Career Development—In-Demand Skills and Sectors

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified™ with PMI, we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s really ahead for the profession—and your career.

For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified™ with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play music or PMI.org/podcast.

Stephen W. Maye

Hello, I'm Stephen Maye, and this is Projectified™ with PMI. I'm here with my co-host, Tegan Jones, and in this episode we're looking at the global trends shaping the job market for project and program managers.

As you might expect, digitization is the driving force behind a lot of the shifts we’re seeing in the business landscape right now. Customer experience is king, and organizations across sectors are investing in digital projects that will set them apart.

But volatility is also a big concern. The pace of change—even in traditionally stable industries—is putting flexibility and clear communication front and center in terms of the skills project managers need to be effective.

Tegan Jones

Still, how these trends shake out can vary a lot by region and sector. So, today we have four guests lined up to discuss the project outlook, from where they’re sitting.

We’ve got Barnali Sahoo, the PMO head for the Americas division of Flight Centre Travel Group, who’s based in Montreal, New Jersey in the U.S. We also have Jens Wilken, executive director for the thermal power plant, desalination, solar thermal, and oil and gas division of Fichtner Consulting Engineers in Stuttgart, Germany; and Edgar Bonilla Torres, a project manager for Heliosolar, based in Bogotá, Colombia.

And in just a minute we’re going to hear from Alarka Purkayastha. He’s an engagement manager for Accenture based in Bengaluru, and he’s got some really interesting insights to share about how the career landscape is shifting in India.

Stephen W. Maye

So according to PMI's Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap report, 7 million new project-oriented jobs will be created in India between 2017 and 2027. And a lot of those jobs are going to be in the manufacturing sector.

This shift is being driven, in part, by a government campaign called “Make in India” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in 2014. The initiative is working to drive economic growth by turning India into a global design and manufacturing hub.

Tegan Jones

So the specific goal of this campaign is to increase the manufacturing sector’s share of India’s GDP to 25 percent by 2025. That would be up from 16 percent in 2018.

And so far, there’s been some pretty decent progress. Several major manufacturing companies, such as GE, Siemens, HTC and Toshiba have either set up or are in the process of setting up manufacturing plants in the country. And Alarka says this push is also spurring a demand for regional infrastructure projects.

Alarka Purkayastha

Foreign direct investment does not come easily. Whenever an investor would come to India, he would like to see, okay, fine, I'm ready to sink in so much of money, but I would like to be assured that, you know, I'm getting returns out of it. And that is where the key thing which comes is infrastructure. You cannot expect a foreign player to come in and, you know, spend his significant amount of time in terms of setting up the infrastructure, which might not be his core business. His core business could be manufacturing turbines. But to manufacture a turbine, what does he need? He probably needs best of telecom facilities, he needs best of power facilities, he needs best of roads through which he could drive his raw materials and stuff like that. So you know, all these things are linked together.

Tegan Jones

Growth in these sectors could translate to a lot of new opportunities for India’s project professionals. However, Alarka says more traditional IT services positions will continue to dominate the job market in the near term. But the demand for digitization means project and program managers will have to develop a lot more specialized tech knowledge than they’ve needed in the past. 

Alarka Purkayastha

In today's digital world, when you talk micro services, five micro services might be operating in five different technologies. So how do you bring those together and combine into a whole? So that is what you need to know, and obviously, on top of that, you need to know your project management, your prioritization and obviously agile project management.

Understand how various digital technologies are intertwined. So basically, how they can combine together to give value. What are the dependencies?

Sequencing is also very important. Which are the things which could happen in parallel? So you have to understand the dependencies very well.

Stephen W. Maye

In addition to these technical skills, digitization is driving demand for project managers who understand more about the business landscape—and the client’s customer base.

Alarka Purkayastha

Everyone is very keen now to add the digital component, which means that everyone is more focused on having a competitive edge in terms of how they can drive better value for customers, better experience for customers, which in turn means that there is a changing technology landscape as well.

And especially in this IT services sector, IT product development sector, we are seeing a lot of projects which are coming under Cloud, DevOps, artificial intelligence, analytics and robot process automation to name a few. These are the key trends which we are seeing, and we are talking about digital being a trillion-dollar economy in a few years.

Consumers are demanding experiences. They're dictating their terms to these service and technology providers in terms of what they need. That is where we see lot of discussions around design thinking. How do you put yourself in client's shoes, and how do you experience or imagine their customer journeys? And then, how do you relate it back to the services, the technology solutions, that you provide? 

