Viewing Posts by Cyndee Miller
By Cyndee Miller
Like most people, I am equally super excited and super terrified by technology. I do enjoy the idea of some adorable robotic creature handling all my mundane tasks. Yet I really don’t care for the idea of Alexa tracking my moves and monitoring my conversations.
But between chatbots and self-driving cars, this is the year where there’s no turning back on tech disruption. Why?
“Everything is data, data is everywhere,” said tech pioneer Inma Martinez, the closing keynoter at EMEA Global Congress.
And that comes alongside the rise of deep learning, the terrifying tech that aims to mimic the human brain. Again, equal parts super exciting, super terrifying.
So will project and program managers be replaced by a supercomputer? Will the machines eventually turn against us?
Machines will never be able to beat humans at understanding right from wrong.
“This is where deep learning fails and fails and fails,” Ms. Martinez said. “It goes into bias and bias and bias. And this is why people in the scientific community like myself are willing to say please stop doing this. You still want the humans to use their wonderful brain to make that decision.”
Instead, we should use data to tackle the big issues, like mental health and the mass migration to cities. “We’re all going to end up living in massive urban centers,” says Ms. Martinez, and data can transform them into truly smart cities.
Ms. Martinez called out Boston, Massachusetts, USA as a prime example. Why? Because the mayor decided a few years ago to make city data accessible to all—allowing any user to check out how services in Boston are faring.
“Because the data is shared across the board, citizens are engaged,” Ms. Martinez said. And armed with that data, the mayor could force companies like Uber to treat all the city’s denizens equally.
“They started to analyze how long you have to wait in a low-income area—and sometimes it’s like 20 to 25 minutes,” Ms. Martinez said. “So the mayor said, ‘You want to operate in Boston? You need to send Ubers to the people, all types of people.’ This is data in service of the people.”
That change will also drive a shift to humans acting, like, well, humans.
“Human life will seek sensorial stimuli, information disclosure and self-empowerment.”
Hmmm. Maybe I need to rethink—that doesn’t sound even vaguely terrifying.
It's auf wiedersehen for now. This human is off to explore more of the city's projects (and sneak in a David Bowie walking tour). But then I suppose I'll have my voice assistant friend book time for next year's congress in Dublin on 13 to 15 May.
What about you? How are you feeling about the robot revolution?
By Cyndee Miller
I write about project management—a lot. But there’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes when you actually get to check out a project and get the scoop from people in the know.
I was feeling mighty pleased that I scored a backstage pass to the Berlin Brandenburg Airport project—two years before it’s slated to make its long-awaited debut. So this intrepid reporter put on a super-chic red construction helmet (and complementary work vest) to get the low-down on one of the most notorious projects in recent history—as well as the strategy to get this baby open by 2020.
The team is refreshingly honest about the issues it’s faced since the project first launched in 2006: a “constant” increase in complexity, a spike in passenger volume that far exceeded expectations and a “difficult political environment”—which meant fielding requests and often brutal criticism from airlines, governments, the press and a slew of other stakeholders.
But the team has a blueprint and seems resolute it will deliver on its Master Plan 2040 that promises to deliver capacity to handle 55 million passengers. So what makes the team think it will actually be able to pull this off? The will to get things done—from the very top.
Sounds promising, but can they do it? Only time will tell. But there is a rather promising precedent, as my fellow reporter Matt Schur learned when he headed out on PMI’s other off-site excursion. The Hauptbahnhof train station, with rail lines extending in every direction, wasn’t built in a day—or 100 years for that matter. The project had been floated since the turn of the 20th century. But two world wars and a divided Germany stood in the way before the project started in earnest in the 1990s. Even then, complexity reigned.
Location is everything, I’ve been told. And while Hauptbahnhof’s spot in the center of the action is a major asset today, the location created one of its greatest challenges. Water and sandy ground surround the area, forcing the team to dig huge excavation pits, ultimately removing 1.5 million cubic meters of earth.
And despite being a century in the making, the team ran up against massive schedule compression: The German government wanted the train station done in time for the 2006 World Cup. With a slight shift in scope, the project closed a month ahead of the big deadline.
Getting that insider scoop was a boost for project managers, too.
"The visit was beneficial to me to see that complexity is everywhere—not just on my project," says Tamy Baddour, PMP, IT project manager at Bankmed, Beirut, Lebanon, who toured the rail station. "It's great to know that there's light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long it takes. It was an eye opener for me."
For those project and program managers who didn't make the sojourn to the airport or the train station, experiences were front and center in some new-fangled immersive sessions. Attendees worked in groups and partnered up with colleagues to brainstorm potential breakthrough innovations, debate the differences between good project managers and great ones, and test out their strategic leadership skills.
Fellow reporter Kelley Hunsberger checked it all out and declared her favorite immersive experience to be Escape from Earth! A Project Management Board Game. Attendees were broken up into different teams and left to figure out how to save humanity from certain extinction after the planet had become hostile to human life. Teams completed a bevy of challenges through a series of sprints to rescue the human race
Saving a world, now that would be an adrenaline rush.
by Cyndee Miller
Innovation has an odd rep, tied to a rather romanticized notion that it rests with only a small cadre of some bleeding-edge R&D types.
That’s just not how it plays out in today’s hyper-competitive world, though.
Innovation must become an “all-the-time, everywhere capability,” said author Rowan Gibson, the opening keynote speaker for PMI EMEA Congress. “It must become a corporate way of life.”
Absolutely. But how do you actually do that?
“We have to become trend surfers,” he said, people who make change work for them rather than against them.
So, project management friends, Mr. Gibson has a big question for you: “Are you up there riding these waves of change? Or are you lying on the beach waiting for the tsunami to hit you?”
