The strategic value of project management
The ongoing change in the labour market is leading to a profound rethinking of professions
New, hybrid and transversal knowledge, but also commitment, ethics, sustainability, empathy and emotional intelligence: these are the characteristics that new workers will have to have, combined of course with the ability to be flexible, open to change and technological innovation.
Moreover, in the last two decades, in the transition phase towards digitally oriented business models, business organisations have been prompted to rethink and redesign internal processes with a view to increasing competitiveness and improving innovation capacity to maintain their competitive advantage in the market.
Thus arose the need to define and implement new strategic choices through the use of appropriate management tools and methods, immersed in a renewed corporate culture.
Project Management is a management philosophy focused on efficiency and effectiveness and oriented towards results to be achieved through rational planning and evaluation of objectives.
Since the 1970s, Project Management, as a professional and managerial practice, has moved out of the restricted areas of engineering and plant engineering to be adopted in differentiated and transversal sectors.
Today it is a widespread and applied practice that has been able to transform the hierarchical-vertical and centralised organisational model into one characterised by a general functional decentralisation where operational management promotes the establishment of working groups, the multidisciplinary teams, in which individuals possess and govern transversal knowledge.
To better understand how a work organisation based on Project Management is better suited to support the rapid changes required by the new production reality, we met with Viviane Arazi, a lecturer lof the Corporate Education Courses at the Rome Business School who said:
“The need to undertake a change involving the writing of new organisational paradigms is now evident: therefore, the concepts of Project, Project Management, Project Manager, Methodologies and Software Solutions assume an increasingly relevant role. First of all, it is necessary to define what is meant by a project and all those activities inherent to its planning and control, such as risk management and closing and reporting operations. In fact, managing a project or several projects simultaneously within a company, achieving performance targets in terms of cost, time and quality requires the use of strict managerial discipline.
Project management is a very precise working model, which is nowadays adopted by even very different figures at all levels of the company. Managing project teams requires uncommon organisational skills and leadership oriented towards listening and conflict management. A successful project therefore has all these elements combined with the pragmatism of a systemic and structured approach to realise the benefits required by the customer.”
The Project Manager
Project Management has enabled companies to improve their way of designing by introducing the concept of a project lifecycle, through which it is possible to plan the activities and resources needed to pursue the objectives within the identified timeframe, define the objectives to be achieved, the resources, costs and time required for their realisation.
In this perspective, the Project Manager plays a very important role: to go beyond the management of activities and focus on the achievement of objectives required by the client, through the creation and empowerment of a compact and multidisciplinary team.
“The success of any project depends above all on the figure of the project manager, who encompasses a skilful mix of technical skills, linked to the definition of activities, timescales and risks, which are combined in a balanced manner with an entrepreneurial and managerial dimension.
Of course, one must then understand the focus of the project at hand, i.e. the client’s need. Projects can be simple or complex: sometimes in their realisation one may encounter endogenous obstacles, such as a change in the client’s perspective or the team’s loss of motivation, or exogenous ones, such as the Covid 19 pandemic or the war in Ukraina, which do not allow the project to be completed. In both cases, the project manager will have to spend the right amount of time to put in place a careful feasibility analysis and have the ability and skill to involve the team, e.g. through work shops, to try to resolve these critical issues and find the right solution to present to the client in a changed landscape.”
The Project Management Institute
The Project Management Institute (PMI®) is the most important international professional association for Project Management. Founded in 1969, today it has over 1 million members worldwide and about 8,000 in Italy.
The PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, a standard in the project management world issued by the PMI (Project management institute), is internationally recognised and attests proven experience in managing complex projects.
“As of January 2021, the PMP certification has changed and evolved somewhat. Whereas in the past the examination was fundamentally about processes, it is now split into 50% about processes, 42% about people management, i.e. people, and the rest is about business.
This is indicative of the importance assumed today by the project manager and the management of his leadership, which is increasingly “human oriented”, because the task of a leader is to enhance the members of his staff and allow them to develop their skills and potential.
Simplifying, we can say that if we represent an organisational chart from top to bottom and rotate it by 90° we will have everyone at almost the same level. Hence a management no longer based on the top down paradigm, but above all button up, as the modern holistic view of the company professes.“
The AGILE Processes
Studying the relationship between worker and company through the analysis of structural dynamics and leadership style is an undertaking that must take many aspects into account.
Over the course of the second half of the 20th century, awareness of the potential of intellectual capital, bearer of values and knowledge, grew gradually until the early 2000s, so much so as to be defined as ‘human resources’ in order to highlight the aspect of the value framework inherent in the worker.
It was in this context that the ‘AGILE Manifesto’ was born, a document drafted in 2001 by 17 engineers specialising in software creation with the intention of defining the key values and principles of ‘agile development’: a mindset capable of realising projects by minimising risks and with greater emphasis on teams, on people.
In this respect, the manifesto was the spokesperson for an ongoing structural change: rigid organisations impose a priori requirements in the definition of processes, with no room for change, but in the VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – it is increasingly difficult to use past experience to predict the future: an agile mindset allows one to adapt quickly and consciously to different scenarios with non-pre-packaged requirements.
“AGILE, is another way of approaching projects, which stems from a different need than traditional project management: it means being open to change, to flexibility, on the side of the project implementer but also on the side of the project receiver. Doing projects in agile mode requires first and foremost being AGILE.
The AGILE approach means working on the most important priorities, on what generates value. The watchword is trust, the ability of the team to choose tools, to self-organise.
In the agile mode, one tries to be as less formal as possible in order to focus on the product, one tries to be pragmatic, to skip unnecessary formal documents such as reports or progress reports that are sometimes really superfluous. But I want to emphasise that the values and principles that are described in the AGILE Manifesto of 2001 must be understood and sometimes customers are reluctant.”
Project Management and job opportunities
The project manager is one of the most sought-after positions in the labour market. He has the task of briefing team members, giving accurate instructions, but above all he must have the ability to make each staff member feel important and part of the project, encouraging the team even in difficult moments.
“The project manager is a wonderful, complete profession, which gives the opportunity to work in different areas and with different people, teams and is a continuous growth. In this way you learn how to manage a team, manage meetings, manage conflicts. In addition to hard skills, it is necessary to acquire soft kills, personal skills, such as negotiation, communication, emotional intelligence and empathy, which are crucial for motivating teams.
You can do basic courses to learn how to use the mainly technical tools, then you will be supported and of course you will learn other skills on the job: approach it is really an exciting profession!”
Currently a teacher and trainer of traditional and Agile Project Management and the soft skills required for the profession, Viviane Arazi has been a project and programme manager in the Information Technology sector working for global companies and global clients for more than 30 years. Passionate about the role, she has consolidated her experience with numerous certifications in different methodologies and approaches.