PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2020: Creating a Future-Oriented Project Management Culture

Annalena Simonis, Wednesday 26 August 2020 | Reading time: 7 min.

What do you need to do to manage projects successfully in the future? Every year, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) study deals with the most important future prognoses on project management. Read the trends for 2020 here.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has been conducting surveys, questioning international organizations and project managers on a regular basis since 2006. The results are published annually under the title Pulse of the Profession and offer project managers worldwide an interesting insight into the future of project management. This gives companies the opportunity to recognize important trends early and to adapt strategies and processes in order to give the organization a decisive advantage in the market and to become a pioneer in project management.

For this year's edition of the report, PMI interviewed around 4000 project management specialists, executives and employees from a wide range of industries and countries. We will present the most important results of the study and explain the significance of these trend developments for project management in the future. 


The new "normal"

Our everyday life has changed a lot in the last decades. The change is as relentless as it is pervasive – even - or maybe especially - in the business world. From the development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence to the demand for greater social responsibility and the ever-changing expectations of consumers. Companies that cling to the status quo run the risk of being left behind. Organizations therefore rely on projects during the change process.

In this age of technology and other complex challenges, only bold and progressive ideas can lead to success. This requires people, employees and managers who have the necessary skills and attitudes to find and implement these unique ideas. Project management should not be underestimated as a strategic competence:


An average 11.4 percent of investment is wasted due to poor project performance.


Source: PMI 2020 Pulse of the Profession Report, page 2

The new decade calls for a paradigm shift in project management. Especially the way of doing business should be considered with a new perspective. To this end, PMI has surveyed managers worldwide to find out which factors are most important for them to be successful in the future. Three important factors in particular emerged:  

Picture: InLoox: The three most important key factors for PM according to PMI 2020

Future-oriented organizations are ready to redefine their visions and purposes and develop new ways of thinking that are promising for their project management.


Transformation of culture in times of digitalization

To prepare for change, agility and creativity are becoming an increasingly important part of the corporate DNA. 


More than half (53 percent) of organizations surveyed in Pulse say they place a high priority on building a culture receptive to change 


Source: PMI 2020 Pulse of the Profession Report, page 3

It is important that management positions clearly communicate their visions and make future benefits clear to employees so that they do not face any rejection or concerns. The trend towards technology in all corporate divisions is a change in the business world that can’t be ignored. Almost half of the respondents indicate that in the future, the majority of investments will be made in technological progress and digitization. Digital skills are no longer an additional luxury; instead, project managers are expected to have a certain level of technical expertise to evaluate progress, review results and advocate for customers. Artificial intelligence will play a major role in the future, especially in reporting and administration. However, this will not reduce the need for human skills - quite the contrary.


Required skills

The results of the Pulse of the Profession study have shown that companies give high priority to the following personnel skills in order to carry out successful projects. 

Picture: InLoox: Most important skills for project managers according to PMI 2020

According to PMI, organizations will not be able to grow if they do not pay attention to the above mentioned skills when choosing their employees. In addition to professional and technical skills, the focus is increasingly on developing stronger relationships with the employees themselves. This should create closer cooperation and fewer conflicts. According to a 2019 Businesslover study, the ability of managers to show empathy has a direct impact on the financial success of the company. Thus, interpersonal skills are among the most important skills that your employees, and especially managers, should show, along with technical knowledge.

The way the work is done is changing fundamentally. More diverse roles will be assigned to each project, and each project will be increasingly tied to technology. As a result, people and companies are increasingly challenged to adapt to advancing technological progress in order to keep up with the pace in the long run.


The customer is and will remain king

70 percent of the interviewed companies make sure that customer benefit is given the highest priority when it comes to creating a corporate culture. Modern project managers work to minimize internal weak spots for the customer. The focus here is on finding new ways for the client instead of proposing proven solutions. Every challenge is solved from a customer-specific and individual perspective. Increasingly popular methods for this purpose are Design Thinking or agile project management


Strong leaders

To keep up with the changing times, the need for highly qualified project managers is growing. Around 70% of PM experts report that their managers value project management. Many organizations are also working to establish the importance of project management in their own culture. In practice, around 60% of companies now offer their managers and employees training and certification courses to help them improve their project management skills. On the other hand, this also raises the benchmark for project managers: companies increasingly expect a certification for their role. 


The future begins now!

In today's world there is no time to stand still and projects have to move forward quickly as well. A single good idea or project is no longer enough to keep organizations at the top in the long run. Only with trained, future-oriented managers, employees can an organization be prepared for the inevitable changes in the future. 

The Pulse of Profession 2020 study shows that leading companies should follow three principles when moving towards this goal:

1. Ability is agility:

It doesn't matter how brilliant a strategy may be or how great a product idea is, if it is affected by a disruption in the supply chain or a new technology. Companies that react quickly and agile to mistakes and learn from them are better positioned for the future.

2. Technology rules - people influence:

Technology determines our future in general and the future of project management in particular. However, every machine is only as intelligent as the people behind it. Project managers must have the ability to handle this new task.

3. The world of project managers:

With so much change, executives primarily address project managers to turn ideas into reality. This requires a mix of proven and new skills. Project managers need to become familiar with automation and design thinking, but human skills are just as important. 


Read the full report here:  Ahead of the Curve: Forging a Future Focused Culture

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