The balance of IT power is shifting—and not in traditional IT's favor. Data from analyst firms like Gartner—as well as virtually every organization's first-hand experience—indicates that business stakeholders like marketing groups are wielding more influence than ever over IT decisions that shape business strategy and results. This seismic shift has been rumbling quietly for years, but the conclusion now seems inevitable that IT will permanently share the reins when it comes to calling the IT shots. That's great news if you're in marketing. And it's good news if you're a vendor, who is not only focused on supporting IT PPM, but empowering workers across the enterprise. But this kind of power shift has to make the traditional IT project manager, and IT project management in general, wonder what their place is going to be in the new world order.
The reality is that project managers have a choice: they can view the changing IT landscape as a threat to be feared. Or they can embrace it as an opportunity to be seized.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Beyond the numerical data, analyst Michael Hanford, presenting at the recent Gartner IT PPM and IT Governance Summit, shared his prediction that the field of IT project management will be radically different by the year 2020. And the most significant shift will be in the composition of project managers, themselves. Namely, they'll be far more ubiquitous and far less specialized. Instead of formal project managers with PMP certifications, companies will hire programmers with coding chops—AND the ability to manage a dev project when needed, Hanford said. In fact, functional groups across the organization will manage their own projects, preferring less formality and more control to an IT bureaucracy that is too often viewed as slow and unresponsive.
According to Hanford, project managers who want to stay relevant will need to develop soft management skills in areas like organizational change, knowledge management, and strategic initiative development (read more on this in our post "5 Ways to Go From a Project Manager to a Project Leader"). More importantly, they'll need to see strategic initiatives afoot in their organizations—or better yet, propose one—and invite themselves into the process with statements like this:
"I can add value here. And oh, incidentally, I'm in IT."
Alfonso Bucero, PMP and managing partner and owner at Bucero PM Consulting in Madrid, Spain concurs. As a contributing author to the book "Project Management Circa 2025," Bucero has this to say:
*More and more organizations are making project management a part of their day-to-day strategy. But if project managers want that progress to continue, they will have to play a key role in the effort to convince the corporate powers-that-be. To do this, project managers need to work on their leadership skills and take on more affirmative roles within their companies."
Easier said than done, no doubt. But Bucero shares some specific guidance, starting with the need to open a dialogue with upper management about the strategic role project management, when done well, can play in their company's future. He says:
*Explain to upper managers how projects in organizations contribute to organizational success. Explain to them why projects must be linked to their organizational strategy. For example, even if you're not invited to make formal reports to organizational leaders, feel free to suggest the link between projects and strategy yourself. Attend meetings so that you become more informed and then ask for 10 minutes to present on a project's status. If you show confidence in your efforts, your management team will begin to give you support."
WEATHERING THE STORM
Using this sea change in the project management landscape as an opportunity will, no doubt, take deliberate effort on the project manager's part. But the right software can certainly aid the effort. In fact, the right tool can buy a project manager the time and the credibility to take a more strategic seat at the organizational table—and to apply their skills to more strategic initiatives.
And make no mistake: project managers have unique skills and perspective that can benefit the organization far beyond managing code issues and release dates. They know the organization inside and out. They understand its structure, its politics, and its power brokers. They're in a perfect position to help the organization as a whole navigate change.
So let the winds of change blow, embrace the dispersion of IT power, and welcome the addition of informal project managers to the profession's ranks. While it may seem counter-intuitive, these changes actually present a tremendous opportunity to the experienced project management professional. With the right product as back-up, project managers can not only navigate today's shifting IT landscape, but use it to take the next quantum leap in organizational credibility and impact.