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It’s 2029 and IT project management is the planet’s most in-demand skill

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

In a recent blog, TOP 3 WAYS TO RETAIN IT PROJECT TALENT AND HOW TO REMAIN EFFECTIVE WHEN YOU CAN’T I shared a Director People’s story of how a candidate had flipped this perennial interview question and asked, “Where does the company see me?”

There must be something in the air! This week, another HR Director called to canvass my thoughts – An applicant had trumped this by asking … WHERE DO YOU SEE THE IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY IN FIVE YEARS?

Great question! BIG QUESTION!

Like us all, the candidate was mindful about the impact of AI, but there’s an exciting prediction from the “Future of Project Management” (a collaborative “living” thought leadership initiative) about where Project Management might fit within organisations by the end of the decade – read on to find out more!

Meanwhile, and I may have rather given away my own views (or at least my hopes) with the title but, I think, despite turbulence and change, by 2029 our craft will be in the rudest of rude health!

5 REASONS WHY IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT WILL BE THE PLANET’S MOST IN-DEMAND SKILL WITHIN 5 YEARS

1 – THE PANDEMIC SEEDS OF RESET WILL HAVE FIRMLY BEDDED IN   

The decade of the 2020s opened in the UK with the pandemic, lockdowns, furlough, working from home, and lastly that transition into hybrid working that now seems to be the “new normal”. I reckon that three years on, in IT Project Management, we’re all pretty settled into this pattern. Adaptability has always been a strength of ours and many IT project teams were already working remotely, some of the time. Indeed, all Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) resources are available onsite or remote, in fact we were experts in Remote Project Delivery even before the pandemic.

The “pandemic seeds of reset” was a phrase used by a friend back in late 2020, and at the time I took great solace from the imagery. The thought that the chaos spread far wide at the time might be seeds of something better was a great comfort.

IT Project Management professionals also only get better and stronger. I remember a PM saying this when first adapting to hybrid working, comparing it to switching from Waterfall to Agile and how that felt “clunky” to begin but soon became second nature and now, years later, is as natural as breathing. Post pandemic working felt rather “clunky” too (even though outwardly we carried out our work with poise and elegance)! All hybrid working that I encounter now is slick and effortless, just imagine how polished it will be by the end of the decade!

We learned a lot during the post pandemic recovery phase, it gave us a chance to rethink, reevaluate and reset many processes and paradigms. By 2029 the “pandemic seeds of reset” will have fully blossomed!

2 – EVERYTHING’S AN IT PROJECT

Given what we’ve just recalled, 2017 seems like a lifetime ago! In its Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 report, the PMI predicted that by 2027 “employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles”.

Everything seems to be pointing to the PMI being right, it’s a talent-led market, project management professionals are in higher than ever demand and clients are reporting worsening recruitment struggles. As a provider of Project management resources from a single Project Manager, Business Analyst, Technical Advisory or PMO expert for a few days, right through to a large team of fully utilised project professionals for as long as you need them – we’ve never been busier.

My PM friend Malc optimistically chirrups, “Everything’s a project and because everything’s becoming digitised – that means everything’s an IT Project.”

Back in May 2023, The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report predicts a significant growth in project management jobs, identifying Project Manager and Business Analyst especially as “key roles for business transformation”. Looking at the UK’s data, PMs ranked fourth in the league table of roles identified by WEF as growing, behind Business Development Professionals (3), Data Analysts and Scientists (2), and AI and Machine Learning Specialists (1) – in case you were looking to add strings to your bow!

The WEF survey’s data on “Reskilling Skill Focus” makes for interesting and encouraging reading too. Skills most prioritised for reskilling and upskilling in the next five years include: Analytical thinking; Creative thinking; Resilience, Flexibility, and agility; AI and big data; Leadership and social influence; Design and user experience; Curiosity and lifelong learning; Empathy and active listening; Technological literacy; and Talent management. Does this remind you of anyone?

Yeah. Project Managers are going nowhere but onwards and upwards! Talking of which …

3 – 2030 C-SUITE AMBITIONS

Among the most interesting insights from “Future of Project Management”, a collaborative “living” thought leadership initiative, is talk of the biggest companies having a project management professional in a C-suite capacity by 2030.

This would move the IT Project Management profession in the right direction, and organisations that adopt a CPMO (Chief Project Management Officer), or similar, will benefit hugely.

