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Powering The Project Economy In The Middle East In The Project Economy, individuals have the skills and mindset to turn ideas into reality– no matter what they're working on.

By Sunil Prashara

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The world is in the midst of a major transformation. Today's focus is on smart cities, massive infrastructure projects, higher education, the field of healthcare, and the growth of financial hubs. At the same time, changes to digital infrastructure, transportation, and government services are altering the ways people work, live, and play in major Middle Eastern markets. Various stakeholders, including local government officials, are making it their mission to drive sustainable development forward, whether the stakes are long-term economic transformation, or modernization of people's day-to-day lives.

Project professionals are essential to this growth and transformation. Experts with their skills, training, and vision can help enterprises take ideas from imagination and concept to execution, limit the waste of precious resources (most notably, human talent and money), and help deliver value-driven outcomes that are aligned with strategy.

The recent Dubai International Project Management Forum (DIPMF) shined a bright light on Dubai's leading role in driving the region's development through its successful adoption of top-notch international standards for a series of mega-projects that have commanded global attention. The forum demonstrated how smart, sustainable, and innovative project management practices can help bring private enterprise and government projects alike to successful outcomes.

As a global business hub, Dubai is a perfect microcosm of the issues that will shape the future of work across a range of industries. The world at large is increasingly becoming "projectized." Projects have emerged as a key platform for delivering value, and workers are increasingly likely to take on portfolios of projects rather than to carry out a static list of job responsibilities.

A recent study from Accenture found that 79% of executives agreed the future of work will be based more on projects than on roles. Organizations around the world are increasingly delivering their work and value through projects- and that means effective project management capabilities are in rising demand.

It's little surprise, then, that people all over the world are living and working in The Project Economy. In The Project Economy, individuals have the skills and mindset to turn ideas into reality– no matter what they're working on. In Dubai and elsewhere, technical skills will always be indispensable to major projects. But in The Project Economy, uniquely human skills such as leadership, creativity, empathy, and conflict resolution are just as vital. Project professionals rely on these so-called "soft skills" –which I believe we should call "power skills"– to transform strategy into reality.

Succeeding in The Project Economy demands the following:

1. Permission to be agile. It takes new openness, new structures, and new skills to keep up with the way work is being delivered in the modern global economy. Business professionals need unprecedented flexibility to choose the tools and approaches that work best in each situation. According to a recent survey we conducted, 45% of Middle East respondents confirmed that they use an agile approach, compared to 55% globally.

We recognize evolving ways of working can be challenging. That's why the Project Management Institute (PMI) is expanding its offerings in the agile space. With our recent acquisitions of Disciplined Agile and FLEX, we are uniquely positioned to help organizations and individuals address new ways of working by focusing on the entire spectrum: from the process, to the team, to the enterprise level, and to the challenge itself. The Disciplined Agile toolkit provides individuals, teams, and enterprises with straightforward and practical guidance to help choose their "way of working" to yield the best results and achieve overall business agility.

2. Ability to bridge the gap between strategy design and delivery. Project management delivers value when it successfully implements strategic visions. When strategy and execution don't align, there are major business implications. Region-specific data from our 2019 Pulse of the Profession survey shows that organizations in the Middle East waste an average of $104 million for every $1 billion of project spending due to poor project performance. That's better than the global average of $119 million wasted for every $1 billion invested, but it's still serious money.

Through our work on an initiative called Brightline, we are focused on empowering leaders to successfully transform their organizations' visions into reality. In fact, we've recently released a playbook called the Brightline Transformation Compass that helps senior executives master the challenge of transforming organizations. It gives them a process and the tools needed to create a movement that engages both internal and external stakeholders, and it helps deliver a better return on their transformation investment. The playbook not only empowers leaders to successfully drive their organization's transformation initiatives, it will help them inspire employees to undergo their own transformations and adopt a "perpetual mindset."

3. Commitment to professional development. As technology and automation continue to accelerate, organizations will demand individuals with diverse abilities -including those with an innovative mindset, a focus on collaborative leadership, and the ability to make data-driven decisions- alongside more specialized technical skills in areas like data science, security and privacy knowledge, and legal and regulatory compliance.

To nurture both technical skills and "power" skills, and ensure their talent is ready to tackle anything that comes their way, organizations will need to invest in training and development. Organizations like the Project Management Institute are here to help. We work with public and private companies, government entities, universities, youth foundations, and more to continuously prepare the workforce to be able to manage complexity, be agile, and to develop the capabilities they need to lead successful projects that enable transformation and success.

With rapid change and development happening all around us, it is clear many of the world's toughest challenges will only amplify the demand for project professionals. We know professionals in the Middle East are ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of The Project Economy, but we also recognize that being able to access new practices, resources, and communities is critical to finding success in this new environment. That is why we exist: to support project professionals across the Middle East and in every part of the globe. We power the people who power The Project Economy. Together, we're strengthening society by enabling organizations, and helping people turn ideas into reality.

Related: The How-To: Five Tips For Smart Project Management

Sunil Prashara

President and CEO, Project Management Institute

Sunil Prashara is the President and CEO of Project Management Institute
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