The nature of work has changed fundamentally over the past decade or so, and long-used ways of working have fallen short in the new digital-driven, fast-paced and hyper-competitive business landscape.

Justine Grimmer, senior manager at IQbusiness

In the area of project management, in particular, there has been a noticeable shift during the same period. At IQbusiness, we’ve seen our clients’ requests for project managers change. Businesses started asking project managers to not only manage project delivery in line with Agile methodologies but also to help organisations swiftly navigate strategic business challenges.

On top of this, requests came from clients for a Scrum master/project manager combination, team members able to implement Agile project delivery, plus manage the larger project across the project management knowledge areas. Plus, clients requested project managers to expand their duties beyond those traditionally associated with their role.

Many of these trends make sense as today’s organisations look to work lean and simultaneously cut costs. In this context, project managers could be asked if they can perform in-depth business analysis, for example, in addition to their usual responsibilities.

Why are traditional project managers sometimes falling short?

Make no mistake, most project managers manage projects exceptionally well, guiding them to completion while meeting budget and scope requirements in addition to other project essentials.

It’s more a case that their field of reference is too narrow and their ways of working can be too rigid for an evolving business world that demands adaptability and rapid response. For example, traditional command and control-style management is less effective when dealing with the swelling millennial workforce.

Enter delivery leaders, project managers of the future

In short, project managers need to transform into multi-faceted, adaptable delivery leaders capable of leading projects to achieve strategic business value. This is accomplished through understanding what needs to be done and why at the organisation in question, and this requires as its foundation a broader perspective (and understanding) of the business and its objectives.

At IQbusiness, we’ve called this next-generation of project managers, delivery leaders – a term that singles out delivery competencies across all sectors. We’ve also embarked on a delivery leader journey internally at our organisation, which has provided first-hand experience, unpacking all the skills and expertise that the delivery leader of the future needs to acquire.

The delivery leader difference

Delivery leaders are fully equipped with business acumen, across a multitude of methodologies and ways of work, to adapt to the evolving business landscape and its needs. This requires core competencies in technical execution-focused project management, such as Waterfall and Agile ways of working, supported by upskilling in key forward-thinking areas such as customer experience management, design thinking, compliance and robotic process automation.

The delivery leader’s core skill set is strengthened by emotional intelligence and soft skills development, plus a knowledge of how to support delivery through cultivating high-performing teams and centres of excellence. The result is a potent combination of business acumen, thought leadership and strategy that enables a “big picture” perspective of the company’s ecosystem.

When these capabilities are united with business support and a comprehensive understanding of the company’s business value success factors, the delivery leader can ensure that their organisation achieves optimum value – delivered via execution of the right projects by the right teams.

With delivery leaders, strategy influences execution every step of the way. As for how to begin the transition from project manager to delivery leader, it starts with a mindset shift and training. It’s also an ongoing journey, requiring practitioners to stay abreast of changes in business through continual research. The evolution is well worth embracing, though, as one way to give your company a future-minded edge.