Transformation—Project Management Evolves



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

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Hello, I’m Stephen Maye, and this is Projectified®. Today we’re sharing some of the insights we uncovered at PMI’s Global Conference 2019. 

One big highlight was the announcement of the 2019 PMI Project of the Year Award, which went to Brazilian aviation giant Embraer for its E190-E2 jet line. This project is an example of how project management excellence can help companies navigate the disruption that has become so common today. And we’ll hear from the program director, Fernando Antonio Oliveira, a little later in the episode. 

You know, conference is always a great opportunity for project management leaders from around the world to connect and to learn. 

My co-host Tegan Jones was right in the middle of the action, chatting with attendees from the Projectified® podcasting booth. They talked about what’s happening now—and the skills project leaders need today. 

One of those guests was PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara, who stopped by to discuss trends driving The Project Economy. 


You know, the population is expanding and growing at crazy rates. Technology is having more and more of an impact across the globe in enterprises, governments, in academia. You know, the adoption of AI, robotics is changing the way work is done. 


You can listen to our previous episode to hear more of Tegan and Sunil’s conversation—including Sunil’s bold new vision.

But this year, conference also was a time to reflect on PMI’s history and celebrate its 50th anniversary. As part of the celebration, PMI ranked the 50 most influential projects of the past 50 years. The list runs the gamut—from Singles Day to Harry Potter, from Netflix streaming to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. You can see what made the list by visiting

These are the projects that changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we play. And when Tegan sat down and talked with project leaders from around the world at conference...


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She wanted to know what projects inspired and influenced them. 


This is Tegan Jones for Projectified®, and I am here with Fernando Antonio Oliveira. He is the E2 program director for Embraer in São José dos Campos, Brazil. Welcome.


Thanks a lot. It’s a pleasure to be here.


So happy to have you here. We are obviously celebrating PMI’s 50th anniversary this week as well as the most inspirational and influential projects of the last 50 years. So I wanted to start our conversation today by talking a little bit about maybe some of the projects, the innovations, the inventions that have inspired you either in your personal or professional life. What are some projects that you look at and say, “Wow, that’s so cool. I can’t believe they were able to get that done.”


Yeah, well 1969’s kind of a lucky year, right? We got the PMI. Embraer, the company that I work for, was founded in 1969, so it’s also 50 years old, and it has been 50 years that the man land on moon. So United States space program was kind of deep project that really astonished me, and astonished me because there are some interesting things beyond the skills of problem or project management. It has the power of a vision, right? That speech of John F. Kennedy beginning of the decade entailing that we should put a man on the moon before this decade ends and bring him safely back…


I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. 


…And that drove the entire nation into gigantic project. It’s incredible. I’m a mechanical engineer. I was like, wow. Also, I was very fond of mechanical stuff, cars, planes, jets, rockets. So that project, really, it’s inspired me a lot. Every time I see that history, even now after 20 years of career, I get a lot of lessons from that one.


And Fernando wasn’t alone. Apollo 11 was also top of mind for Shobhna Raghupathy, president of Proficient Project Consulting Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. She had another pick—that you’re probably using right now. 


Personally, I feel the World Wide Web and Apollo are my favorites. World Wide Web has made human connections possible across cultures, across countries, and it has also provided a platform for technology innovation in this globalized project economy. Apollo is truly my inspirational project. 


It’s really not surprising that project and program professionals have been inspired by the world’s great projects. But inspiration was only part of Tegan’s discussions with our guests. 

She also asked project and program leaders how the profession has changed—and what forces have shaped project management into what it is today. 

One of the people she talked to was Laila Faridoon, the president of the PMI UAE chapter in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. 


So since you’ve had such a long career and so much experience with project management, how have you seen the profession evolve?


The change, honestly, I’ve seen it evolving in a slow pace, but now with the announcement that PMI has done the full transformation that they did and this Project Economy, is really the right move in the right time. Because we are living in the fourth industrial revolution era, and that’s simply the digital transformation, that we never experienced anything like this before, and it’s disrupting almost all the industries. 

