Ireland’s project managers have more to do on embedding emerging technologies, more emphasis on digital skills and adopting sustainable practices needed. 

These are some of the key findings from PwC’s new research amongst Ireland’s leading project managers, and who are members of the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI).  This survey provides tremendous insight from the project leaders driving change throughout Ireland and provides a bellwether on project management in today’s complex world of business.  The survey is published ahead of the National Project Awards to be held on 14 November at PwC.

Digital technologies need to be fully embedded in project management

While mature technologies such as online collaboration tools and video conferencing are regularly used, the majority of respondents admitted that important digital tools such as data analytics and visualisation, project management software, cloud storage and cybersecurity tools are not regularly used.  

The survey further highlights that Project Managers now need to think beyond traditional project management tools and embrace emerging technologies such as robotics, data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Our survey demonstrates that such tools are currently having very little impact on Irish project management activities notwithstanding the significant amount of project management related innovation in this space and applicable solutions now available to Project Managers.

At the same time, nearly half (44%) of respondents confirmed that the use of technology facilitates a more flexible lifestyle while a further 28% admitted that technology is preventing them from ‘switching-off’ from work. This further highlights that technology is merely driving different methods of accessing more traditional work approaches rather than being used to make the management of projects more simple and efficient for our respondents. 

A shift to becoming more strategic

According to respondents, the role of the project manager will become more strategic in the next decade.  For example, they will have more emphasis on business interaction and stakeholder management; communication and people skills will be a greater focus; technology and data-driven decisions, process automation through AI and robotics will become much more important and project managers will become much more reliant on software tools. The focus will shift from just delivering the product to the long term impact it has on people and its successful adoption across the business.

More emphasis on digital skills needed

Nearly half (46%) said that the do not believe their organisation’s workforce has the necessary skills to exploit opportunities arising from digital tools.  However, those who use digital tools admit to having a positive experience.

Feilim Harvey, Partner, PwC Ireland Portfolio and Programme Management Practice, said: “The survey highlights a strong sense that digital tools have a positive impact on project delivery but much more needs to be done to take advantage of emerging technologies and developing the necessary skills required to exploit these tools.  Project managers now need to think beyond the traditional applications of project management software and fully embrace digital tools to make their projects more effective and efficient.

“At the same time, organisations need to be aware of the increasing demands on project managers to deliver successful projects and to consider what steps can be taken to manage the varying pressures.”

More action required on adoption of sustainable practices

A large majority (84%) reported that increasing environmental concerns are not influencing the prioritisation of project selection in their organisations.  Over half (53%) of managers surveyed said that they rarely or never consider the environmental impacts of projects prior to implementation.  At the same time, a similar proportion (55%) stated that they would refuse to work on a project that adversely impacts the environment.

Key barriers to implementing environmentally sustainable practices include: climate change not considered a priority for management (50%), climate change not embedded in organisational culture (46%), budget restrictions (33%) and climate change not valued by clients/customers (29%).   

Feilim Harvey concluded: “The survey highlights how infrequently organisations participating in the survey are considering the environmental impact of their projects. 

“It is clear from the data that the environmental impact of projects is an important personal consideration for Project Managers with 55% of project leaders stating they would refuse to work on a project that adversely impacts the environment; but organisations have yet to catch up with making this a prerequisite factor to consider when launching their projects.”

“For example, nearly a quarter (22%) of those surveyed always or often consider the environmental impact of a project while nearly one in five (17%) never consider it.  More action is required in the adoption and implementation of sustainable project management practices.” 

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