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Roxanne Oclarino


The New Project-Based Economy

More businesses are harnessing the power of projects to drive social and economic benefits

Published: Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 11:03

In an ideal world, a project economy would empower people with the skills and capabilities needed to turn ideas into reality. In that world organizations would deliver tremendous value to exceed stakeholders’ expectations by successfully completing projects. Yet research shows that only 35 percent of projects undertaken worldwide are successful. This means that huge amounts of time, money, resources, and opportunities are being wasted. 

Slowly but surely, projects have dominated workplaces as a business-critical driver of innovation, growth, and success. To some extent, the rise of the project economy means the end of job descriptions. The Project Management Institute (PMI) forecast that the value of project-oriented activities worldwide would be $20 trillion by 2027—and will generate countless jobs for 88 million people. Even more interesting, these estimates were made before countries started spending on pandemic recovery projects, which means that the project economy is here to stay with a promise of significant value to the economy and society.

To take advantage of this unique situation and ensure that projects don’t fail, organizations must adopt a purpose-driven approach that enables them to reach their goals despite an elusive business horizon. It’s high time for companies and leaders to break out of old-fashioned ways and lean into an agile working style.

Begin with the end in mind

Managing projects goes beyond setting a target, defining the scope, meeting deadlines, and deciding the budget. Projects give work meaning and can be particularly inspiring for team members. Projects offer everyone a sense of purpose other than just showing up or doing the bare minimum. A study by Deloitte reports that purpose-led companies have a 40-percent higher employee retention. When people feel engaged at work, it keeps them motivated and gives them a broader perspective beyond just making money.

However, projects still fail at an astounding rate, and it’s not hard to understand why. Projects are customized by a series of teams working through uncertainties. Even managers can fail to anticipate everything. Thus, effective project management—as well as having the proper structure, skills and tools to achieve it—is fundamental to an organization’s success.

Less is more

Because project, program, and portfolio management is a growing field and discipline, it needs to be carefully planned, directed, and aligned with an organization’s strategic goals. Leaders and key players should be familiar with the full spectrum of project management philosophies and techniques. This can mean having smaller teams, fewer methodologies and tools, and simpler projects. Done right, this business discipline helps organizations to:
• Get maximum returns by using minimum resources
• Reduce costs
• Increase productivity of employees or team members
• Achieve customer satisfaction

In the current competitive landscape, a business can only succeed if it fosters innovation and creativity. Effective project management ensures both these things. It helps organizations complete work systematically; everything is done in a proper sequence, from setting goals and objectives to implementing the right strategies to achieve them. The recently updated ISO 21503—“Guidance on program management” and ISO 21504—“Guidance on portfolio management,” are two standards that help advance the governance and management of projects, and guide organizations toward greater efficiency and better outcomes. 

The main purpose for the standards’ revision was to harmonize the terms and their definitions, figures, and text with the ISO 21500 series of standards devoted to effective project, program, and portfolio management.

Effective project management is fundamental to an organization’s success

A program is a group of projects similar or related to one another, often managed and coordinated as a group instead of independently. ISO 21503 provides guidance on concepts, prerequisites, and practices of program management that are important for, and have an impact on, a program’s performance. 

On the other hand, a portfolio is a group of different programs within the same organization. ISO 21504 gives guidance on the principles of project and program portfolio management. Typically, managing a project and program portfolio supports organizational strategies to deliver value. 

Looking ahead

With the advent of new technologies and leadership paradigms, the project management landscape is changing rapidly. However, its agile nature can help companies meet the evolving needs of the workplace every single day. 

An organization can go through dozens, even hundreds, of organizational changes, ranging from small adjustments of internal processes to total overhauls of a company’s structures and strategies. New trends, such as relying on digital platforms for remote work and deploying artificial intelligence and data analytics, pose new challenges. But adopting innovative project methodologies can give organizations more flexibility to embrace these substantial changes.

A dramatic shift has occurred in our workplaces, and it looks like it’s here to stay. We’re facing workplace evolution because the nature of the work itself demands it. Gone are the days when workplaces were dominated by operational and repetitive work. We now work in a constantly changing environment where massive projects are created and must be managed. Now more than ever, successful projects can make or break an organization. It’s crucial that we do them right.

First published June 30, 2022, on ISO News.


About The Author

Roxanne Oclarino’s picture

Roxanne Oclarino

Roxanne Oclarino is a producer of in-depth and high-level feature stories for ISOfocus, the flagship magazine of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the world’s gateway to international standards, collaborating with ISO/TC experts worldwide on publicizing international standards for business and industry use.