Executives struggle to build agile firms

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While organisational agility is critical for any enterprise, businesses around the globe and across industries do not have the required systems in place.

This is according to Changepoint's Business Agility: Is it Easy to Pivot? report, released yesterday, which surveyed 1 257 project management professionals globally, of which 23% are from Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The report says 88% of EMEA-based respondents were not confident in their companies' ability to adapt to change.

It explains that for the project-driven organisation, business success hinges on having technology, infrastructure and processes in place to adapt and pivot in a dynamic business environment.

However, knowing what is needed to manoeuvre change is proving to be difficult, with the majority of organisations still relying on a patchwork of outdated legacy systems, says the study.

Businesses are experiencing a disconnect between project managers and executives, lack of transparency, poor communication and reliance on spreadsheets, it adds.

More than half of respondents (53%) acknowledge being unsure of their corporate objectives and values.

Similarly, half of respondents cited poor communication between and within departments as the most difficult aspect of managing teams.

Seventy-five percent of project managers surveyed manage their projects manually with spreadsheets - with only 20% saying they have a single-platform dashboard that delivers visibility into projects.

The remaining respondents rely on spreadsheets, multiple and disconnected platforms, and other manual processes to search for insight, according to the report.

"Manually allocating people and resources is like an overly-complicated game of Jenga. Reassign the wrong resource and your project tower collapses. You're left sweeping up the pieces without insight into other moves you could have made," says Alan Shefveland, director of product management strategy and innovation at Changepoint.

"Real-time visibility helps project managers not only secure positive outcomes for their own projects but also ensure they're accounting for and supporting broader business activity."

Intuitive, highly functional technology can improve how project management offices (PMOs) manage projects, provide real-time insights that lead to timely decision-making, and accelerate business execution - leading to greater agility to respond to change, says Shefveland.

The more businesses struggle with agility, the more apparent is the need for skilled PMOs, he adds.

Project Management Institute's 2016 jobs report predicted an optimistic outlook for project practitioners thanks to increasing globalisation, competition and the rapidly increasing pace of business, Shefveland adds.

While opportunities abound, PMOs in SA face challenges, he says. In addition to technology challenges, booming demand means many PMOs operate with an inadequate or incomplete project management knowledge base.

To address this, while other countries have yet to demand industry standards, SA is leading the push for industry standards by requiring professional project managers to join the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professionals, he adds.

Additional industry organisations - the International Project Managers Association, Project Managers Institute and Project Management South Africa - are also working to standardise qualifications, says Shefveland.

"The hard truth is, at any moment, your business is most likely disrupting or being disrupted.

"The best way to thrive in the face of rapid change is rewriting your playbook to refocus on accelerating internal operations."

Also, to prepare for organisational change, project and business leaders must be on the same path forward, says Shefveland.

"This demands confident decision-making and prioritising company initiatives. A connected project portfolio management system provides real-time insight and enables cross-functional communication, both important first steps to weathering organisational change."

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