Tegan Jones

It’s also becoming more common for project managers to play the role of business analyst—to actually define the customer journey and decide which experiences will provide the most value along the way.  

Alarka Purkayastha

This is project manager who has to make those calls, obviously in discussion with other stakeholders, but project managers' knowledge should not be confined to project plan, development or project schedule management only. He or she has to have a good knowledge of business. He or she has to understand the technological dependencies. Because all these digital experiences that I talked about, the digital technologies that I talked about, would not drive value in isolation.

Stephen W. Maye 

Getting that experience right is all about understanding what the customer values. And that takes a combination of cultural knowledge and targeted market research. You can’t come up with these customer journeys in a vacuum.

Tegan Jones

Plus, there’s a real cost for getting it wrong. According to a 2018 report from PwC, one in three global consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. And in Latin America, that figure is even higher. It’s one in two.

But it’s not just about avoiding potential losses. Some of the world’s most recognizable brands have made big strides by rethinking the customer experience.

Dilip Kumar, vice president, Amazon Go and Amazon Books

Amazon Go is the ultimate grab-and-go shopping experience. 

Rachel Crane, correspondent, CNN Business

You literally grab it off the shelves and go.

Dilip Kumar, vice president, Amazon Go and Amazon Books

You use the app to enter the store. Once you’re in, you can put the phone away. And you shop the rest of the store just like you would any other store, but with one key difference. When you’re done, you can just walk out.

Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines

But the next arena for us is really double down, and double down exposure on our customer experience. We want you to feel good about flying United Airlines. You know, innovation for me is something that has to be relevant to you, the customer, today. How do we take care of you in the moment? If something isn’t to your liking, we can take care of that immediately.

Kevin Johnson, president and CEO, Starbucks

We have dramatically stepped up the focus on customer insight, and we are using technology to help inform us of what customers want, what they need and what they think of Starbucks. That informed our entire holiday plan this year, and we had a fantastic holiday.

Tegan Jones

PwC found that customers are willing to pay a premium of up to 16 percent for products and services that come with an enjoyable customer experience—and 63 percent of consumers in the U.S. say they’d share more personal data with a company they had a good experience with.

Stephen W. Maye

And this is an opportunity that Barnali Sahoo is hoping to capitalize on in her work for Flight Centre Travel Group. As head of the PMO for the Americas division, which covers the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Barnali says one of her top priorities is to make sure the brand’s digital experience adapts to the shifts the company has seen in how customers prefer to shop.

Barnali Sahoo

Faster time to market and customer experience is pretty significant from the company with which I work in, especially in terms of travel and redefining travel.

Part of that is also understanding what channels they use to book travel and how can we make it more lucrative for them. Other than the cost aspect of it, the experience matters a lot. So the way we get that consumer journey automated and providing them feedback immediately is what is significant.

For project managers, it’s always important to keep an open mind with respect to understanding new trends. Whenever we have looked for skills in project managers, we have looked for those traits, specifically in the soft skills, of making sure, keeping an open mind, being on the driver’s seat, and understanding what the consumer wants, in addition to the technology knowledge that they have.

I think there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I think it’s important, as soon as we understand that, and treat every single project as it being unique, and understanding what is the actual business value we are trying to provide, that answers it all. If every project manager can look at a project from the unique needs of the customer, I think that would help them hone their skills to appropriately support them.

More importantly, get some bit of project management education. Although many of the people think that project management is something which everyone can do and anyone can do, I think there are certain aspects of project management which still requires, I would say, some amount of education and awareness in the context of the practice itself. So it’s an art and a science.

Stephen W. Maye

I’m glad she brought up education, because training and certification is definitely something project professionals should look into if they’re hoping for a big salary bump.

PMI’s most recent Project Management Salary Survey found that whether or not an individual had earned their Project Management Professional® certification had a real impact on salary. 

In South Africa, for instance, people with their PMP® earned an average of 58 percent more—and in Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Chile, PMPs make at least 40 percent more than their peers, on average. 

Tegan Jones

That type of formal education definitely helps build the skills that project managers need to deliver results in a fast-paced environment, especially when there’s a high level of risk and a lot of change involved.

And it makes sense to me that certifications would have a lot of value in Latin America right now, because there’s just a lot of economic growth happening in the region. The World Bank is projecting that regional growth in Latin America and the Caribbean will rise from 0.6 percent in 2018 to 2.5 percent by 2021, and that’s driven primarily by strong performance in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru.

