The Project Manager of the Future

This post is based on a presentation to the Project Management Institute Canada’s Technology Triangle Chapter on March 25th 2017 in Guelph, Ontario.

The recording of the presentation that was delivered is below:

Project managers work in the real world. The leading project management methodology, the Project Management Body of Knowledge from the Project Management Institute, stresses that the conditions in which a project is conducted will drive the application of the processes that it describes. Project managers are expected to decide which processes they will use in the project that they are managing and how they should be applied.

“the organisation and/or project management team is responsible for determining what is appropriate for any given project”

A Guide To The Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th Edition, page 2.

The real world is changing very quickly today. Many factors are influencing this change with information technology being critically featured. At the University of Waterloo we study the impact that information technology is having carefully. We have examined the impact of information technology on society in a number of areas to better understand the impact of the work that many of our graduates will have on the world.

Our work highlights that there are few areas of life in which information technology is not having an impact today. A website has been created to discuss this topic – The Impact of Information Systems on Society. The contributions to the site are on topics ranging from globalisation and democracy to privacy and the impact the internet is having on how people think. Vigorous debates exist about the impact that information technology is having in many of these areas. The site is a useful resource in creating better understanding of the way that the world is changing today.

As part of this activity we have surveyed the views that people have of the impact that information technology is having on their lives. Our Social Disruption Survey has found that while most people have a generally positive attitude towards information technology, there are areas where there is significant concern, including the use of social media by terrorist groups, the impact of fake news on democracy, cyber warfare and the gap between rich and poor people. the full results of the study are available on the website.

Our work looks at the impact that information technology is having on business and organisations too. The Social Media for Business Performance program has created an archive of 1100 case studies focussed on how social media is being used in organisations for marketing and in other functions such as product development and design, operations and supply chain and employee participation. We also consider how social media can be integrated across organisations to improve performance and combined with new technological advances such as the internet of things and artificial intelligence.

The work that we do on the impact of the internet on society and organisations provides understanding of the context in which project management is being applied today. Rapid social and business related change is increasing demand for project managers and changing the nature of the work that they do.

The Project Management Institute forecasts that demand for project managers will dramatically increase during this decade. They estimate that 15.7 million new project management jobs will be created between 2010 and 2020 globally, with an economic impact of $18 trillion. Our work to understand the impact that information technology is having helps to explain this growth. Organisations are using projects as they change to meet the requirements of the changing world and to gain their own competitive advantage. Focus on the use of information technology for digital transformation will result in many new projects.

Governments are dealing with new challenges in many policy areas and projects are enabling their actions. In the US, construction of the border wall, changes in healthcare and new infrastructure projects will require large numbers of project managers.

While the number of projects and project managers is increasing we also wanted to understand whether the nature of the projects themselves was changing and to consider what this might mean for the role of the project manager.

Most students at the University of Waterloo participate in the Co-op program, spending work terms with employers within the field that they are studying. While they are with employers, students are expected to undertake online professional development courses that are provided by the university. One of these courses is in Project Management – reflecting the importance that the university attaches to project management knowledge for its students. Most co-op students are with employers in Canada but some are in other countries globally.

Student placement with their employers for their co-op term, while studying project management created an opportunity to undertake research on the project management activity within these organisations, and if the research can be continued from year to year, to gain understanding of the changing nature of project management in organisations.

Detailed results of the survey activity are provided elsewhere in this blog, but it is useful to consider some key results from the first year of the survey conduct, 2016. The survey is being conducted in 2017  and results will be available from that survey shortly.

The survey was completed in 98 organisations and comprised a broad cross section of the business and organisational community. It includes the public and private sector in a range of industries and in organisations of various sizes. The results suggest that project management is changing, its challenges are increasing and that the project manager’s job will be different.

Other surveys have reported rates of project success and factors that contribute to project success or failure. This survey also looked at these areas and has established a benchmark for future survey conduct. We will be able to see whether these are changing as project management changes in future years, as the project environment changes. We can see the rates of project manager certification which indicate that there are still many project managers without it. There are also many organisations that use no coherent methodology for their projects.

The area of most interest in the survey looks at how projects are changing. Most people who responded to the survey believe that projects are becoming more complex (55% vs 3 % who think they are getting less complex), larger (59% vs 5 % who think they are getting smaller), more strategically important (61% vs. 4 % who think they are less strategically important) and more likely to involve people in more than one country (43% vs 9% who think they are less international).

These results are important. The Project Management Institute believe that the demand for project managers is increasing strongly as a result of more project activity. That activity is strongly influenced by the rapidly changing world that we live in and our survey shows that the projects themselves are also changing, becoming more complex, bigger, more strategically important and global.

