PMI South Asia

Powering the Project Economy and the Future of Work

As president and CEO of PMI, Sunil Prashara is the lead advocate for PMI’s global organization, serving more than three million professionals working in nearly every country of the world. His primary responsibility is to implement PMI’s global strategic plan with a priority on strategic focus, customer centricity, and organizational agility.

 In his opening address at the Common Ground Symposium 2020, Sunil Prashara painted a picture of the ‘new realities’, how organizations and professionals must prepare for the Project Economy, and the programs, certifications, and toolsets that PMI has launched to meet the new demands.

 Project managers in the new reality will be integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and automation in projects, adopting different ways of working, and developing ‘power skills’ such as collaboration, leadership, business understanding, agility, inclusiveness, and an innovative mindset.

 Organizations and individuals in this new reality will need to be visionaries who can anticipate society’s needs, and deliver projects to make a difference. He called out the young entrepreneurs from India who made it to PMI’s Future 50 list of promising talent from around the world — Rajesh Nalla of Techimax IT Services; Vidhya Abhijith, PMP, of Codewave; and Vihari Kanukollu of UrbanKissan.

 To illustrate how projects are driving change around the world, Mr. Prashara spoke about some of the projects that are part of PMI’s ‘most influential projects of 2020.’ These include the Nightingale Hospitals in the UK, COVID-19 vaccine projects, and the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad that is the largest cricket stadium in the world.

 Various factors are impacting the nature of projects and our ways of working, such as AI and other digital technologies, global warming, the decline in oil prices and the rise of renewables, and population increase in certain parts of the world. For instance, Africa is undergoing a ‘youthquake’ with 75 percent of the population under 25 years of age, which is leading to an increa se in the demand for infrastructure.

 However, organizations waste 11.4 percent of investment due to poor project performance, and 67 percent of projects fail when organizations undervalue project management. To ensure greater project success, organizations must have reskilling programs to develop core project skills and power skills in its project talent, and become gymnastic organizations with agility and nimbleness.

 Among the new initiatives from PMI, he touched upon Wicked Problem Solving, which is a design thinking toolset; Disciplined Agile™, a toolkit that brings together agile, lean and other techniques for agile project delivery; and Citizen Development, which brings together a low-code/ no-code platform for software projects, resources, and certifications.
● Culture is the backbone of resilient organizations.
● To stem attrition, organizations must upskill and reskill their workforce and retain talent.
● Do not ignore power skills such as collaboration, business understanding, creative thinking, leadership, and project management skills.
● Combine technical skills and human skills to get work done in the future.
● Build gymnastic organizations that are nimble, responsive and agile, and yet follow structure, form, and governance.

Leadership in the New Reality

Kulmeet Bawa is the chief architect of SAP’s growth and innovation strategies for the Indian subcontinent. He is responsible for delivering bold transformations and exceptional SAP experiences to customers across the ecosystem, as well as guiding businesses in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to adopt a digital-first mindset.

In a conversation with Srini Srinivasan, Kulmeet Bawa shared his leadership philosophy, and his learnings and thoughts on how to build an organization culture and motivate people to work toward a vision.

He spoke about leading a team with a ‘shared vision,’ which is to envision a future for the organization and create an image of what is possible. Leaders can then use that vision or dream to galvanize teams and inspire them to work toward that common purpose. With this approach, teams will find a deeper meaning in their work, and realize that their work is much more than the sum total of mundane tasks. Instead, they are part of something larger than life, and contributing to the organization’s success.

He believes that to keep that vision alive, leaders must add the ‘why’ behind it to provide people the context. The ‘why’ may not even have a material angle to it but may be something that touches an emotional chord in a person. It is the same way in which a soldier lays down his life for the country, motivated by something much larger than life, which is patriotism for the country or his battalion.

A thought that he carries with him always is that the past has nothing to do with who someone is in the present. The future you are heading toward is what truly determines who you are today.

It’s also critical to build trust and transparency in an organization. Only when people feel valued and appreciated will magic happen. Shared vision comes alive when leaders get into the world of people they work with, and look at things from their lens.

Mr. Bawa, who joined the new role at SAP in the midst of a lockdown, also spoke from his experience of leading teams in these unusual times. He said it is more important now to build relationships to keep team bonds alive, create trust while doing business across the screen, and engage with people and generate empathy in one-way dialogues in virtual events.

