“The Hero of The Organization”: How Project Managers are Staying Agile in the Face of Change

In a recent webinar, “Creating a Truly Flexible Approach to Managing Projects,” project management leaders came together from across the globe to discuss hot-button topics in the industry. Watch the webinar and earn 1 PDU.

Flexibility, agility, risk management, strategic alignment, new tools and technologies…You name it, they unpacked it.

Hosted by World Forum Disrupt, the webinar included insights from:

  • Tom Bash, Head of Product, Tastemade
  • Yaniv Shor, Founder & CEO, Proggio
  • Philippe Rocheteau, Global PMO Lead, VC MTO, Alcon
  • Corinne Scalogna, VP, Program Manager, Litigation Department, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Aoife Ahern, Executive Director of EPMO Product & Business Intelligence, Novartis

Here’s what they had to say about navigating the current changes and future growth of project management.

Taking a flexible and adaptive approach

Project managers have always had to be flexible. But in the last few years, they’ve been subject to more frequent and substantial changes than ever — including supply chain issues, inflation, a global pandemic, and a pending recession.

“Ten years ago, projects were very linear. Today, you’re living in very chopping waters,” Rocheteau said. “You have to be flexible enough in your organization, methodologies, and team structure to capture that information quickly, analyze and process it, and then come up with multiple scenarios to mitigate that [risk].”

For Shor, one solution to this challenge is scenario management.

“In times of uncertainty, the project manager should have a very clear understanding of different options and even develop complete backup plans for these scenarios,” he said. “Knowing the implications of each scenario helps you stay flexible and better address changing project needs.”

When Shor led the introduction of Google Wallet in the U.S., for example, his team came up with four different iterations of wireless technology before deciding on a solution.

“I think the flexible approach we took with scenario management was key to keeping things under control and finally completing a successful project, even in times of uncertainty,” he said.

Maintaining strategic alignment

According to Ahern, one of the biggest challenges facing project managers today is strategic alignment.

“Even if you know the tactical solution to a problem, you have to have the right strategic alignment,” she said. “In the last 20 years, PMOs have been historically quite disconnected from strategy and delivery. They even come with different parameters for measuring success.”

Shor also sees this as being a major obstacle for Proggio clients.

“This is probably why researchers have started using the term ‘adaptive project management’ because it’s all about being able to respond to what’s happening in real life,” he said.

Meanwhile Rocheteau pointed to a helpful solution: assigning rank and priority to each individual project across your portfolio.

“I think one of the key solutions is to have an agile project prioritization process where each project has a relative value,” he said. “So if something changes and we need to go in a different direction, you can rerank that prioritized list without a whole lot of effort.”

Leveraging new project management tools

Amid all these industry-wide changes, project managers are in need of new tools and technologies to help them adapt. That means moving beyond just using outdated Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides, and Gantt charts.

As Bash put it, “There’s no need to send attachments back and forth with “_TomCommentsFinal_Final_Final’ or whatever the old school way used to be.”

“You just can’t use a traditional PPM tool anymore,” Rocheteau added. “We’re talking about tools that support strategic adaptive management — those tools really help you stay in the game to hit your deliverables, which is a whole lot harder than it used to be from my perspective.”

When Rocheteau was managing a particularly complex and high-volume project, he started using an adaptive tool [Proggio] that offered clear visualization across his portfolio.

“[We needed] something visually powerful to see complex information in a simplified way,” he said. “If you have a tool that helps you with that visualization, it drives adoption by a much stronger user base, and it empowers them to own different parts of the schedule to support the overall objectives of the program.”

As a result, Rocheteau’s team cut its project management needs and resources in half.

“For us, it was a game changer,” he said. “All our capital projects here are going to be managed in this new type of tool set and we’re also implementing it globally for our manufacturing sites. It’s a completely different way of managing these complex projects.”

Preparing for future of project management

Here’s a scary question: Is project management in danger of being absorbed by product management and ruled obsolete? 

The panelists say definitely not.

As Bash put it, “I had a product management [role] and I don’t know what I would do without the project managers on my team. They play a very critical role there.”

Meanwhile at Alcon, project managers have become more critical to organizational success than previously thought.

“Within our company over the last three years, there’s been a significant growth in project management maturity and appreciation for the profession,” said Rocheteau. “It allows us to stay in business at this point.”

If anything, the monumental shifts of the last few years have proven how crucial project managers are — and how dangerous it is to treat them like clerks instead of leaders.

“If they’re using the right approach and are supported by the right system, I think there’s no reason for project management not to be the hero of the organization,” said Shor. “The more uncertainty, the more change-driven environments that we are seeing today, the more project managers will be critical and important to any organization.”

Ready to make life easier with a PPM that works for you? Book a demo with Proggio.