Recent changes that have been made to the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge and those that are planned to take affect in its next edition appear to be responding to these new realities. Three changes appear to do this. The creation of a chapter in PMBOK, in the most recent fifth edition, on Stakeholder Management acknowledges that this area is becoming more important. The new project environment will require more careful attention to stakeholder engagement. A large, complex, international project will usually have many stakeholders who will require management.

Planned changes for the next edition include more stress on the project management Talent Triangle, which emphasises that technical project management needs to be combined with Leadership and Strategic Business Management skills. Projects that are more complex, larger and more global and that are of significant strategic importance will require more general management skills.

Agile Project Management is also being added to the PMBOK later this year. Agile emphasises areas of project management that are especially relevant in projects with higher degrees of uncertainty. The business and organisational environment is changing rapidly. Information technology influenced change often involves higher degrees of uncertainty as organisations seek to gain competitive advantage through early adoption and novel technological applications.

These areas that the PMI are emphasising in changes to PMBOK, indicate how the role of the project manager is changing. This changing role is significantly influenced by the changes that are driven by information technology and which are expected to accelerate in the future. Our project management survey shows that change is happening rapidly today and suggests that the changes that are being made by the PMI are appropriate and will benefit the profession.

It is important to understand that project management is changing quickly. In a more slowly changing world projects were smaller, more stable and easier to manage. It is possible to suggest areas that will require more emphasis in the future. These are based on interpretation of our understanding of the changing world and our survey data on how projects are changing. Further analysis may modify this list:

  • Managing complexity
  • Managing uncertainty
  • Managing stakeholders
  • Managing the project team (which will often be bigger)
  • Using online project tools and managing virtual teams
  • Working with different cultures
  • Awareness of the impact of information technology on business and organisations
  • Awareness of the impact of information technology on people

The role of the project manager is changing, influenced by the changing nature of society and organisations. Awareness of the areas that will be more important in the future will allow the project management profession to prepare effectively and best contribute to project success.

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Project Management Stakeholder Simulation

stakeholders

At the University of Waterloo we have recently finished work on an online simulation that is intended to develop better understanding of the management of project stakeholders. The simulation is undertaken online and can be made available to organisations and individuals that wish to improve their capability in this area.

There are three versions of the simulation, making it suitable for a wide range of organisations. These scenarios are:

  • An Enterprise Resources Planning Implementation in an automotive components manufacturer in Waterloo.
  • A mid size office and retail construction project in Toronto.
  • The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – a large-scale, multi year construction project.

Simulation participants assume the role of the project leader and develop their strategy and tactics for stakeholder management. Each of the projects has five phases in which participants categorise stakeholders and determine the tactics that are appropriate for each stakeholder group, within a budget that they have determined at the start of the simulation. Feedback is provided on the decisions to improve future decision making.

tactics

The simulations are used in Graduate and Undergraduate courses as well as professional development programs at the University of Waterloo. The first simulation is on a medium sized office/retail building in Toronto which you can try out. Please contact me if you would like to look at the simulation further, including the other two versions, with a view to using it in your organisation or as an individual. Email: pdcarr@uwaterloo.ca

summary

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The University of Waterloo Professional Development Project Management Survey 2016

The following video provides results from the first year of the University of Waterloo Professional Development Project Management Survey, conducted in Fall 2015 and Winter 2016. The survey has been revised based on these results and is continuing in 2017.

The survey is intended to better understand the changing nature of projects, the project management environment and the practice of project management itself. The results will help project managers and the organisations they work with to better manage projects and will inform the education that the University of Waterloo provides in the project management field.

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Teachers Without Frontiers

In Spring 2016, four groups of University of Waterloo Masters students who were undertaking the Graduate Diploma in Business Entrepreneurship, worked with the Teachers Without Frontiers organisation in Pakistan on the use of information technology in schools. The attached newsletter from TWF includes an article on their work.

teachers-without-frontiers-newsletter

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Project Team Member Preparatory Course

Introduction

Significant weaknesses exist in the performance of project teams and these weaknesses are a major factor in project failure. This course is intended to better prepare members of project teams for their work. Project managers require a wider range of skills and it is not intended that they take this course. This is a proposal for a one day online course for project team members. It is intended to create awareness of the project process (how projects are organised) and of the effective operation of project teams. It provides skills in effective team participation and addresses common areas of project team weakness. It is based on research on effective project team operation.

I am grateful to you for taking the time to review the proposal for this course and would also be grateful for your feedback on it. Please take a few minutes to provide this by responding to this short survey.

Delivery Format

This course will be delivered online over a one day period. Synchronous online sessions will be combined with individual and group learning activities which are conducted in online groups and individually. The course will be offered on one day per month. Activities in the course will be graded pass or fail – all activities must be passed and the final test passed with a grade of 60 % or better to receive a course pass and a certificate.

PTM Agenda

Peter Carr
May 2016

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NetHope and the University of Waterloo Research Partnership

In the Spring of 2007 an agreement was made between NetHope and the University of Waterloo’s Department of Management Sciences. The agreement was to enable students from the online Masters in Management Sciences in the Management of Technology to undertake projects supporting the work of NetHope as assessed work as part of an elective in Project Management.

Projects commenced in 2007 and have continued since then – many of them are described here. To date over 30 projects have been undertaken in which University of Waterloo students have worked with NetHope.

The projects involve groups of students working on information technology oriented projects for NetHope. The projects are agreed between NetHope sponsors and the university prior to the students joining the course. For thirteen weeks students work on the project and deliver a final written report and online video presentation, as well as any other project deliverables that have been agreed, to NetHope upon its completion. Project teams meet online with their NetHope sponsors weekly to review project progress and discuss relevant issues.

In Spring 2013 the course had a new offerring added with the Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology and was offered in a blended classroom and online format. Meanwhile the MMSc projects have continued.

The Research Projects

About 400 students have now been involved in projects with NetHope. Their projects have involved work in the following areas:

Project Management Practices Review

A review was undertaken of the project management practices of the NetHope member organisations. A survey was undertaken and common practices were identified. These practices were analysed and guidance was given to NetHope on how these might be improved.

Global Connectivity Database

A database was created to collate information on the methods and strength of connectivity of NetHope member organisations in their global locations. This database can be continuously updated as circumstances change and can be used to assist the development of solutions that correspond to existing connectivity and to allow NetHope members to work with each other on local connectivity solutions.

The Last Mile

An analysis of technologies to create local internet connectivity in areas where NetHope members have local operations was undertaken . Various solutions were studied and an analysis provided to NetHope to assist with identification of appropriate solutions to support the application of connectivity based operations.

Use of Mobile Technologies in Agriculture and Health

Mobile technologies are increasingly being used in developing countries in the agriculture and healthcare fields. A comprehensive review of activity here was undertaken and provided to NetHope for use by members as they consider their own use of these technologies.

Information Technology Solutions for Counterfeit Drugs

Counterfeit prescription medications are responsible for millions of deaths annually in developing countries. Following work undertaken at the Accenture Strategy College, a study was conducted to analyse possible information technology based solutions to this problem. Available technologies were reviewed and recommendations made. Work continues on the project by NetHope and Hewlett Packard and others.

Power Solutions for Tanzania Education

NetHope, Accenture and others had been working with the Tanzanian government on the creation of internet connected schools to transform secondary education in Tanzania. The project relied on identifying an electrical power solution that would enable this to happen in rural areas that were usually without an electrical power source. The students examined the available options, both in terms of computer technology and power sources and recommended a solution.

Projects for the Red Cross

These focused on the development of a social franchise model for the establishment on internet cafes in the third world and three groups looked at various aspects of this. The first studied and existing Red Cross internet café in Uganda, the second developed a model for Red Cross national organisations to use for social franchise internet café establishment, while the third developed a model for the role that would be played by the International Federation.

Corporate Social Responsibility Funding for Information Technology in Development

Corporate social responsibility funding for the use of information technology in development has been weak to date and this two group project developed approaches that NetHope members might use to identify and access potential funding opportunities. The first group developed a first draft of the model and detailed its possible use in East Africa. The second developed the model further and examined its application in Central and South America.

Development of the NetHope Cloud Services Portal

NetHope were developing a portal to enable its members to access and share data on a wide range of cloud based services. The group provided support to NetHope in the design of the portal itself and in the collection and categorisation of data for the portal.

Centre For Information Technology Research in International Development

The group reviewed literature and research groups on the use of information technology in development and proposed a model for the creation of a research institute. A survey was drafted to study the use of information technology by development non governmental organisations and a website was created for a possible research institute.

Development of an Approach For Improving Collaborative Efforts Within and Between Global NGOs

This project focused on the use of information technology based collaborative tools within and between NetHope member rganisations. A review of collaboration models was undertaken and a NetHope Collaboration Maturity Model was developed. The model included a questionnaire to assist with the identification of member maturity level.

NetHope Cloud Services Sustainability Project

The need for the NetHope Cloud Services Portal to become self sustaining led to this project which was to find avenues for monetizing the portal. The team decided to look into the current site state, contents and general overview of the site. Findings from the current site analysis led to further outline of required/necessary work packages. The group members were divided into several teams as needed.

