working in software development told me, “We’re not just delivering the deliverables anymore, we have an exec level understanding of the business.”

I think software development has always benefitted from this business-led-mindset and, as more teams move away from waterfall to agile and hybrid methodologies, entrepreneurial skills are going to be more and more important.

Of course, this is not totally new! As far back as 2015, referenced respected CIO David L. Stevens and his desire that his team “really deliver something that impacts the business.” Stevens’ team needed “financial, scheduling and management skills to keep projects on time and on budget. They must communicate effectively to diverse business and technical teams and bring together various players … and they must be problem-solvers who can keep their eyes on intended goals.”

Visionary! The project team is now effectively a ‘business within a business’ – add CEO to that CV!!

Have abundant power skills

There has been a focus on power skills aka “soft skills” for some time now, but they are about the become even more important.

The PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® 2023 report feels to have gone heavier than ever on this revealing a broad consensus on the top four power skills that help project professionals drive project success.

These four power skills are COMMUNICATION (71%), PROBLEM-SOLVING (68%), COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP (65%) and STRATEGIC THINKING (64%) and they are consistently the highest-ranked regardless of industry, geographical region, sector and other factors.

Project teams are prioritising other power skills too. Joining the skills that are highly rated are: ADAPTABILITY (54%); RELATIONSHIP BUILDING (52%); INNOVATIVE MINDSET (52%); ACCOUNTABILITY (47%); EMPATHY (42%); and DISCIPLINE (41%).

So, power skills will be the super-power of the future super-hero-project-manager – but CAPABILITY AND RESOURCE GAPS may well be our kryptonite! Have your favourite Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) on speed dial!    

Use best methodology/process for the task/project – not the PM

As a Project Management resources provider, when we are called to help with projects that are failing, a common observation is that the team is using processes that are not best suited to the project or specific task. The reason usually given is – “this is how we do things”.

That’s fine – to a point. There’s a degree of safety in that comfort zone. The trouble is, return on investment has never been more important, and for your IT project to deliver the maximum business impact, it makes sense to use the best methodology or process for the project!

“It’s like putting petrol in your car, because that’s what you’ve always filled up with, only to remember you now drive a Tesla,” my PM friend Malc will say.

More than ever, successful teams are deploying a hybrid approach when it comes to methodologies and processes.

The Project Manager of the future will have an instinctive feel and ability to intuit what’s best for the project ahead – and pivot accordingly.

Be exactly the right person at just the right time

This was an interesting bit of feedback, and it follows on from the last two points nicely. When asked about the perfect future project manager, a few respondents replied along the lines of “they will be exactly the right person at just the right time”.

Drilling down, it seems that IT Projects are being hampered by teams not having access to the perfect person for the job when needed – the ideal person (with the exact skillset needed) is either allocated elsewhere (across a busy portfolio) or there is a specific need or a gap in the team’s skill range, for instance.

We have already discussed the increased pressure on ROI, having exactly the right person for the job is now a business imperative but due a number of reasons, it is also, for many, something of a business luxury. Especially in IT Project Management, the talent pool can be very shallow at times: the impact of Brexit and IR35 are still being felt and your perfect IT Project Manager is more ‘in demand’ than ever – they just have more opportunities.

Fortunately, you can access “exactly the right person at just the right time” via Stoneseed’s PMaaS model which provides project professionals, resources and tools. Our services portfolio delivers an end-to-end service, from IT Technical Advisory, Business Analysis Services and PMO Services through to Programme & Project Delivery. 

Furthermore, Stoneseed’s team are experienced across multiple technology solutions, sectors and industries, and we work on all types of projects and programmes such as Business Change, Transformation, Infrastructure, Digital and IT Project Delivery.

And, thanks to Stoneseed’s innovative on-demand resource model, you can dial up and down IT project resources in sync with your delivery needs – so not just “exactly the right person at just the right time” but also for the exact amount of time you need them!

Additionally, all Stoneseed’s PMaaS services are available onsite or remote, accelerating response times – in fact we are experts in Remote Project Delivery.

Perform well (and with integrity) under intense pressure

Being an IT Project Manager has never been more rewarding, but it’s also never been more pressurised either. The ability to maintain a sense of humour when things are going wrong, whilst not always easy, may be an increasingly vital character trait to have – because … things do and will go wrong.

Transparently having the courage to fess up to your mistakes and, not just learn from them, but act on the lessons learned, can have a great impact on team performance. “Learn while you teach and practice what you preach,” as a PMO leader puts it. Trust is earned.

Having the ability to mobilise your team towards achieving results, and mitigate potential conflicts are crucial in pressured moments. In fact, influencing skills are becoming more and more fundamental, as ROI pressures intensify, the quicker everyone is engaged and moving forward – the better!

A CIO friend tells me that “thick skin” is a key project leader characteristic she looks for in her team, which she defines as the ability to “maintain the highest standards and your professional integrity in the face of overwhelming adversity. My people never go missing when the grit is hitting the fan!” (I may be paraphrasing)

I’d add the importance of maintaining emotional resilience for your team and the project’s stakeholders, I remember project leaders from my early days flying off the handle, shouting, bullying at times – those days are gone. A calm head and a steady hand on the tiller are what’s needed now.

I asked my CIO friend, the one who probably needs a new fan, what one thing she’d advise project managers to get really good at … “Learn to slowly count to ten,” she told me.

On reflection, in many ways, it feels like the Project Manager of The Future is here today. Certainly, if you’ve read this and thought “that’s me” – we have some amazing career opportunities for you here at Stoneseed.

Similarly, if you’re an IT leader, a CIO or director of HR reading this, wistfully longing for a team of project talent to future proof your team, call Stoneseed today and let’s look at how Project Management as a Service can deliver for you and your business. 

And … as always, I’d love to hear from you about what YOU think will make The IT Project Manager of The Future. Thanks for reading.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed