Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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AI Disruption to Transform Project Success Rates

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.

One of the impacts artificial intelligence has had is prompting a reconstitution of project management. Here I look to leading industry experts to explore the benefits to project management systems due to matured AI software; and the maturity of the project manager as a data- and fact-driven champion of business outcomes and innovation. This combination of advanced project systems performance and leadership competence will significantly transform project success rates.

As a background to the current state of project management, HBR states that $48 trillion is invested annually in projects. The Standish Group notes that only 35% of projects are successful, and 65% of projects waste resources and have unrealized benefits.

Additionally, Proofhub attributes project failure to firms that lack project management delivery systems; they are prone to miss targets and overspend. It noted that 67% of projects fail because project management is undervalued; 44% of all managers do not believe in the importance of project management software; and 46% of firms place a high priority on project management. Also noted: Utilizing a good software program reduces failure by 10%, and scope creep by 17%.

More specifically, a PMI Learning Library article noted some reasons for project failure:

  1. Unclear goals and objectives
  2. Lack of resource planning
  3. Poor communication across the organization
  4. Inadequate stakeholder management
  5. Poorly defined project scope
  6. Inaccurate cost and time estimates
  7. Inadequate risk management
  8. Inexperienced project managers
  9. Unrealistic expectations

Maturing Systems
An HBR article suggests that poor project success rates are due to a low level of available mature systems. Many firms continue to rely on spreadsheets, slides and other applications that haven’t matured current practices. While the current tools are adequate in measuring project performance, they do not allow for the development of intelligent automation and collaboration across the portfolio of projects. The opportunity to apply AI to project management could improve the success ratio by a quantifiable 25%, or trillions of dollars of newly realized benefits for firms and society.

Gartner Inc. analysts predict that by 2030, AI software—driven by conversational AI, machine learning and robotic process automation for gathering data, reporting and tracking—will eliminate 80% of all project management office tasks. Gartner identifies project management disruption in six aspects:

  1. Better selection and prioritization
  2. Support for the project management office
  3. Improved, faster project definition, planning and reporting
  4. Virtual project assistants
  5. Advanced testing systems and software
  6. A new role for the project manager

PwC envisions AI-enabled project management software will improve a project leader’s decision-making process across the following five key areas crucial to success:

  1. Business insights improvements by filtering better data for relevant knowledge
  2. Risk management assessing scenarios that offer mitigation strategies
  3. Human capital in allocating resources more appropriately to meet the business priorities
  4. Integrating various technologies and specialists to improve project outcomes
  5. Active assistance by enhancing administrative tasks and stakeholder progress communications

PwC posits the advancements in project management software are an opportunity for firms and leaders that are most ready to take advantage of this disruption and reap the rewards.

PM Competence
PMI’s Project Manager Competency Development (PMCD) Framework provides an assessment and development of a project manager’s competence. It is based on the premise that competencies have a direct effect on performance. A project manager’s competence can be categorized in terms of project management knowledge, project management performance and their accomplishments, and personal competency in performing the project activities and personality characteristics. This combination is the stated success criteria for a competent project manager.

AI’s capability to assess disparate sources of big data to obtain actionable insights arms project managers with improved decision-making competence throughout the project lifecycle. However, a challenge noted by PwC’s recent analysis of OECD data (covering 200,000 jobs in 29 countries) warns that AI’s job displacement effect will automate 30% of jobs involving administrative manual tasks by the mid-2030s. This indicates a clear need to upskill project manager competence in order to thrive in the future.

In order to succeed, a firm’s culture of adaptability and lifelong learning is a cornerstone for shifting today’s project management roles into the future. They will need to expand competence in soft skills, business and management skills, technical and digital skills—all working in concert with each other.

IAPM states project managers will face fundamental changes over the next 10 years with job descriptions and roles. It suggests AI will make logical analysis and decisions, allowing the PM to focus their main area of responsibility on creativity, resolving conflicts, and innovation.

Lastly, with any transformation or disruption, one must consider the actions and obstacles—whether financial, management support, or workforce ability—to embrace and enact change. Here are some key considerations to reflect on:

  1. Does your firm value project management?
  2. Is your firm a quick adopter of intelligence-based project software?
  3. Will your firm invest in your competence development?