Surveys were sent out to stakeholders and research works mainly through comparisons with existing successful sites were carried out. These led to the final conclusions and recommendations. It was discovered that further work should be done on the site as a
whole before marketing strategies could be implemented. Recommendations on how to better make the site self sustaining were proposed in this report.

Targeting NetHope Connectivity and Infrastructure Vendors

NetHope members seek to work with connectivity and infrastructure vendors to access charitable donations, discounts or partnership programmes. Prior to this project, NetHope members engaged in discussions with prospective companies with little or no background information.
The team developed a framework for the assembly and presentation of vendor information and undertook research on key NetHope vendors to populate their model. The information gathered provides NetHope with valuable intelligence to support their vendor discussions.

NetHope Shared Services Helpdesk

Sharing of information technology between NetHope members may reduce costs and improve services for all who participate. This project reviewed the existing shared services, surveyed NetHope members on their current helpdesk provision, the services offered and their costs and found that a wide range of provision existed.
A business model was created for a shared service desk model using an outsourced third party provider. This was presented at a meeting of NetHope members and initiated discussions on the development of shared service provision.

Developing the Case For Improved Connectivity Infrastructure in Sierra Leone

The goal of this research was to provide the NetHope team with a complete analysis that outlines the current state of Sierra Leone’s demographics, education and health; thoroughly analyze all existing ISP players and investigate the technical and financial issues that are preventing Internet Service Providers increasing their penetration into Sierra Leone’s market (both geographically and financially). This report also provided the team’s recommendations on NetHope’s prospective ISP partners that, based on a review of their financial health, level of penetration in Sierra Leone and their support by Multinational partnerships.

NetHope Solutions Centre Communities of Practice Handbook

The NetHope Solutions Center has been created by NetHope to enable NetHope members to collaborate with each other, access and share information on the use of information technology in development and to access and share information on products and services that are available with deals and discounts for NetHope members. This project focussed on the NetHope Solutions Centre Community Pages and how these would be presented to NetHope members and used by them. A comprehensive handbook was developed for leaders of the Communities of Practice.

NGO Activity Mapping

Mapping technologies have developed rapidly in recent years, enabling extensive data to be plotted on digital maps and interrogated for a range of purposes. NetHope asked the university to develop a mapping tool to support their needs and populate it. The map which was developed records the location of NetHope member global activities and provides information on each project. The online mapping tool was developed, populated and handed over to NetHope for their continuing usage in the future.

NetHope Member Information Technology Strategy Review

This research reviewed the IT strategy of NetHope members and conducted an analysis to identify the key technology choices non-profit organizations can make to further their respective missions, strengthen their organization’s capabilities and/or secure efficiencies. comprehensive survey to study the overall IT strategy and level of IT adopted by each of the NetHope member organizations. The findings of this research are particularly applicable to the NetHope members’ executives and administrators to enhance their awareness of IT in handling various tasks such as managing organization information, enhancing communication with staff and volunteers, performing effective administrative work and more, which should influence their decisions about the adoption and usage of IT in their organizations.

Improving the Reach of the NetHope Solutions Centre Online Stakeholder Community

This project examined the participation of constituent groups in the Solutions Centre and made recommendations on how their engagement might be improved. Particular emphasis was placed on the role that social media might play in doing this. Two research groups worked on this project independently to provide a diversity of recommendations.

Use of Big Data in Humanitarian Development

Big data is being increasingly used in businesses today. Information technology is making this data available and allowing it to be processed and analysed in ways that were never before possible. Big data is also becoming available in Humanitarian Development and understanding of its application and use remains weak, This project created a research report on the use of Big Data by Humanitarian Development organisations. It included information on the work that NGOs are doing with Big Data today and made suggestions on how it might be used in the future.

Internet Connectivity and the Refugee Crisis

This set of four projects examined the use of internet connectivity in a range of refugee environments. Internet connectivity can provide substantial benefits for refugees. NetHope has undertaken work to provide connectivity in refugee camps, for example Dadaab in Kenya, and is keen to see connectivity provided to other refugee camps and refugees who are not living in camps, making the benefits of connectivity available to them. While short term funding from donors and other sources may provide some initial support, to be continuing benefit, solutions need to be sustainable for as long as they may be of benefit. These projects provided analysis and recommendations on connectivity in refugee camp and non refugee camp environments and examined technical and financial options for its provision.

Conclusion

The projects undertaken thus far have been successful – each delivering value to NetHope and their member organisations. The programme continues.

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Fahd Gulzar Discusses Agile Project Management

The following video features Fahd Gulzar, consultant in agile project management with HUB Management Consultants. Fahd discusses the key elements of agile and provides advice on its effective use:

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