And project management is not supposed to be one of those industries lagging behind. Why? Because the main driver or the main method of executing or implementing any change is simply through projects and programs. So it makes sense that the project management profession itself adopt this change.

What I’ve seen also throughout my career when it comes to project management, introducing agile, that was a big change that happened in project management, especially that again, we’re living in a transformation era. There are a lot of innovation projects happening. The millennials, they don’t accept or they don’t like the old standards. For them, that’s too boring. Give me something more dynamic, give me something more flexible. So the agile was the right thing to be done at that time, especially that it goes perfectly with the design thinking concept that kept coming in the innovation field as well.


The mainstreaming of agile changed how many projects were managed, and today project teams are shifting emphasis to really whatever works for the project at hand. 

In PMI’s 2019 Pulse of the Profession® Annual Global Survey, respondents said that in the last year about 40 percent of their organization’s projects used predictive approaches while about 50 percent were almost equally divided between hybrid and agile approaches. 

Vinod Kumar Paidakula, a program manager with KLC Consulting in Tallahassee, Florida, in the U.S.—not to be confused with the fried chicken guys—also has seen project approaches change—in his opinion, moving too far toward agile and then eventually correcting.

Yet he said the biggest change is really technology and how it’s changing the skills that are in demand today.


When I started out, projects were mainly traditional waterfall-based, predictive projects, but five years back we were seeing that organizations were swept away by the agile way and to an extent that the pendulum swung too far on the agile side. And now I see that there is a healthy mix of agile projects and traditional projects based on what the customer wants. 

But the one thing that has changed the most is the impact of technology on project management. As you know, Tegan, technology has impacted every facet of our lives, not just project management. You now have a lot of tools in the market which can do many project management tasks, and they can do those tasks better than traditional project managers. And we’re also seeing that organizations, due to the impact of this technology, they are embarking on various transformation journeys, and all this has changed the mindset of the project management profession. And you see that the focus has changed from skills such as planning, budgeting and risk management to collaboration, leadership and negotiation.


So we know today’s shifting project landscape demands new skills—and they’re often coming from entirely different skill categories.

Narasimha Acharya, assistant director in the client technology practice at Ernst and Young in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S., offered his take on some of those changes. 


Project teams now are multicultural, multigenerational and in multiple geographic locations. And this requires today’s project managers to be equipped with a few additional soft skills like diversity and inclusion, emotional intelligence, cultural and social awareness. 

One other thing that we see is the growth of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which I see it as a good thing because in my opinion, this will free up the time of project managers like me from routine tasks like collecting data and doing status reporting to concentrate more on human-powered relationships within the project team and with the different clients and the different stakeholders. I believe this will only elevate the role and the visibility of the project management organizations.


We know that since as early as 1967, industry thinkers like Dr. James Martin have been predicting the rise of increasingly autonomous real-time technology. And it looks like AI’s role in project management is going to follow that path and only continue to grow. 

New research from PMI’s Pulse of the Profession found 81 percent of project professionals reported their organizations are being impacted by AI technologies. Thirty-seven percent said adopting AI tech is a high priority for their organizations now. 

Tegan asked Marc Lahmann, partner of the transformation assurance division for PwC Switzerland in Zurich, how he’s seeing teams use AI today. His answer focused on the need for clarity and predictability. 


I know that last year when you were here, we talked about artificial intelligence and that that’s something that you speak a lot about. So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how artificial intelligence is being used in project management, right now, and why organizations need to start investing in this technology now, if they haven’t already. 


If you look to artificial intelligence, it’s a moment where we are differentiating between the simple AI, and that’s more like automation, chat bots, and as well, the advanced AI, that’s more like looking into machine learning, predictive project management and as well as a fully autonomous project management. 

