by Christian Bisson, PMP
Several years ago, I decided to put my web developer hat behind me and become a project manager (and eventually product owner). At first I wasn’t sure if I would be up to the challenge given that most project managers have different backgrounds.
But several years later, I don’t regret my decision.
Technical project managers are more present — and required — in the digital world, and I have no doubt that will keep rising. Here’s why.
The Rising Digital World
The digital world is taking up more space in our lives. And it doesn’t stop at what people see, there is also a vast world of data happening behind the scenes.
A project manager that can’t comprehend the technical relationship between every piece of a client’s ecosystem will fail to manage it properly. As ecosystems grow, it will become more of a challenge to ensure teams have the right people at the right time so that everything comes together as planned.
Still, many project managers are not even aware of what a development environment (development, staging, user acceptance testing, production) or even deployments are. Project managers today should know about synchronizing websites, apps and other tools together. If one can’t deploy a site, then there is simply no hope.
A website used to consist of images and text, so not understanding how it worked didn’t matter much if you had the team to compensate.
Today, however, a lot of websites use advanced technologies to provide users with what they want, like powerful search engines or features using machine learning.
Machine learning in particular is becoming the toy every kid wants. It’s also within everyone’s grasp—whether it’s with advanced machine learning expertise or with tools made available by Google, for example. Project managers need to understand this technology in order to bring out its full potential within the projects they manage, otherwise it becomes a trend word that brings nothing to the table.
Everyone knows that communication is key to running any team smoothly. If a project manager can’t understand what the team is communicating, then he or she can’t properly manage the project.
Furthermore, clients are becoming more techy and often have a better understanding of how things work. So if project managers don’t understand the tech behind the project, they can’t have proper conversations with the client. It helps in key project decisions to actually understand what is going on.
What are your thoughts on technical project managers? As the world becomes more digital, are they becoming essential?
By Cyndee Miller
It’s the fundamental quandary facing anyone looking to futureproof: How does one separate a serious business trend from a fleeting flight of fancy? Matters get even murkier considering it’s the nascent ideas living on the edges that intrigue the most — those things just starting to bubble up that threaten (or promise) to change everything. Predicting how all of it will play out requires an almost surreal level of intuition tempered with down-the-rabbit-hole research.
Just a few weeks into the new year, we’re already seeing some interesting stats. The World Economic Forum is predicting a “critical period of intensified risks in 2018,” with respondents pointing to extreme weather events, natural disasters and cyberattacks as the most likely culprits. But the group also pointed to the prospect of strong economic growth that presents leaders with a “golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in many of the complex systems that underpin our world.” Quick translation? Projects — lots and lots of super-cool projects, like Saudi Arabia’s US$500 billion new Neom mega smart city. This, in turn, will mean even greater demand for project management expertise.
Now much of that expertise belongs to women. So if we’re looking at trends, there’s no ignoring this one. Women in the workplace — their roles, their compensation, their career paths — has been a conversation for decades. Yet even the most forward-looking pundits couldn’t have predicted how the issue would explode late last year — and continue to reverberate in 2018. The project management profession is no exception. “No matter how hard you work, as a woman, you will always be expected to work harder to prove yourself,” Paige Barnes, PMP, senior IT project manager at the American Medical Association, says in an upcoming issue of PM Network. And even with that added work, most women will make less. In Brazil, for example, the average salary for male project managers is BRL157,073 versus BRL141,601 for women, according to PMI’s 2017 Project Management Salary Survey. Australia follows a similar pattern: AU$149,698 versus AU$137,756 for females.
Smart organizations know the payoff for closing the gender gap is real: A recent paper in Financial Management posits fostering diversity makes a company more innovative, a necessity in the current disrupt- or-die business environment. Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and all sorts of things that once seemed strictly for sci-fi flicks are fast becoming de rigueur in project portfolios. Just look at Adidas’ robot-powered factory that lets the sneaker giant unleash a whole new generation of mass personalization projects. It’s sexy stuff, but those projects must also be aligned with a strong strategy.
No doubt, some of the more bleeding-edge projects are the province of early adopters. Yet Deloitte found only 9 percent of respondents believe cognitive development and AI is overhyped. Indeed, those “who had implemented more projects, invested more and employed more sophisticated technologies” showed the highest satisfaction rates.
The shifting landscape means new challenges — and opportunities — for project and program managers. Theories abound on what it will take to get ahead in 2018. Some, like the growing mainstream appeal of agile, are essentially a continuation from 2017. But there are also some wild cards, like Amy Hamilton, PMP, on The Girl’s Guide to Project Management, declaring civility as the new must-have.
This year’s PM Network Jobs Report not only looks at skills, but dives into the hot (and some not-so-hot) sectors and geographic regions for both full-timers and those who want to try their hand at the gig economy. Overall, though, it looks pretty darn promising: PMI’s research predicts employers will need 87.7 million people working in project management-oriented roles by 2027.
The profession itself is also gaining more serious credit. On the very first day of the new year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, added “project management specialist” to its Standard Occupation Classification system. Sounds pretty wonky, but it’s a powerful testament to the value project managers deliver to the overall economy.
Don’t make me futureproof on my own. What are your predictions for project management in 2018?
by Dave Wakeman
I’m sure this time of year has a lot of you thinking about what your goals are for the year.
I have a big one for all project managers to add to their list: Take the opportunity to be much more practical in your application of your project management principles.
What does that mean exactly?
