– George Asamani, Business Development Lead, Africa, Project Management Institute

If you have witnessed a football game before, you will notice that the coach plays his / her 11 players in different positions on the field – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward. Each player in their respective positions has a specific role to play during the game, their collective responsibility however remains the same, score more goals than concede. They are spread on the field as per the coach’s tactics based on the desired outcome. 

Like football, project management needs teams that can think on their feet and play their part in the formations. 

The world today is more dynamic than we have ever known. The constant change, propelled by global megatrends has redefined jobs, bending roles and accommodating new ones. Inevitably, the culture in businesses today is tilting towards not defining work by its regular features, but in terms of what needs to get done and finding the best ways to do it. 

Picture a scenario – a striker being marked by three or more opposition players to deny him/her the opportunity to convert any goal scoring opportunity. Still, a good striker is always able to find a pair of steady legs in a midfielder to pass the ball to and create more opportunities. In project management, managers also deal with ‘markers’ like lack of communication, budgeting issues, inadequate skills, scope creep etc and like a striker, must constantly read the field and keep moving the ball to ensure the success of the project.  

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, PMI’s former chairman Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, a leading expert in project management and strategy implementation, says operations created tremendous value in the 20th century and they did so through advances in efficiency and productivity. But for most of the current century, productivity growth in Western economies has been almost flat, despite the explosion of the internet, shorter product life cycles as well as exponential advances in AI and robotics.

He also observed that projects are increasingly driving both short-term performance and long-term value creation through more frequent organisational transformations, faster development of new products, quicker adoption of new technologies, amongst others. This is a global phenomenon. In Germany, projects have been rising steadily as a percentage of GDP and in 2019 accounted for almost 41%. The percentages are probably higher in leading Asian economies, where project-based work has long been an important source of growth.

As the world of work changes to a more project-based business model, businesses will need to invest in talent who can identify, plan and deliver projects successfully. The Project Economy is one in which people have the right skills and mindset to turn ideas into reality. It is where organisations deliver value through successful completion of projects, delivery of products, and alignment to value streams-both financial and societal value.

According to PMI’s Talent Gap Report, project management-oriented employment (PMOE) is predicted to rise by 40% during this decade in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report is indicative of the importance of projects to industry and economic progress. It also predicts that the overall GDP of projectised industries with a large need for project management skills will rise from $24.7 trillion in 2019 to $34.5 trillion in 2030.  

With this huge market demand in view, Nigerian universities will serve the national economy well and enable The Project Economy by producing job-ready youths who can benefit from the global demand for 25 million new project professionals by 2030. This translates to 2.3 million project managers will need to fill project management-oriented roles every year.

To successfully transition youth into The Project Economy job market, Nigeria must consider investing in building a local skills pool. This can be achieved by businesses by giving opportunities to young project professionals to expand their skills, knowledge and network, as well as mentoring and training on the use of project management tools and techniques. 

Like in football, bench strength is of strategic value in project management. The easiest way to build this is through partnerships with universities to formalise project management education. 

Certified Professional in Project Management (CAPM) that is offered in many institutes on the continent like Mount Kenya University, University of Pretoria in South Africa is a gateway certification into the world of project management. The Citizen Developer, which PMI offers free to universities in partnership with Microsoft and Agile certifications form the triumvirate of job ready skills, bridging the chasm between education and employability.  

Acquiring job ready skills is just a warm up, to use football parlance. PMI’s unique structure which serves its advocacy efforts well in the regions is chapters. The PMI Nigeria Chapter, one of its biggest on the continent, is actively involved in coaching and mentoring of young graduates entering the project management field, key to accelerating the rate of learning.  

To take advantage of the new Project Economy, in part fuelled by global commitments to “build back better” and in-country efforts to spur economic growth, companies need a new approach to project management and Nigeria – a fast recipe for skills development. Or risk scoring an own goal.