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Project management as a skill and profession will be integral to businesses as we reboot and recover.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence known, the workplace was already in the middle of rapid, disruptive changes that were reshaping the definition of work and how employees did their jobs. “Relentless technological evolution, shifting customer demands and global socioeconomic volatility are forcing a revolution in how problems are solved and how work gets done,” explains Tomorrow’s Teams Today, a recent report from Project Management Institute (PMI).

Simply put: Companies realized they couldn’t just sit back and follow a plan blindly anymore. There were — and are — too many ever-changing forces confronting those plans. Businesses must transform and be willing and prepared to adapt and respond to changes as they arise.

COVID-19 has accelerated this shift with massive disruptions for businesses and employees — not just the subsequent economic pressure, but the complete change in how teams plan and work on projects. “All transformative change happens through projects. Project management as a skill and profession will be integral to businesses as they reboot and recover,” says Sunil Prashara, president and CEO of PMI.

“Organizations are being forced to transform their businesses with fewer resources. They must become more efficient, too, since their survival will depend on how well they manage existing and new projects and how employees work across disciplines. This will require applying best practices of project management in order to find success,”

Prashara adds.

“The whole world is thinking about how we can do things differently as we move forward. Part of this includes the rise of the project manager or change maker. As the world starts reigniting itself, project managers will be the ones to turn ideas into reality,” he says.

Taking Project Management Live

There are several challenges that organizations are facing today, but with the right tools and focus, businesses can persevere. “The new work ecosystem is very different now. Understanding the customer, the stakeholder, the employee and how workplace culture has changed will be imperative as organizations look to rebuild in a post COVID-19 world. It will be especially important as companies move to full-time, cross-employee work-from-home policies.”

In this new work ecosystem, companies will need to ensure their teams are nimble and fast moving – beyond flexible to proactively manage change. There is no one-size-fits-all framework for projects. Instead, businesses will need to ensure their teams have an agile mindset and skillset, so they can choose one — or multiple — frameworks that best suit the needs for the project at hand. This grants teams the autonomy and freedom to move projects forward, especially in a remote working environment.

In fact, according to PMI’s Tomorrow’s Teams Today report, over the past year, one in four projects were completed using agile, and over the next five years, half of all project management offices expect to increase their use of the strategy. As companies rise to the challenge of COVID-19, these numbers may increase, especially as project professionals continue to adapt and strengthen their skills and knowledge.

One way PMI is helping both organizations and individuals master these skillsets is through Disciplined Agile (DA). With a DA approach, project managers know when to apply agile, how to lead their team through choosing a way of working (WoW) that is fit-for-purpose, and how to pivot effectively when their situation changes. PMI’s recently launched Basics of Disciplined Agile online course teaches users how to navigate hundreds of agile techniques so that they can pick the best approach for the situation at hand.

“The online course gives professionals the opportunity to better understand their options and choose the best approach for each project, ensuring that value is delivered even as things continue to change,” Prashara explains. “Organizations are looking to increase their effectiveness and responsiveness. This course allows you to achieve these goals,” Prashara says.

One company is already using agile project management to transform during the pandemic. The Weather Company, an IBM Business, serves more than 330 million active users each month. When COVID-19 hit, the organization realized it could disseminate vital, local information about the virus using its technology, including IBM Watson, The Weather Channel app and weather.com. This in turn could help people make better decisions and keep them safer. While solving problems was nothing new to IBM, doing so during a pandemic certainly was. The pandemic expedited changes in the way IBM, like other organizations, works. However, project professionals with agile skills helped the organization work on this project and prepare it for what’s to come post-pandemic.

“Adopting an agile culture encourages our employees to embrace challenges and change and have confidence to take informed risks as well as driving a belief in continuous learning in your skills,” explains Jim Boland, IBM Project Management Global Centre of Excellence Leader.

As IBM’s The Weather Company demonstrates, the ability to pivot and solve problems when everything is in flux can help companies reap major benefits. It facilitates innovation and demonstrates exactly why an agile mindset will be beneficial going forward.

“What is now being asked for is a level of agility at the enterprise level that’s unprecedented. It’s beyond agile. Organizations are looking to become gymnastic in a business setting so they can change workflows, processes, technologies and mindsets on a dime,” Prashara adds. “This enables project professionals the ability to look at different scenarios and pick the framework that best suits their team, goals and objectives. The resources PMI offers gives project professionals the ability to collaborate and lead virtually, regardless of distance, cultural differences, background or location.”

The Reuters editorial and news staff had no role in the production of this content. It was created by Reuters Plus, part of the commercial advertising group. To work with Reuters Plus, contact us here.

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