This growth is spurring a flurry of project investment, especially in the energy sector. And in countries that sit near the equator, like Ecuador and Colombia, solar power projects are particularly popular.

Stephen W. Maye

But Edgar Bonilla Torres, a project manager for the solar power company Heliosolar in Colombia, says it’s important to tread lightly when things are getting off the ground. 

Edgar Bonilla Torres

I’ll say that the skill that is required the most is risk management and stakeholder management, mostly because of the affect that these type of projects cause in the communities where these types of projects are developed.

For example, a project that is, a solar project that is developed in the Caribbean coast would be developed in an area that is almost a desert and where only native communities are presented. It is mandatory for the project manager to know how these types of communities behave and how they will react to the invasion of their environment in all aspects, either in social or environmental considerations.

Tegan Jones

Today, Colombia gets 70 percent of its energy from hydropower—but the government wants to change that. To avoid price spikes and power shortages during dry years, Colombia is hosting its first renewable energy auction in February in an attempt to attract international investment.

Edgar Bonilla Torres

A big part of this auction design involves long-term contracts and how they may emerge from the auction process to provide the revenue necessary for renewable energy project to take flight while reasonably and fairly allocating risk across generators and customers.

Stephen W. Maye

In the energy sector in general, project and program managers are being asked to do more in regards to navigating contracts and managing against a business case.

We heard something similar from Jens Wilken, who’s the executive director for the thermal power plant, desalination, solar thermal, and oil and gas division of Fichtner Consulting Engineers in Germany. He leads a team of 90 engineers involved in projects around the world, and he says a major force driving change on his team’s projects is the push toward privatization.

Jens Wilken 

Traditional companies in the energy sector, like big utilities, in the past would have conceptualized or developed projects in a much longer process, with in-house staff developing the projects, defining projects, and then handing them over to the consultants or to the advisors.

We now see this happening much quicker. In former times, markets were driven by big state utilities or big regional utilities. And in Europe, but also in, for example, the Middle East, where we are quite present, privatization is a big driving force where a single power producer would sometimes only own one power plant, or part of a power plant rather than a whole, you know, portfolio of power plants in the country. And this adds much more flexibility and smaller scale to our projects.

Tegan Jones

Greater flexibility translates to a need for stronger scope and change management skills. Jens says that if a client changes a project to adjust for market shifts—maybe the introduction of a tariff model, for instance—the project manager needs to understand what that means from a business perspective.

Jens Wilken

I think for us the challenge is to adapt to, to clients’ requirements. Sometimes when clients hand over project ideas or concepts to us in a very early stage, then we take part in developing this concept together with them. Sometimes the first idea, we are contracted on that initial plan, and then during project execution, during the first phase, we find out together with the client that actually the project is going into a different direction, or this whole concept of the, let’s say power station or whatever we are planning for them, goes into a different direction, with different scope, much larger or different team sizes required to handle that.

And I think for us the challenge is to track these changes in requirements, and to respond to that, and to develop this communication channel with the client to address that also in our contract or in our scope discussions.

Understanding these kind of, you know, power purchase contracts or delivery contracts, just understanding a little bit of the legal side, understanding how the payment mechanisms work, this is, I think, a very big step towards becoming a project manager for larger projects, because if you have these capabilities, then you will automatically be the interface to stakeholders, like inside the project or on the same side of the project, or with the stakeholders on the other side.

We all come from an engineering background. So we are all engineers, and we love the technology, and we know the technology very well. We like to develop and calculate and plan these projects. But what we need to develop with our staff is this active scope management, active requirements management with the clients.

Tegan Jones

It all comes back to making sure that projects deliver value to the organization. We heard a lot of different perspectives on how to make that happen today, but one big theme our guests kept coming back to was communication.

As project and program managers become more flexible and responsive to deal with rapid change in the marketplace, they need to stay focused on those intended benefits—and keep in touch with the sponsors and stakeholders that will ultimately be impacted by the project’s results.

Stephen W. Maye

Demonstrating that you know how to deliver those results will go a long way. In addition to communication, leadership and other soft skills, proven expertise and commitment through certification, industry knowledge, strategic and business acumen, and journey mapping represent a few of the factors that project managers can capitalize on now to take advantage of emerging career opportunities.

Alright. That’s all we have for you today. Hopefully, this will give you the information you need to help you make your next big career move. Until next time, thank you for joining us here on Projectified™ with PMI.

Narrator

Thank you for listening to Projectified™ with PMI. If you liked this episode, you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music. We'd love your feedback, so please leave a rating or review.