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Harnessing disruption for competitive advantage


Mark A. Langley

President and CEO, Project Management Institute

Disruption is universal. It is happening at a faster pace than ever before, altering markets, creating new competitors, and forcing change across industries — even those long considered immune.

According to Project Management Institute’s (PMI) report1, 91% of organisations are feeling the impact of disruptive technologies. Those that are not currently experiencing the impact are preparing for disruptive technologies to change their business over the next five years. 

Poor project performance is wasting millions

This wave of disruption calls for organisations to design new strategies, establish new priorities, and rely on successful implementation of the projects that will drive the change that is needed. An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey supported by the BrightlineTM Initiative revealed that 59% of senior executives admit that their organisations often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy design and its practical day-to-day implementation. Only one in 10 organisations is able to successfully deliver all of their strategic objectives. One of the negative effects of this gap between design and delivery is evident in PMI’s Pulse research, which found that for every £1 billion UK organisation invest in projects and programs, £108 million is wasted due to poor performance.

Innovate in tech and software to get ahead 

Nevertheless, there are organisations that are thriving in these turbulent times. For example, Caterpillar and Deere & Co. are evolving as major tech players, and DuPont is now providing software and analytics tools to help farmers improve efficiency, profitability, and  sustainability. Even municipalities like the City of Amsterdam are investing in 3D-printing to construct bridges. 

Innovative organisations are developing new ways to work to gain competitive advantage. Our research shows that an average of 71% of the projects of innovators — organisations that have a mature digital transformation strategy, are risk tolerant, and have adopted and made disruptive technologies a priority — meet the original goals or business intent. 

Innovators in our research commit to project excellence by:

1. Using disruptive technologies to their benefit

Innovators are leveraging disruptive technologies to encourage greater efficiency and automation, increase productivity, promote the development of better products and services, automate mundane tasks, advance innovation, and drive better decision-making.

2. Embracing the value delivery landscape 

As innovators look to compete in future ways of working, they are using the full spectrum of competencies that enable organisations to deliver their projects and programs — what we call the value delivery landscape. It includes all approaches to project delivery —predictive, iterative, incremental, agile, hybrid and next practices (future approaches). Adopting a value delivery landscape mindset allows organisations to minimise risks, control costs, and increase value by selecting the approach that best fits the needs of the project and the organisation.

3. Elevating the project manager

The role of the project manager continues to expand. It will remain essential for project managers to bring expertise in traditional functions, but innovators believe that the role of the project manager will evolve to one that advocates for the technology, motivates teams to implement and supervises course corrections.

4. Establishing a supportive culture

Some innovators embrace a startup mindset as they expand their traditional portfolios and launch projects in new sectors. For example, household appliance innovator Dyson announced a project investment to develop an electric car by 2020, and furniture manufacturer IKEA veered into the tech realm, developing software for a series of connected lighting products and launching a new augmented reality-shopping app. 

It will not be enough to simply embrace today’s best practices. Organisations will also need to lean into what we call “next practices” — the tools, techniques, and processes that encompass what is likely to come in the years ahead. These include a range of dynamic practices that leading organisations are embracing — design thinking, DevOps, cognitive computing, and more. Every organisation must adapt to change or risk being disrupted by competitors they may never see coming.  

For more information, please visit PMI

1 Pulse of the Profession® in-depth report: Next Practices: Maximising the Benefits of Disruptive Technologies on Projects

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