So, at the moment, the simple AI, it’s overall in projects as well adapted by small companies and as well by large organizations. If you look to the advanced AI, and that’s where everyone is talking about at the moment, we are seeing small companies not really adapting to it at the moment because they do not have the need because they have a clear perspective and overview of all the project portfolios, about all the investments—they know everyone in the company.

But if you look to the large organizations, they have a big lack of information and as well not clarity because they get a lot of aggregated data coming from the project team members to the project manager. You always get aggregated data, and they need clarity on that data, on that information, if their investment into the project portfolios is correct, and therefore, they are investing into the predictive project analytics piece to really get clarity.

So, two main industries at the moment really are fast on that, that’s the pharmaceutical industry because they have a big project portfolio and they need the product for the future to be able to stay in the market. So if they see at a very early stage that a project will be successful, then they can invest, and if they seeing it’s not really successful, then they can stop it, to really have a real-time investment decision on the project portfolios. 

And the other industry is the financial service industry, because they have a lot of cost pressure, and they have to identify those projects which is really giving like a benefit to them and then to support them, and if they do not bring any benefit from a business case perspective, to stop that very early. 


But adopting AI and other technologies doesn’t mean an organization won’t need project managers. It just means they’ll be looking for project managers who are also strategic thinkers and strong communicators. 

As a matter of fact, according to PwC’s 2019 AI Predictions report, 31 percent of executives are concerned about their ability to fully staff for AI-related skills over the next five years. That’s a big gap, and that’s a big area of concern for these leaders.

Taiwo Abraham, a project manager at Horizant and a professor at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, talked with Tegan about this skill shift. He emphasized what he calls strategy management and the increasing visibility of project management in the boardroom.


So project management 10 years ago was give me the requirement, I have the skills, I deliver that. Now project management is becoming broader and broader. Organizations are fast realizing that these things we call projects are the building blocks of a strategy that help us achieve our vision and our organization’s objective. And so the role of project manager is expanding in such a way that the skill set you require to function across the value chain of what we do is expanding by the day. So when you come with just technical skills, you likely would be able to get the job done but you won’t be able to inspire your team, you won’t be able to keep the team together. There are so many things that could go wrong. So you would see project managers beginning to participate in strategy management.

If you look at the Brightline Initiative that PMI is supporting right now, that is one of the major goals, trying to pull strategy conversation with executives of organization and bridging that with what project managers do. That is the future of project management. If you come into project, just know that you will constantly be part of what happens in the boardroom. Your name is likely going to be coming up a lot in the boardroom in the near future because they will now be able to link what happens at the project level to the progress they make at the strategic level of the organization.

The future looks so bright for project managers. There’s the AI that we think will disrupt things, but there are those critical thinking skills and leadership skills that we already have, and I don’t see AI replacing some of these basic human input into projects.


But with the technical skills, right, everyone knows how to develop those. You study and you work hard, you gain experience of course. But with these people skills and your leadership skills, negotiation skills, how do you think are some of the best ways to develop those skill sets?


It’s just like the way we go to the gym to build muscles, right? You can’t buy it. You can’t get to the gym and tell your instructor that I’m going to pay you 10 grand. I want the biceps to look like this. So get into roles that give you the opportunity. 

If I use myself as an example, I have been able to evolve so fast, I probably can say that, because of volunteer opportunities. So when there is a level that I’m trying to expose myself to, I find a volunteer opportunity that gives me that kind of exposure, and then the initial thing is you scramble, you struggle. But after a couple of months, you find yourself finally understanding how to move things around, how to thrive in that kind of environment, and eventually when that comes in a professional environment, you already have been through that a couple of times.

So I say to young professionals that the best thing to do is to find opportunities to use these skills, to find opportunity to go outside of the paperwork, to deal in real-life kind of scenarios because then that broadens your view of things enough to know that all the nuances that exist across the spectrum.


We’ve heard a lot of great insights, and we’ll share more highlights from conference in the coming episodes. 


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