Project management has become an essential component of today's workplace. The broad applications of its practice – and ever-evolving landscape of work – have resulted in a consistently growing need for trained project managers and a positive career outlook for project management professionals across industries.
In fact, the Project Management Institute (PMI) projects that employers will need 88 million individuals in project management-oriented roles by 2027, leading to an estimated 2.2 million new project management jobs.
As the economy across the globe has become more project-oriented, industries, such as manufacturing, construction, and finance, are also now relying on project management principles to keep processes on track and ensure stakeholders work together cohesively.
Even more, disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an even greater and more immediate need for the skill set of these professionals to drive change and innovation in the organizations they serve.
Whether refreshing your project management knowledge or pursuing a project management certification, success in this new environment will require combining traditional approaches with knowledge of the future of work. Here's a closer look at the importance of project management in the 21st century and its competitive advantage within the workforce.
By definition, project management is intended to help organizations produce transformational change.
“A project is any temporary endeavor that introduces something new, whether it’s a new product, a new service, or a new result,” explained Chris Carter, director of the Project Management Certificate program at Georgia Tech. “So, by its nature, a project is something that introduces a change, usually meant to deliver some strategic benefit to an organization.”
To facilitate these changes, leading organizations across all sectors often seek project management support to keep up with new and changing business operations, technology, competition, and socio-economic shifts. However, organizations often undervalue the importance of project management.
"Great project management is much more than scope, time, and budget constraints. It provides strategic alignment for an organization, creating a clear vision for how work is executed and problems get solved," emphasized Dana Boyd, instructor for the Project Management Certificate. "When proven project management practices are employed, organizations experience greater success."
By overseeing complex projects from inception to completion, project managers have the potential to shape an organization’s trajectory, helping to reduce costs, maximize company efficiencies, and increase revenue.
By their efforts, project managers drive the industry forward. “Project management skills are extremely transferrable, being applicable and necessary not just in any industry, but in every industry. The project manager is there to lead an organization through the transformations that they need to do strategically to continue to deliver benefits,” said Carter.
The skillset that project managers bring to an organization and its stakeholders — time management, budget management, risk management, communication, leadership — enables that organization to fulfill their most essential purposes: to deliver on strategy and realize target outcomes.
"As a project manager, you have to constantly plan for the unknown and any shifting changes in industries that affect your organization. That knowledge is key to ensure that the organizational structure is responding appropriately to external changes," noted John Haynes, technical project manager for Econocheck Corporation and recipient of the Project Management Professional Certificate. "As the lighthouse of the organization, project managers also assist in building proper change management processes in preparation for the organization or its projects."
Traditionally, the practice of project management has focused on technical processes to meet predetermined project requirements. As the economy becomes increasingly hybrid, project professionals will be required to know far more than the technical proficiencies of managing a project.
"Even with the technical skills firmly established, a project manager will not be able to lead a team well or effectively collaborate with organizational stakeholders as well as those who have people leadership skills," reflected Carter.
With these relationship management skills, such as emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, stakeholder influence, and negotiation, you become a valuable asset to any organization within any industry, from IT to healthcare, aggregate manufacturing, and supply chain logistics.
For Haynes, the ability to think critically while understanding the theories around communication and stakeholder management has been the most applicable to his day-to-day work of defining project scope and controlling costs across several projects. "Being able to communicate and relate to the stakeholders to provide transparency is a consistent goal of mine, and one that produces benefits throughout the organization."
Even if you don't have a formal title, training, or the credentials of a project manager, chances are you still may be managing projects.
"More and more organizations are beginning to realize the benefits of a project management approach," said Carter. "However, a project led by a professional who hasn't had the opportunity to learn strong project management skills may lead to wasted time, lost money, and poor project performance. Employers can mitigate these risks by investing in training and actively encouraging educational opportunities."
Carter encourages professionals to look for project management programs developed by industry experts that prioritize whole-person education. "While validating your competencies through an industry certification is important, the priority of a professional education program should be to learn practical, applicable skills to execute projects effectively."
To that end, Georgia Tech recently revised its decade-old project management professional program to reflect the current and forecasted needs in the workforce while focusing on flexibility and leadership development.
"Our new Project Management Professional Certificate is a direct result of emerging trends and transformations in business and technologies," reflected Carter. "As we move to a more project-oriented economy, every industry must navigate and facilitate these transformational changes to meet consumer needs and target goals. Project management is the way of and into the future."