Overview: Leading Projects in the Changed Reality
Panchalee Thakur

Practitioners learn from the experts on the skills and mindsets needed to win in today’s disrupted world

Project leaders are the world’s problem solvers and visionaries who look beyond the immediate hurdles, and galvanize their teams to work toward a common goal. The PMI Common Ground Symposium 2020 set out to inspire practitioners to lead their teams, and find opportunities in today’s challenging market by upgrading their skills and knowledge.

The theme for the first-of-its-kind virtual event on 21-22 November was “Creating New Realities.” It was also the first time that al l 11 chapters of PMI Region 11, including chapters from Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, came together to host an event. Over 1,000 deleg ates attended the two-day conference.

Six keynotes, eight parallel track sessions, and a panel discussion with all eight PMI regional managing directors were held across the two days.

Leaders from PMI and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) launched the Playbook for Project Management in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Projects at the conference. It is based on a collaborative study by PMI and NASSCOM’s Center of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (DS/AI), and presents a framework to improve the outcomes of DS/AI projects.

While setting the context for the conference agenda, Srini Srinivasan, managing director, PMI South Asia, said, “COVID-19 may have created a great deal of uncertainty and disruption but it has also opened up new opportunities for us. This conference is a great example of the art of the possible – intense collaboration of passionate volunteers has led to this first-ever regional conference. All the leaders on this platform have one agenda – to create a new reality for their organizations, communities, and themselves.”

He threw ‘a friendly challenge’ at them – to become the architects of the new reality by translating the knowledge they gain in the conference into measurable results at work, their community, and country.

President and CEO of PMI, Sunil Prashara, who delivered the opening keynote, urged project managers to get future-ready by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and automation at work, adopting new ways of working, and developing ‘power skills’ such as collaboration, leadership, and business understanding.

In a conversation with Mr. Srinivasan, Kulmeet Bawa, president and managing director, SAP Indian subcontinent, defined the tenets of his own leadership style, and shared his thoughts on leading teams during disruptive times.

Nitu Kaushal, general manager, Hybrid Infrastructure Compute, IoT and Digital Services, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (UK, IRE, ME, SA), outlined her company’s efforts of handling the COVID-19 crisis, and how organizations now need to look at new ways of engaging with employees to keep the organization culture alive.

Sridhar Vembu, co-founder and CEO, Zoho Corporation, spoke about embracing uncertainty in R&D projects, and how project plans need to be flexible to accommodate unexpected changes.

Vinay Piparsania, founder and principal, MillenStrat Advisory & Research, provided an overview of the fast changing automotive industry, and the new opportunities that the industry offers for entrepreneurs and project professionals.

The concluding keynote was by Caroline Das-Monfrais, chief strategy officer, EMEA, FTI Consulting, who spoke about building a ‘resilience agenda’ to overcome the odds facing one’s organization, team, or project.

Day two featured a panel discussion with all eight PMI regional managing directors who fielded questions from the conference hosts and the audience on new opportunities in their region, and the skills that project managers need to develop to seize those opportunities.

The PMI Project of the Year awards were announced during the conference. The winners are Sterlite Power for the large project category, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. for medium project, ITT Corporation India Pvt. Ltd. for small, Rockwell Collins (India) Pvt. Ltd. for micro, Octaware Technologies Ltd. for ‘Contribution to Community,’ and Amar Seva Sangam for the non-government organization category.