In my career, IT has evolved from supporting the business to IT being the business, it makes sense that the C-suite is increasingly populated with people who understand how the IT projects that underpin the revenue work.

I’ve long argued that alongside the CIO there should be at least one other seat saved for project talent, and it seems that I am not alone. “Future of Project Management” is a living, evolving, interactive pulse of the profession, “a compilation of best practice, emerging trends, and forward thinking”. It’s a pretty cool barometer of sense of the day within our profession and a stimulus for debate and consensus about change in project management.

FoPM is a partnership and collaboration between the Association for Project Management, Arup, The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at UCL, “with crowd-sourced inputs from the global project management community” – worth checking out.

4 – MERGERS, ACQUISITIONS, CONSOLIDATION

Catching up with clients, project management colleagues and acquaintances, I notice a subtle rise in IT projects that facilitate some form of commercial merger, acquisition, or strategic consolidation. Just this week in my friend circle, one is working on a merging of systems and data following a takeover, another is helping create a global IT approach to replace heritage silo systems across a number of regions and countries (“like ironing a bird’s nest” was the phrase she used), a third is consulting on a proposed amalgamation and the IT systems and processes that will be needed should the merger get the green light.

The business environment is volatile, a company’s market strength and value can rise and fall in a heartbeat leaving it vulnerable, meanwhile governments worldwide seem open to more deregulation and loosening of legislation that may previously have prevented consolidation, so I think that we’re only going to see more need for talented IT Project professionals to create the IT environments that allow manoeuvres like these to progress smoothly and effectively.

5 – PASSION

Clients often feed back to us about how infectious the passion Stoneseed’s PMaaS talent brings to an engagement is. I love hearing this.

Remembering the start of my career, it was rare to display too much passion about IT Projects.

Maybe, it’s just that it wasn’t cool to be overly passionate about work back then, whatever line you were in. The UK’s work culture has changed, it’s now ok to get buzzed about your work, rather than just clock in, clock watch all day and then clock out! You can get really excited during your 9 to 5 without all your colleagues thinking you’re a bit odd! A PM friend, Stu, echoed this recently saying that Project Managers have always been passionate about delivering innovation through IT but recalling downplaying it so as not to look over-keen and a tech-geek. Stu now refers to himself as the “Alpha-Nerd” and wears his self-appointed status like a badge of honour!

Also, as discussed earlier, IT supported the business in those days, whereas these days IT is the business, so maybe the projects weren’t as sexy back then. Another PM friend, Heather, will talk about how her first ever project (integrating her firm’s purchase order, stock control and delivery systems) felt different to her most recent (Enterprise Re-Invention – overseeing root and branch digitisation, reinventing the whole business to be centred around a strong digital core). The first was satisfying, the latest is exhilarating.

Perhaps, it’s a blend of the two – we are doing the most exciting work in an environment where it’s OK to be excited at work. Whatever the reason, the passion for Project Management is growing exponentially, it’s not unheard of for teams to have a bottle of champagne chilling in anticipation of completion of a project! Passion is one of the things that will keep the profession, not just alive, but evolving and booming.

CONCLUSION

How we manage projects will continue to change over the next five years, I am confident though, that we (actual human people!) will still be managing them.

Writing for RGPM (Rebels Guide to Project Management), the brilliant Elizabeth Harrin says, “The role of the project manager has long been shifting away from someone who can tick off tasks as complete on a Gantt chart and towards a strategic leadership position for effecting change.”

Elizabeth Harrin’s insights are always worth a read, and as she is casting her predictions not five but ten years ahead, this article is especially interesting!

The young project management candidate, referenced at the start is right, AI is going to influence project thinking more and more, and automation will remove more of the “tedious tasks”. IT Project Management professionals will evolve and embrace though … as we always have. As Elizabeth Harrin writes, “Project managers will need to be the humans on the team. We’ll need to connect with others with the skills that you can’t get from your robot colleague”.

BIG BUT

The greatest challenge for recruiters and those tasked with resourcing IT projects will continue to be the talent gaps fuelled by increasing demand for IT project managers (and other project professionals). AI will take some of the weight, but those human resources, with their ‘soft skills’ (like empathy), natural talents (like creative, strategic thinking), and intuitive aptitudes (like innate end user/customer focus) are going to be more vital to have in place.

Fortunately, you know a brilliant Project Management as a Service resources provider.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

Sources

https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2023.pdf

https://www.pmi.org/learning/careers/job-growth

https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/research/section/future-of-project-management

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