Post your thoughts in the comments!

References

  1. PMI: Project Management Competency Development Framework—Second Edition
  2. PMI: Why do projects really fail?
  3. HBR: How AI Will Transform Project Management
  4. Gartner Says 80 Percent of Today’s Project Management Tasks Will Be Eliminated by 2030 as Artificial Intelligence Takes Over
  5. IPAM: Will project managers soon be replaced by AI?
  6. PWC: A Virtual Partnership? How Artificial Intelligence will disrupt Project Management and change the role of Project Managers
  7. Proofhub: Top 10 Reasons Why Projects Fail (And How to Solve Them)
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 22, 2023 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Enduring Through Uncertainty: Move Forward with Character

By Peter Tarhanidis, Ph.D.

Never has the new year’s greeting “wishing you health, wealth, and prosperity” rang truer. Over the last several years, we have all lived through uncertainty. This year, we hoped to lurch out of a post-pandemic crisis into a new normal with a vibrant outlook…yet quickly staggered into a slipping economic uncertainty that sharply cut short the prospects of our envisioned “normal” state.

JP Morgan’s 2023 economic outlook for the United States indicates a slowing growth rate, monetary tightening, and curbing inflation, while healthy consumer and business balance sheets could offer some growth prospects. The Conference Board observes longer-term geopolitical, environmental, labor, and inflation risks beyond 2023.

Many organizations will ebb and flow within this shifting cycle. Organizations that are well-positioned will have a better chance to adapt to the external challenges of shifting global markets to meet customer needs. They must simultaneously find the agility necessary to mitigate the internal challenges of a reduced workforce, increasing costs for goods and services, climbing interest rates, and the overall health of a company’s finances and workforce. This will challenge organizations to stay focused and chart a path forward.

This is reminiscent of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of the Endurance, which embarked on a daring expedition from the UK to Antarctica and the South Pole in 1914. Along the voyage, the crew became stranded for over two years. The Endurance became trapped in the ice while the crew waited 10 months for spring and the warm weather to thaw them out—only to be horrified by shifting ice that damaged the ship’s frame, finally sinking her.

To survive, Shackleton mounted three lifeboats to traverse 800 miles of open sea to reach help on South Georgia Island—then return to the makeshift camp to rescue all 27 men who suffered frigid conditions, hunger, chaotic seas, and mental distress. This journey is one of the greatest examples of leadership, grit, and epic survival.

In order not to succumb to the current economic and global undertones, leaders must:

  1. Assess their strategies continuously to re-align with stakeholder needs
  2. Rely on project leaders who are best positioned to navigate this process

Project leaders have always been confronted with the likelihood of project failure—yet they have developed a track record of delivering results. Project leaders are adept at converting strategies into clear tactics, ensuring team and stakeholder alignment, and executing projects to achieve the goals. At the core of the project leader’s success are the character attributes of authenticity, trust, resilience, focus, and courage.

What else can you do to support your teams and move forward during this year’s challenges?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: February 28, 2023 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Social and Environmental Awareness is Becoming Confusing

By Lynda Bourne

It is important that both professionals, and the organizations that employ them, are socially and environmentally aware—and act responsibly to protect the rights of others. The financial consequences of failing to be socially aware started to be felt in the 1950s. Around this time, investors started excluding stocks, or entire industries, from their portfolios based on business activities such as tobacco production or involvement in the South African apartheid regime.

These considerations developed into the concept of environmental, social, and corporate governance. Today, ESG is an umbrella term that refers to specific data designed to be used by investors for evaluating the material risk that the organization is taking on based on the externalities it is generating.

The term ESG was popularly used first in a 2004 report titled Who Cares Wins[1], which was a joint initiative of financial institutions at the invitation of the United Nations. Then the UN’s 2006 report Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) required ESG to be incorporated into the financial evaluations of companies.

Under ESG reporting, organizations are required to present data from financial and non-financial sources that shows they are meeting the standards of agencies such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, the Global Reporting Initiative, and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. The data must be made available to rating agencies and shareholders.

Corporate social responsibility is the flip side of ESG. CSR is the belief that corporations have a responsibility toward the society they operate within. This is not a new idea; it is possible to trace the concerns of some businesses toward society back to the Industrial Revolution and the work of primarily Quaker business owners to provide accommodation and reasonable living standards for their workers.

