By Greg Wright, Managing Director, EMEA, AtTask

Strong project leadership can make the difference between success and failure; something that has never been truer than in today’s demanding economic landscape and business environment. Whilst the term ‘project manager’ (PM) is hardly likely to drop fully out of favour a growing number of organisations are now calling their project professionals “leaders” not “managers”. This implies a marked shift in where expectations for the role now sit and an indication it is undergoing dramatic change.

Project management has traditionally focused on the tactical - assignments, tasks, approvals, and so on–but in an evolution of the PM role to encompass leadership qualities, what skills are now considered essential in making an IT leader? And what processes do organisations need to get right in order to facilitate this transition and ensure effective on-going change?

Effective leadership requires clear communication

Presenting at the recent Gartner IT PPM and IT Governance Summit, numerical data analyst, Michael Hanford, predicted that the field of IT project management would be radically altered by the year 2020 - the most significant shift being expectations toward project managers themselves. Managing work would no longer be the role of just a few specialists. Project management would be integral to all processes, and as such, PMs would need to step up and focus on leadership and engagement with senior stakeholders and executives.

Tasked with leading change, PMs need to unravel the business requirements for implementing transformational change and compelling their organisation’s employees to swiftly adapt and adopt new processes. Key to this is effective communication and ever greater levels of collaboration and influence than previously needed - typically skills reserved for the executive level.

As Alfonso Bucero, PMP and managing partner and owner at Bucero PM Consulting argues in Project Leadership Tips from 40 PPM Pros, IT project leaders must “explain to upper managers how projects in organisations contribute to organisational success, (and) explain to them why projects must be linked to their organisational strategy.”

Effective communication is not only key within the delivery team implementing changes but across the organisation as a whole and externally. The success of a project often requires the ability to influence and persuade at every level, from decision-makers to every single employee. When it comes to organisational project management, communication is a critical component that, when executed properly, links all project stakeholders to a common set of goals and actions.

Process is key to leadership

The successful transformation from IT project manager to IT leader is not a straight forward or overnight process; it requires a careful assessment of current workflow management practises and the adoption of new processes and tools.

Work is chaotic, and it’s easy for employees and organisations to fall victim to poor planning, email overload, and a lack of clear goals.

Effective leadership requires the adoption of processes which encourage collaboration and allow for visibility into the work being down. It’s fundamental that businesses empower employees at every level to collaborate and ensure the most important tasks and projects get prioritised appropriately.

In addition, the traditional pyramid-structured hierarchy and command-and-control management method within business entities are on way out, yielding to a flatter and more flexible organisational structure. As a result, Johanna Rothman, President of Rotham Consulting Group, states in Project Leadership Tips from 40 PPM Pros that “it’s important to bear in mind that project management (and project leadership) does not mean project control”.

As a next course of action, businesses should seek to unify all processes, data, and communication by deploying a proven, cloud-based enterprise work management solution which manages all work in a single, central place. By doing so IT leaders and all employees will have the ability to view and provide complete and accurate reports with up-to-date visibility into all the resources needed at any time to make the most effective decisions. This will enable IT leaders to have access to the right information, at the right time and communicate this through to the C-level.

The Project Management Institute predicts that by 2020, 15.7 million new project management roles will be created globally. Taking into consideration the evolution of the PM role, and the increasing influence of business stakeholders, such as marketing, are wielding over IT decision making processes, it’s crucial that leadership skills are a priority focus when training and developing upcoming talent. In addition, today, organisations should seek to implement tools and clear processes to manage work more effectively. By doing so now, businesses will be able to arm the future crop of project leaders with the ability to make the strong decisions essential to ensuring success and effectively communicate across the entire breadth of their organisation.