Don’t get swept away. Trend surfers know they have to go with flow, not stay chained to the past.
“What if the dominant conventions in your field, market or industry are outdated, unnecessary or just plain wrong,” he said.
That leaves you oblivious to new ways of thinking—the kind of thinking that could very well end up changing the whole project landscape.
The world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own a single cab. The world’s largest retailer doesn’t stock a single product. “Ten years ago this type of business model would have been unfathomable,” Mr. Gibson said.
That’s not only possible. Uber and Alibaba have made it reality.
It’s not just the upstarts. Every company has core competencies and strategic assets. They just need to figure out how they can repurpose those resources into new growth opportunities. Disney, for example, wasn’t content with only having its live characters and shows taking a starring role at its theme parks. They used those skills to create a cruise ship model, a travel agency and even some smash Broadway hits.
“Most companies don’t do this,” Mr. Gibson said. “Most companies define themselves by what they do—we’re a bank, we’re a software company, we’re a supermarket—rather than by what they know.”
They’re missing out by not connecting the dots between their competencies and their customers.
“Innovators search for unsolved problems and unmet needs or wants,” said Mr. Gibson, pointing to the lowly paint can. The heavy, hard-to-carry and even-harder-to-use object hadn’t been redesigned since its debut. Paint manufacturer Dutch Boy launched a project to redesign the container in a way that put the customer first. Their new paint “can” is made of plastic, and has a screw top, a handle for carrying and a spout for pouring. “In just six months, the new package tripled their sales and tripled the number of retail outlets stocking their product.”
To move ideas from mind to market, make it about the customer—not rules and regulations. This may be a rough one for project managers in the thick of the action on innovation projects. But ideas need time to grow, so try not to impose too stringent of a process.
Are you ready to ride the wave?
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 Cyndee Miller
It’s time to hit the rewind button on 2017 and look back on the year that was in project management.
And dang, it was a big year — full of ambitious projects that packed a punch. I’m still processing the €700,000 Museo Atlántico, an eerily beautiful underwater collection of 300 sculptures off the coast of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands — only possible with the project team navigating complex requirements and skeptical stakeholders. And though not without its challenges, the first phase of the Hyderabad Metro Rail — a massive public-private partnership project — pulled in more than 200,000 passengers on its first day alone.
That wow factor sometimes extends to what some might view as more mundane matters like the schedule. Elon Musk’s latest project adventure, for example, called for installing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days — or it was free. Somehow scheduling matters don’t seem so pedestrian when there’s US$50 million riding on the project’s outcome. For the record, Mr. Musk and his team pulled it off.
The project is part of a plan to make Adelaide, Australia the world’s first carbon-neutral city. That push to sustainability is nothing new, of course. But it got real in 2017. Sustainability is no longer swathed in gauzy green layers. It has real strategic objectives — and is held to real metrics and governance.
The U.K.’s Crossrail team, for example, recently released a treasure trove of documentation highlighting its efforts to minimize disruption and pollution on the £14.8 billion rail project, which is expected to be completed next year. The results are impressive and could serve as a blueprint for embedding sustainability in other megaprojects. “Crossrail not only set a new precedent for delivery of a truly ambitious 21
st century infrastructure project, the strategic approach they took in managing the many environment and sustainability challenges was exceptional,” Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, told Railway Technology.
Even as the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement, dozens of the country’s mayors signed their own accord on climate change. And U.S. business leaders — at companies across all sectors and sizes — didn’t miss a beat, launching their own projects to address the issue.
Yet such political disruptions — along with the Brexit bombshell — are clearly rattling the business world: More than half the CEOs in a KPMG survey said the uncertainty of the current political landscape is having a greater impact on their business than they’ve seen for many years. And those same business leaders know they must adjust their strategies. “All of these political events can have consequences on project planning,” John Greenwood, PMP, founder of Grand Unified Consulting, told PM Network.
There’s a reason disruption is such a buzzword: It’s everywhere. Today’s project environment demands an extra dose of innovation and agility (and probably a few extra shots of espresso). Just look at how many retailers and restaurants are experimenting with pop-ups — and relying on project management to tame the chaos. To achieve that so-in-demand-yet-so-elusive agility, you may want to check out the latest PMI Thought Leadership Series.
This is the stuff of Silicon Valley — and it’s fast becoming business as usual. Take cloud computing. Born in the valley, it’s now infiltrating every sector and forcing old-school businesses like telecoms to respond. Next-gen tech is being woven into the DNA of once-Luddite sectors, like agriculture and construction. Even the ultra-staid financial services sector is realizing full-on digitization is the only way to survive. Indeed, that push has spawned the fintech industry that extends to even emerging markets like Nigeria and India. The latter recently launched a project that saw 86 percent of the country’s cash go out of circulation overnight to be replaced by digital payment systems. Demonetization is the wave of the future, Gilles Ubaghs, principal analyst at Ovum, told PM Network. “It is already changing India, and it will change the world.”
That’s the truly spectacular thing about project management. It really does have the power to transform. No big shocker then that organizations are looking for the talent that can deliver those results.
A study by Anderson Economic Group and PMI found the project-management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent in 11 countries through 2027. That’s 22 million new jobs. Whoa.
And as the first members of Gen Z are hitting the workplace, they’re already scoping out project management. They appreciate what they see: “I like the way you have to incorporate organizational skills along with people skills,” Myles Wilson, a junior project manager at Virtual1, told PM Network. “The idea that I could interact with many different people on a daily basis to achieve the same goal is something that inspired me to pursue project management.”
So at least one thing didn’t change in 2017: Project management still rocks.