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Upskilling project and programme managers for relentless change

  • Update: 23/07/2021

Digital transformation has provided the catalyst for change in lots of organizations, yet underneath any transformation is a project.

A great quote from management consultancy Bain sums this up nicely: “… digital transformation is really a business transformation, supported by investments in new technology — not new technology in search of opportunities.”

Are organizations realizing this? Are organizations investing in the skills to deliver business transformation, i.e. projects? Even where professionals and their employers are already actively investing in the range of skills necessary to deliver this change, two key questions remain: is one certification enough to manage multiple change initiatives and, if not, what do I need to study next?

Developing project and programme managers for today

Some existing project and programme managers may argue that little has changed in their disciplines and therefore don’t see a pressing need to refresh their skills. After all, quality is quality and planning is planning, right? However, the world has moved on significantly and increased competition and the drive for efficiencies is forcing companies to work differently – using Agile methods is one example.

New ways of working require a range of diverse skills and – in this context – the introduction of AXELOS® ProPath Project Expert, Agile Project Expert and Programme Leader designations, is timely.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 highlighted that project managers (and I’m including programme managers here too) are in a role predicted to be in increasing demand over the next five years. So, broadening their skills to include risk, Agile methods, plus portfolio management and the PMO is going to be vital.

And these broader skills promote a career ‘lattice’ or ‘matrix’ where the skills cross over into other disciplines and facilitate a move sideways as well as upwards into new roles. This is great for organizations as the ‘lattice’ can provide a much-needed, flexible resource pool. I first came across the concept of a career ‘lattice’ in the Harvard Business Review article “How the Corporate Ladder Became the Corporate Lattice”, and it describes a more adaptable and flexible model for career development with a multitude of opportunities. A “lattice” is a matrix and from a career perspective it represents the opportunity to ‘zig-zag’ in many different directions across job families.

Frictionless career planning

Where some organizations are relatively mature in offering project and programme management career pathways, others aren’t. And the more mature ones still often have a linear career path, or ‘ladder’: (for want of better role names) a Project Associate develops into a Project Manager who progresses to a Senior Project Manager role then maybe to Project Director, and then the individual has nowhere else to go.

This is where AXELOS® ProPath provides clarity for the professional and shows them what they need to do, depending on their chosen pathway. It’s both simple and takes the friction out of career planning by selecting the relevant global best practice training and learning, which is both credible and authoritative.

And, for organizations investing in people development, they know exactly what they’re going to get.

For people beginning their project management career, they often query what to do next after PRINCE2®. So, AXELOS® ProPath gives them visibility of the future; helping them to recognize that the range of skills they’ll need to manage change initiatives and build a career are complementary and interdependent.

Helping training companies meet the needs of employee development

I think AXELOS® ProPath is very positive for training organizations, helping us to facilitate conversations with learners about what they have to do to get to the pinnacle of their profession. And those conversations go beyond a discussion about individual courses to encompass an entire career progression.

As people evolve in the workplace, they often go in unexpected directions. That’s where AXELOS® ProPath supports them – not by telling them what they must do but offering options for what they can do.

News by Ian Clarkson – Practice Director, PPM, QA

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