Here are a few ideas:
Don’t get bogged down in arcane processes or needless activity.
It can be easy to get stuck in acronym hell. If we stick only to the book, we can lose all sense of forward motion because we allow our processes—and the arcane language that most of them are wrapped in—to steal away our impact.
Instead of getting sidetracked by these things, one of the ways that we can be really practical about our impact as project managers is to focus on the results we are trying to achieve.
Command and control project management doesn’t work often anymore because it is almost impossible for us to be experts in every activity.
Being practical doubles down on that idea because you have to allow your team members to do their best work. You do this by freeing them from micromanagement and the needless attachment to old processes and activities.
Make your role about impact, not activity.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we all would be best served by focusing on how we can add more value and less on how we can do more stuff.
I understand that many of us work in an environment defined by the old Peter Drucker maxim “what gets measured gets managed.” But in many instances, we’ve taken that principle to its ultimate conclusion where we don’t actually achieve anything. Instead, we do very well what need not be done.
In becoming a more practical project manager, a key idea would be to focus on your ability to make an impact. This likely entails having tougher conversations with stakeholders. It also likely means making tougher decisions. I never said being a project manager would be easy.
Rededicate yourself to communicating effectively.
The area we all have the greatest opportunity to create overwhelming impact is in our ability to communicate more effectively.
I’ve always lived by the idea that 90 percent of a project manager’s job is communicating. As digital tools have become more common and remote teams are a larger reality, it’s pretty easy to fall back on a crutch of allowing digital to do the work. But what I have found is that as we become more digital in our work, we need more humanity in our communication.
The high impact, practical project manager is going to be a great communicator. He or she will be able to juggle the different communication styles of key stakeholders and team members, and keep the project moving forward by having a grasp on all the project’s key ideas, timelines and potential sticking points.
After reviewing this list, perhaps a practical project manager means we need other people to help us achieve our success. Which isn’t really a new concept at all, is it?
If you like this kind of post, I write a weekly email about value, strategy, and opportunity. You can receive it by sending me an email at
By Ramiro Rodrigues
I have heard arguments both for and against the effectiveness of corporations using standardized project management methodologies.
In general, a project management methodology should clarify which methods — steps, activities, gadgets and tools — can be used to reach a goal. And since a project is made up of a set of processes, each with their suggested methods or best practices, they are usually given the name of methodology.
The Arguments For
The fervent proponents of project management methodologies contend that there is a need for the implementing organization to establish an identity, which its clients will see. They believe that the methodology enhances the standardization of the particular strengths of the services offered.
According to them, a project originating from a corporation with a specific work methodology tends to have more predictable services and products, which decreases the interference of human factors associated with the individuals who lead the project. It also allows for greater clarity and understanding for the stakeholders with regard to what is to be expected at each moment.
Finally, they maintain, that a methodology enables a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and development with regard to project management in an organization.
The Arguments Against
Opponents assert that methodologies often require disproportionate documentation efforts that do not add value. For them, methodologies are bureaucratic "machines" that increase their costs and stress levels, thus taking the focus away from the expected results.
There is no single solution to this issue. It is common knowledge that each organization must develop its own project management methodology in order to find the best set of methods.
Therefore, it is suggested that organizations wishing to improve should always consider whether the proposed methodology:
This latter issue, together with the need for resource optimization and a drop in the learning curve, has led corporations to search for alternatives — such as agile methods and using Canvas in project management.
However, this objectivity "line" should not be stretched too far. There’s a risk that while searching for leaner processes some aspects related to the optimal handling of a project may become too superficial. That could ultimately compromise the quality of project deliveries and the image of the implementing organization.
Therefore, there is no one perfect solution. Each market segment, project size and organizational culture should be carefully considered in order to find the best way to implement a project management methodology.
by Ramiro Rodrigues
Consider the following situation: You have worked a long time in your company and developed a certain level of expertise in their operations. You are familiar with the processes, tools and people.
One day, a consultant, hired by the board, arrives at your desk and lets you know that they are there to lead a review of the company's processes. As such, they will need some information about the way you work. It doesn't take long for you to realize that the consultant's job is to change your familiar operational format.
This scenario illustrates my main point: Every project is a change.
Organizations have an established understanding that standing still could be fatal to the survival of the business. They need to innovate and be faster than the competition. This is what motivates them to invest resources in pursuing these goals. Thus, the basis of every project is the facilitation of a change that will shift them from point "A" to point "B", which is, theoretically, more advantageous.
Everything would be perfect if our human reasoning didn't, for the most part, take us in the opposite direction. Instinctively, people do not like to mess with what they already know. (Unless, of course, they’re in situations that are uncomfortable. Even in these cases, they have their reservations.)
Our nature instinctively seeks out security and stability, which often is possible only through various mistakes and persistence. "Projects" are at odds with these principles because they are associated with the uncertainties and fears that the changes will bring.
Knowing this, if the individual in charge of a project wishes to succeed in their mission, they must develop interpersonal skills — the capacity to communicate, negotiate and intervene. These skills are part of the arsenal of resources that a good professional needs in order to persuade those involved to commit to change.
It is not easy. For this reason, professionals who are adept at these projects have gained increasing appreciation in the corporate market. This is because they take on the responsibility for ensuring that the investments made are not lost and the failure statistics are not intensified.
But human instinct will resist. In this scenario, one of the possible strategies is to adopt Charles Darwin's evolutionist principle, which is wholly befitting to today’s frenzied corporate world. It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one who can best adapt to change.