However, it was not until the 1970s that concepts such as social responsibility of businesses being commensurate with their power, and business functions by public consent, started to become mainstream. Today, CSR is a core consideration for most ethical businesses.

These concepts were turned into a structured set of guidelines in 1981, when Freer Spreckley suggested in Social Audit - A Management Tool for Co-operative Working[2] that enterprises should measure and report on financial performance, social wealth creation, and environmental responsibility.

These ideas have become the triple bottom line (TBL), which is considered essential to effective organizational governance these days. Most of the major corporate governance frameworks require the TBL to be included in corporate reporting.

In his foreword to Corporate Governance: A Framework – Overview (prepared by the World Bank in 2000), Sir Adrian Cadbury summarized these objectives in his statement: "The aim is to align as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, corporations, and society."

Similar concepts to the TBL also form a core component of most codes of ethics and professional conduct. For example, the current version of PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct incudes:

  • 2.2 Responsibility: Aspirational Standards: As practitioners in the global project management community:
    2.2.1 We make decisions and take actions based on the best interests of society, public safety, and the environment.
  • 4.3 Fairness: Mandatory Standards: As practitioners in the global project management community, we require the following of ourselves and our fellow practitioners:
    4.3.4 We do not discriminate against others based on, but not limited to, gender, race, age, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation.

So far, so good. There has been a simple set of unambiguous requirements in place for 30-plus years that are straightforward and easy to understand. These simple (if difficult to achieve) concepts have been refined to make consideration of environmental (sustainability), social and financial outcomes important in every decision-making process, including those affecting the organization’s projects.

However, having become a hot topic for boards, investors and managers alike in the last couple of years, these ideas seem to be disappearing into a blizzard of acronyms that appear to be more about differentiating a consultant’s services than adding value. Some of the newer acronyms include:

  • 3Ps: People, Plant, Profit
  • DEI: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (alternatively EDI)
  • DIB: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • D&I: Diversity & inclusion
  • JEDI: Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • RAP: Reconciliation Action Plan
  • SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals (published by the UN)

My concern is that while the concepts defined by each of the acronyms above are of themselves valuable (once you work out what they mean), and a few—such as the UN’s sustainable development goals—add substantially to the TBL framework, most are either sub-sets of the overarching objectives defined in PMI’s Code of Ethics and Cadbury’s simple statement, or essentially cover the same concepts.  

Do all of these extra acronyms add to the core objective of improving outcomes for people and the environment or not? What do you think?

 


[1]     Download the 2004 repot from: https://www.unepfi.org/fileadmin/events/2004/stocks/who_cares_wins_global_compact_2004.pdf

[2] Spreckley, Freer (1981). Social Audit: A Management Tool for Co-operative Working. Beechwood College.

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: December 07, 2022 07:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

AI To Disrupt Project Management

By Peter Tarhanidis, PhD

Technology has demonstrated tremendous benefits and efficiencies (many of them unstated) over time. The technology lifecyle enhancements that started with our initial computers, software programs and the internet of the past have given way to the modern-day cloud, Big Data and artificial intelligence.

Throughout this maturing landscape, technology has affected all industries—especially how we collaborate. According to Peng (2021), here are some key impacts to consider:

  • Digital transformations spending will exceed an estimated $2.39 trillion by 2024.
  • Collaborative tools and technologies increased operational efficiency by 131%.
  • Technology will displace an estimated 85 million jobs globally by 2025.
  • AI augmentation will increase global worker productivity hours to an estimated 6.2 billion hours.

Project management has benefitted from the overall technology lifecycle, either by implementing aspects of it or by being a user of its collaboration outputs. Yet project managers are at the doorstep of being part of the next wave of AI disruption.

What a PM organization must consider is the methods and concepts used in managing past programs and become proactive in shifting to an AI-enabled PM organization. There is no doubt that the role of PMs and our methodology will be augmented with AI-enabled assistance.

