Pulse of the Profession 2018: The Project Manager of the Future

Madeleine Gritzbach, Monday 13 August 2018 | Reading time: unknown

As our working environment changes, so do the requirements for leaders and project managers. What’s the role of the project manager of the future and what does he need to know to be successful?  

New technologies bring rapid and continuous change to our workplace. In order to not only react to those but use them to make projects more effective and profitable, project managers need to adapt and keep on learning. In the future, the role and the tasks of a project manager will be something like the following: 

Ensure top drivers of project success 

As PMI’s research shows, there are three top drivers of project success: the investment in actively engaged sponsors, the avoidance of scope creep and the maturing of value delivery capabilities. A great project manager will have to ensure that these requirements are met to be able to conduct projects effectively.  

Invest in actively engaged executive sponsors as they will use their influence within an organization to actively overcome challenges by communicating the project’s alignment to strategy, removing roadblocks, and driving organizational change. They will also help align stakeholders and communicate the vision effectively. With this consistent engagement and support, you’ll ensure that your project momentum stays steady and project success is more likely. 

Avoid scope creep (which has affected 52% of projects in the past 12 months) by creating awareness of the business benefits, establishing a credible feedback loop with the customer, and taking iterative approaches, allowing for shifts in delivery midstream. These lead to more deliberate shifts in scope based on informed business decisions. Success is greater when teams listen, learn, and are adaptable. 

Mature value delivery capabilities (= the full spectrum of competencies that enable organizations to deliver their projects and programs). This allows for quick adaptation to changing market conditions by balancing efficiency and creativity and promoting continuous improvement. Organizations then have the ability to minimize risks, control costs and increase value. Try to meet customer needs by clarifying goals, shortening feedback loops, and measuring progress based on outcomes, rather than outputs. 

Changes to the working environment of a project manager – dealing with disruption 

It’s safe to say that new and disruptive technologies, natural and man-made disasters, and political and economic factors have an impact on daily work and, at times, change the trajectory of the future. These are the disruptive trends affecting businesses the most: 

  • Autonomous and self-driving vehicles
  • Big data
  • Sustainable development, climate change and renewable energy
  • Customer expectations of speed
  • Data intelligence
  • Healthcare reforms
  • Increased competition
  • Increased government regulations
  • New technology
  • Political change 

These trends require adapting and learning to be able to not only react to change but to participate in and take advantage of it.

New ways to learn and broaden skills 

According to PMI’s Job Growth and Talent Gap report, by 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management–oriented roles, increasing the need for skilled and experienced project and program managers. Organizations will continue to place a greater focus on 

project management performance improvement to stay competitive and relevant. The role of the project manager is also expanding:  

  • Strategic Advisor: plans and executes projects, delivers results
  • Innovator: acts as product owner and developer  
  • Communicator: is always clear and concise—no matter the audience  
  • Big Thinker: is adaptable, flexible and possesses emotional intelligence  
  • Versatile Manager: has experience with various approaches—waterfall, Scrum, agile, lean, design thinking etc. 

Not only the role and tasks of a project manager, but also how they acquire new skills and knowledge will change. Demand is increasing for faster, more flexible and easier-to-learn project management methodologies and approaches. The constantly changing technical landscape— from social media, to web-based tools, to learning management systems—will present tremendous opportunities for exploration and experimentation. The shift toward on-demand, customized, and problem-specific learning will grow. Innovations in learning will continue to make it possible for the new worker to learn anything, anytime, and anywhere. 

This is the ideal project manager of the future

THE perfect project manager will combine traditional project management skills with an understanding of today’s marketplace, a deep knowledge of the organization’s products and services, and how those products and services are being used by customers. They also need to have a blend of technical skills, leadership skills, and strategic and business management skills. 

Knowing about disruptive trends, as mentioned above, is crucial. You need to understand what is going on and what is possible with new technologies in order to be able to think ahead and create value for your organization. You also need to be able to continue learning as technologies change rapidly and new technologies enter the market every day.  

Develop digital-era project management skills, because automation including artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning, digitization, and robotics will have an ever increasing impact on the modern working environment. Be part of the technological trends that are going to have the largest influence on project work so you can participate in it! 

Know your organization! You will be better equipped to sense change if you are well informed about your organization’s strategic objectives and how their project goals align with them. Those who have leadership skills and strong business acumen—and deal well with ambiguity - round up almost all necessary requirements in a successful project manager. 


PMI’s survey shows what the most successful companies invest in when it comes to their project managers: 81% prioritize the development of technical skills, 79% leadership skills, and 70% strategic and business management skills. Further, four in five respondents report that soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and negotiation, are more important today than they were just five years ago. 

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