Agility—the capability to quickly sense and adapt to external and internal changes to deliver relevant results in a productive and cost-effective manner—is a major factor in surviving the digital transformation. It’s driving organizations to take a closer look at operations and management practices enterprise-wide, including within the project. In fact, over the last five years, most organizations in our Pulse of the Profession® research indicated greater agility (72%), and cited their top drivers as the desire to innovate, address leadership mandates, and meet changing customer demands (Pulse of the Profession®: Success Rates Rise, PMI, 2017).
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Major research studies with similar findings include Forrester’s Global Business Technographics® Priorities and Journey Survey, 2017. That research revealed that 40 percent of business and technology decision-makers are adopting new technologies to enable their business model to change, 33 percent are changing the organizational structure of their companies, and 33 percent are updating business processes (e.g., transitioning from predictive to agile to support new business models).
The ability of organizations to respond quickly to marketplace disruptions is redefining success and project delivery—and our latest Pulse research shows the positive change (Pulse of the Profession®: Success Rates Rise, PMI, 2017). For the first time in five years, survey participants reported more projects to meet original goals and business intent and are completed within budget. At the same time, there has been a significant decline in dollars wasted, an average of 9.7 percent (US$97 million for every US$1 billion invested, due to poor project performance). But this good news is not a stopping point; there is more work to be done as competitive challenges escalate.
Those challenges result from global economic, social, political, and technological forces that continually disrupt commerce and industry and demand a regular reassessment of business strategy. As a steady stream of digital start-ups enters the marketplace, established companies scramble for new ways to compete. Consider the dramatic shifts we see today: digital advancements, such as the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence, which are changing how work is done; growth of the less-regulated “share economy,” first popularized by companies such as Airbnb and Uber; and challenging workforce demographics as older workers retire, younger ones take their place, and remote workers become the norm.
While these shifts create uncertainty for business, they create an opportunity for project managers to elevate their value as strategic partners in business success. Organizations look to project leaders—those with the right combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise—to drive optimum project performance and demonstrate greater agility.
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In this scenario, a significant focus will be placed on improving the people and process drivers that contribute to higher agility. Organizations will foster the development of adaptive skill sets among the project management workforce. They will leverage processes such as effective risk management, change management, and standardized project, program, and portfolio processes. They will begin to rely on flexibility, adaptability, and open communications—and they will embrace change and empower their employees to work differently. Experiential learning, rapid decision making, and a strong customer focus are all important because agility is about being able to question routines and identify opportunities—and having the right skills, tools, and resources to act.
AGILITY IS ABOUT BEING ABLE TO QUESTION ROUTINES AND IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES—AND HAVING THE RIGHT SKILLS, TOOLS, AND RESOURCES TO ACT.
To further understand the characteristics of high agility, we assigned an agility score to each organization in our latest research. Scores were based on the identification and measurement of agility themes and how that information relates to people and process drivers.