He focused on the need to stay emotionally connected even at a time of social distancing.
● Lead people with a shared vision.
● Revisit and rebuild people-centric leadership.
● Bring out the leader in you and make a difference.
● Communicate often and with clarity so that the message gets reinforced.
● Be transparent and authentic with your team.
● Show compassion and empathy, for your reality may be different from your colleague’s.
● Make integrity and discipline the bedrock of what you do.
● Play for failure so you learn from your mistakes.
● Utilize this time to think big and create new opportunities for you and your organization.
Embrace Uncertainty: Managing R&D Projects

Sridhar Vembu started Zoho Corp. in 1996 in a Chennai suburb. Today, all three divisions under the Zoho Corp. brand — WebNMS, ManageEngine, and — continue to be privately-held and profitable. Mr. Vembu is known for his unconventional choices. Instead of opening new offices in metros, he prefers smaller towns or suburbs.

Sridhar Vembu, best known for his unsual management style, spoke about embracing uncertainty while managing R&D projects. No one had a plan for a pandemic, and yet all of us have managed to cope with this new reality and make the most of it.

Using the analogy of a train, he said that a train that ran on time did so because nothing untoward occurred. This, however, is not how R&D projects run. For R&D projects, a better analogy, in his opinion, is that of laying a track through unknown terrain – through a swamp or a jungle. ‘Experiencing certainty’ is a great slogan for trains that can run on time, but for R&D projects, t he new slogan should be to ‘embrace uncertainty’.

Drawing from his personal experience, Mr. Vembu stated that plans, for the most part, do not survive their first contact with reality. However, even if plans do not materialize, one must continue to draw up plans. More important is the ability to modify plans when something unexpected comes up.

Mr. Vembu offered new perspectives for project managers. He suggested that they move away from fixed deadlines, and instead work toward achieving periodic milestones. This way, they can assess if they are making sufficient progress. They need to use individual judgment to determine ‘sufficient progress’ and at times they could get it wrong. In order to implement this strategy, project leaders must first accept that human judgment is necessarily fallible.

He asked project managers to accept that R&D cannot be derisked, and any attempt to create fail-safe systems for R&D are likely to fail. The best attitude is to leave any trace of prestige or ego. Ego, he believes, destroys the will to endure.

He asked project managers to not take failures personally, and resolve to not be demoralized by setbacks. Instead they must think of course correction and learn from mistakes.
● Move from ‘experiencing certainly’ to ‘embracing uncertainty’.
● Shift from fixed deadlines to periodic milestones.
● Assess ‘sufficient progress’ by exercising judgment, which is fallible.
● Accept there is no ‘fail-safe’ system for R&D, and don’t take failures personally.
● Move away from fixed deadlines. Work towards achieving periodic milestones.
The Rapidly Transforming e-mobility World

Vinay Piparsania specializes in developing business and communication strategies for millennial and Gen-Z customers and employees in his current role. He is an automotive industry veteran, with 30 years of operational experience in leadership positions across Asia. He was associated with Ford Motor Company for nearly 20 years in international marketing, sales and service responsibilities.

Transformation in the automotive industry has touched the lives of most people on this planet – whether you are part of the industry, a car owner, or a user of public transport.

In an educative session, Vinay Piparsania took the audience through the big changes that the automotive industry has seen in recent years, and the new developments that are reshaping people’s perceptions of mobility.

Some of the top shifts in the industry are the increasing maturity of technologies powering autonomous vehicles, and the rising popularity of electric vehicles and ride-sharing.

He said that all major automobile companies have ambitious plans to develop autonomous vehicles. Auto makers and suppliers are working together, along with ride hailing and software technology companies, to share development costs and accelerate development. Governments are formulating policies to ensure passenger safety remains top priority and that public roads allow the testing of driverless vehicles.

By 2025, the world will see many more electric vehicles on the road. They will become more mainstream as they become more affordable and offer higher range of use.

The world may have hit the pause button on ride-sharing because of the fear of infections due to COVID-19, but that will not put an end to shared mobility. Mr. Piparsania said shared mobility will continue to be a big factor impacting the industry, and become popular again once the COVID-19 vaccine is out.

Transformation of the industry has led to larger collaborations with other industries such as electronics and software development. In the days ahead, the global auto original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will work more collaboratively than competitively to tap one another’s capabilities.