PwC identified five areas of AI disruption and decision making in project management:

  1. Business insights: Filter data to gain actionable perceptions
  2. Risk management: Develop the ability to run multiple risk scenarios and outcomes
  3. Human capital: Optimize teams and leverage staff skills or new areas of training
  4. Action-taker: Provide analysis and optimization of schedules and staffing needs
  5. Active assistant: Augment the collection process of information to generate progress reports

To prepare for these changes, project managers should:

  • Invest in data sciences and digital skill sets
  • Create a culture that adopts digital disruption
  • Enable the use of digital tools and approaches to limit manual efforts and drive value-added work.

In order for these changes to emerge, there are a few considerations that may hold one back from the changes—such as organizational readiness, employee skills assessments, and the state of technical tools.

PwC outlines a change approach to assist in the transition that relies on updating project management strategy, leveraging technology investments, integrating digital and AI, and a comprehensive communication plan to generate awareness through adoption by the future project management workforce.

What other approaches have you used—or should be considered—to manage AI disruption in project management?

Reference:

  1. https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/publications/documents/virtual-partnership-artificial-ntelligence-disrupt-project-management-change-role-project-managers-final.pdf
  2. https://writersblocklive.com/blog/technology-in-the-workplace-statistics/
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: January 07, 2022 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Project Management Is The Great Equalizer

In my project management career, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on different projects all over the world. As with most things in life (like having a flat auto tire or forgetting to pay the electric bill), projects mirror the practical realities of life. One of the takeaways from those experiences has been the commonality of successful project management approaches no matter the geographical location of the projects.

A key characteristic that I have observed over time is how projects and project management resemble a meritocracy independent of personal bias. Projects need to be complete with desired outcomes in a specific period of time. As one completes ever more large and complex projects, one grows in their career as a project manager. This career growth occurs regardless of the race, gender or other characteristics of the project manager.

As with many other merit-based professions such as healthcare, aviation, athletics and science, the introduction of personal bias with project management would be detrimental to the completion of any project. That’s why project management as a profession is a great equalizer given its heavy dependence on the skills and capabilities of a project manager.

In thinking about how project management is a great equalizer, I offer the following thoughts:                                                           

1. The project doesn’t know who is managing it. Projects are an interesting construct that is hard to categorize under the typical laws of physics; they don’t have weight, exhibit motion or temperature. Projects do have the characteristic of being a collection of activities and assets that need to be brought together to produce desired outcomes.

In this regard, a project by definition is immune from any personal bias; it’s a matter of solving a three-dimensional problem using people, process and technology. A project manager needs to be skilled at resource, schedule, dependency and stakeholder management in order to solve for desired outcomes. The project itself does not prefer the personal background of the project manager; it awaits the proper project management disciplines to be employed in order to complete its required objectives.

2. Successful project managers find the best people. People represent one of the key factors in any project. When compared against process and technology components, the acquisition of the best people plays a more significant factor in the success of any project. However, the acquisition of people for a project also poses the possibility for personal bias. As a project manager, you have to be able to find the best people for the project independent of subjective perceptions.

A CEO of a global company once said it took him 20 years to get a point where he could identify good people more than half the time. My observations of project managers early in their careers bear this out; they tend to be more subjective in selecting resources that they like and perceive would work well on their team; read this behavior as easier to manage. The more experienced project managers more discreetly evaluate competencies than subjective factors; this is key, as no matter the personal affinity or how easy (or difficult) the person is perceived to manage, the most critical dimension of people for a project is their competencies. 

3. Project management metrics show no bias. One of my favorite quips about project metrics, especially when they are not favorable, is “You can’t beat the laws of physics.” If metrics show a project to be over budget or with late milestones, those are intractable project “laws of physics” that need to be addressed by the responsible project manager.

To a great degree, project metrics are designed to not show any personal bias. They are a physical expression of project reality that can’t be influenced by personal factors of the project manager. Metrics are equal in every regard to serve as an unbiased foundation from which remedial project actions are taken.

In my early years as a project manager, I have to admit I made every possible project management judgement error on my projects. Over time and with some valuable guidance from experienced project managers, I grew into leading ever larger initiatives. As part of that growth path, I observed that the most experienced project managers had left any notion of personal bias behind in their project management execution. Their focus on the core dynamics of a project, finding the best people and anticipating conditions that would lead to unfavorable metrics were key factors in their success.

I welcome any commentary on the concept of project management being one of the purest forms of meritocracy that by design can’t rely on personal bias to achieve success.

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: August 19, 2021 05:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
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