Project Management Institute

Tips to Find the Perfect Talent/Technology Balance

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Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

29 May 2020

Technology continues to transform the way we work - but leaders across the business, government and nonprofit sectors know that success hinges on having people with the right skillset to execute bold ideas. Michael DePrisco shares how to find the right balance between talent and technology.

It’s hard to understate how much businesses and entire industries have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Reimagining business is top of mind for every leader in today’s workplace as they look ahead to recover and rebuild in a world that may be forever changed in ways we can’t yet imagine.

Organizations will need to embed recently adopted virtual tools into their long-term business plans to address the future ways of how work will be done—but how do you ensure the proper balance between talent and technology? How can you reskill and digitally transform to ensure your business thrives in “the new normal?”

At PMI, our goal is to help you deliver value for your customers, no matter the situation—and striking the right balance between talent and technology is critical in bringing bold ideas to life. To help you apply the right approach to the right projects at the right time while sustaining this balance, I have outlined some of the top findings from PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® report on forging a future-focused culture, as follows:

A New Way Forward

The survey results for this year's Pulse of the Profession® revealed an average 11.4 percent of investment is wasted due to poor project performance. And organizations that undervalue project management as a strategic competency for driving change report an average of 67 percent more of their projects failing outright. With so much at stake—and so much in flux—organizations must rethink some fundamental questions: Why do we exist? What do we offer? Who will be tasked to do the work?

The 2020 Pulse reveals a new way of doing business. The beginning of a new decade is ushering in a world full of complex issues that require organizational leaders to reimagine not just the nature of work, but how it gets done. For the first time for Pulse, executive leaders identified which factors they see as the most important to achieve success in the future. The top three were:  

  • Organizational agility  
  • Choosing the right technologies to invest in 
  • Securing relevant skills

Future-fit organizations recognize that there is no silver bullet to solving for complexity and constant change; it requires people and a culture with a mindset of learning fast, pivoting when necessary and leveraging technology to optimize value delivery.  

Ready, Set, Change 

Executive leaders are no longer simply bracing for change; most recognize that in today’s disruptive environment, it is a business imperative, and an opportunity to find new ways to create value for customers. They’re rebuilding their organizations to make agility, innovation and creativity part of the organizational DNA. More than half (53 percent) of organizations surveyed in Pulse say they place a high priority on building a culture receptive to change. 

Much of the change ricocheting across the business world is fueled by the massive shifts in technology, which are sparking concern in the C-suite. According to PwC's 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, the speed of technological change ranked among the top eight threats—with 29 percent of respondents saying they are extremely concerned. 

Yet leaders also realize they can't simply ignore the coming wave. When we asked senior executives where they expect to make the most considerable investments in over the next three to five years, the top areas identified wereperhaps no surprisetechnology advancements (49 percent) and digitalization (44 percent). 

To maximize the benefits of disruptive technologies, project leaders must embrace how artificial intelligence, machine learning and other game-changing tech can empower them for the future. These digital skills are no longer perceived as merely an added benefit. Although project leaders need not engineer new solutions, they must have enough technological know-how to assess progress, review deliverables and leverage insights to advocate for the customer. 

That doesn't diminish the need for strong people skills, though—quite the contrary. Our Pulse report shows that in addition to technical skills, organizations are placing a high priority on leadership, business and digital skills in support of successful projects. These skills should be part of every organization’s talent development programs.  

Expanding Skill Sets

Even the most forward-looking organizations won't be able to reach the next horizon if their teams are struggling to execute.  

That dynamic is leading to a new set of power skills focused on building strong relationships. Take empathy as an example: 91 percent of U.S. CEOs believe the skill is directly related to a company's financial performance, according to a 2019 Businessolver study. Leaders who take the time to view challenges through the lens of team members can help foster stronger collaboration and reduce conflicts. 

There’s a fundamental shift underway in how work is getting done according to the Pulse. More people in all roles will be hired to manage a portfolio of projects, and increasingly, those projects will be tied to technology. That means people and companies must build their capacity to adapt to the constant whirl of change brought on by advances in technology.  

The Future Starts Now

There's no standing still in today's warp-speed world. And no single project, business deal or big idea is enough to keep an organization on top forever. But leaders who look at the world through the future-focused lens of The Project Economy can prepare teams, organizations and society to make the most of the inevitable changes to come.

Welcome to The Project Economy

The Project Economy is one in which people have the skills and capabilities they need to turn ideas into reality. It is where organizations deliver value to stakeholders through successful completion of projects, delivery of products, and alignment to value streams.

Our Pulse research shows leading-edge organizations adopting three tenets:

  • Ability Is Agility: It doesn't matter how brilliant a strategy might be or how amazing a product idea is if it's rendered moot by a supply-chain disruption or a new technology. Organizations that can learn fast and pivot to what's next are best positioned for the future. 
  • Technology Rules—But People Influence: Most executive leaders understand that emerging technologies might be the difference between a breakthrough year and just an okay one. But disruptive technologies like AI and machine learning are only as smart as the people behind them. Executives and project leaders must have the training, processes and talent to get the job done right.
  • It's a Project Leader's World: With so much change, executives are increasingly turning to project leaders to help them turn ideas into reality. And that often requires mixing tried-and-true skills with emerging ones. So, yes, project professionals must be up on automation and design thinking, but they won't get far without people skills.

With so much change, no one can predict the future. But in the coming year, PMI will examine the trends driving business in our disruptive age. And, armed with that information, project leaders will be ready to deliver real benefits to their organizations and society as a whole.