He urged practitioners and entrepreneurs to watch out for new opportunities in the automotive industry.
● By 2030, electric vehicles will constitute 10-15 percent of new vehicles, and autonomous vehicles will constitute 15 percent of new vehicles.
● By 2030, one out of five cars in the world will be a shared vehicle.
● Popularity of shared mobility will resume after the COVID-19 vaccine is out.
● Global auto OEMs will work more collaboratively than competitively.
● Watch this industry for new business and job opportunities.
Resilience: Protecting Value and Creating Opportunities in a Disrupted World

Caroline Das-Monfrais is a member of the EMEA executive leadership team at FTI Consulting. Her focus is to drive multiple market strategies, including future scenarios and client service innovation. She leads the global FTI Resilience Barometer™, a methodology to help C-suite executives and boards think differently about their ecosystems and emerging threats in a digital, connected world.

Caroline Das-Monfrai presented insights on how business models have fundamentally changed in order to get things done in a disrupted world.

The pandemic has shaken global commerce, with 40 percent of businesses surveyed in G20 countries saying that they will survive less than a year if no vaccine is developed. A lot is changing – from business models, consumer preferences, organizational structure, go-to-market strategies, and the way we interact with our consumers and teams.

Crises are often unavoidable, and new risks will emerge. What we can influence, however, is our preparedness in the face of these risks – our resilience. Resilience is agile and evidence-led. As new business norms emerge, resilience must be rebuilt to protect businesses from new threats, adapt to new circumstances, and compete in the new landscape. Alongside we need to focus on personal resilience as well, especially at a time when about 90 percent of business leaders are concerned about the mental health of the workforce.

Ms. Das-Monfrai presented seven layers of a ‘resilience agenda’ that applies to organizations, the leadership team, and project managers.

One, build digital trust and enhance cybersecurity. Two, build operational and financial resilience. Three, workforce transformation due to the pandemic and increased digitization. Four, an increased focus on economic impact and sustainability. Five, government and stakeholder relationships will come under more scrutiny. Six, a sharp rise in litigation and contract disputes are likely. And seven, the need for crisis management plans.

Ms. Das-Monfrai recommended that a resilience agenda is embedded at all levels in organizations. The agile use of data will underpin resilience in the next normal. It will be up to the leaders within an organization to decide what their new normal will look like.
● Be prepared to protect, adapt and compete to rebuild business.
● Think of developing economic, organizational, and personal resilience.
● A resilience agenda must include digital trust, operational & financial strength, workforce transformation, economic impact & sustainability, conducive business climate, and crisis management.
● Make evidence-led decisions to build resilient and agile businesses.
From the Present to the Future of Work

Nitu Kaushal is a strategic business development leader at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. With over 20 years of global telecom and technology company experience across IoT, edge computing, big data, AI, unified communications, connectivity and managed services, Ms. Kaushal has addressed the needs of both the private and public sectors within the enterprise.

When COVID-19 swept through the world, businesses made swift changes to their work practices to continue their operations. Nitu Kaushal spoke from her experience of managing the crisis to outline how organizations have coped.

The first stage was at the onset of the pandemic, when companies looked to support and help employees as they tried to manage work along with their family obligations. Communicating with clarity, leaders took on a more directive style to update work policies, allow flexible work hours, and offer new safety procedures.

Next, there was increased attention on helping employees with their well-being. Companies encouraged employees to pursue healthy activities, and provided food and dietary recommendations.

The third stage saw the shift to hybrid models that encouraged collaboration with improved tooling. The challenge that many organizations faced was to collaborate while ensuring that people stayed safe in their homes. The big question facing businesses was how to maintain organization culture when employees were unable to meet one another. Virtual team events gained popularity, keeping corporate culture afloat.

The fourth stage saw many leaders adapt their leadership style from being directive to coaching, with most business heads becoming more empathetic with employee needs. Being confined to their homes and working longer hours, many employees are having to cope with mental health issues, an area that companies are actively addressing.

Then came the ‘edge to cloud’ office. This new hybrid model does not define where an employee works. The edge office could be anywhere – from a home office to a coffee shop.

Lastly, organizations are constantly looking at ways to increase productivity for high performing teams by making it easier for employees to collaborate internally and with partners.

She said in the midst of these changes it is important to keep the organization culture as top priority, as businesses move from the present to the future of work.
● Help employees with families, and focus on employee well-being.
● Build hybrid models where possible, encourage collaboration.
● Adapt your leadership style.
● Create new realities with an ‘edge to cloud’ office.
● The ‘edge to cloud’ office concept is the future of work.