New research flags opportunities for Project and Change managers

29 November, 2018

Many of Ireland's change leaders do not consider their organisation as fully prepared for Brexit; Digital solutions are positively changing ways of working, but more investment needed; interpersonal and commercial skills are top requirements for project managers and salary and benefits are not the drivers for recruitment.  These are some of the key findings from new research conducted by PwC Ireland with some of the country’s key change leaders and project managers.

The research has been published ahead of the 2018 National Project Awards which taking place on Thursday, 29 November at PwC’s Spencer Dock headquarters in Dublin.  

Not fully prepared for Brexit

According to the research, almost two-thirds (61%) of Ireland's change leaders interviewed do not consider themselves as fully prepared for Brexit. This may be related to the claim that less than one in four had their project management/change management function involved in developing their organisation's Brexit strategy.  Actions being taken by those taking concrete steps to get prepared for Brexit include: strategic impact assessments; increased engagement with customers and setting up a Brexit taskforce. The research further reveals that the majority believes that Brexit will present opportunities for new relationships and client opportunities, with Financial Services setting to benefit the most.

Feilim Harvey, PwC Ireland Leader for Portfolio and Programme Management, commented: "The research highlights a strong sense of optimism and confidence in the future for Irish project managers.  However, there is an appreciation of future challenges in resourcing, the application of disruptive technologies and reporting as well as a cautious sentiment regarding preparedness for Brexit.”

"The study confirms that there is an opportunity for project management professionals to help steer their organisations and bring their particular expertise to the planning and execution phase of Brexit strategies and programmes."

"...there is an opportunity for project management professionals to help steer their organisations and bring their particular expertise to the planning and execution phase of Brexit strategies and programmes."

Feilim Harvey, Leader for Portfolio and Programme Management PwC Ireland

More work to be done to adopt new technologies successfully

The research confirms that the majority (79%) of change leaders feel that digital advancements allowed their ways of working to be more efficient, with a third actively looking to invest in new project management software. However, one in five reported that they are less than successful at adopting new technologies. The digital advancements that have had the most impact on the day to day delivery of projects are 'mature' technologies such as video-conferencing and cloud services.  

But it seems that project managers still need to embrace the optimal use of these technologies. For example, digital PMO and artificial intelligence/robotics scored poorly in terms of the impact on their day to day delivery of projects.  Customer service, lower cost and greater quality were identified as major advantages presented by artificial intelligence/robotics. However, only a quarter (26%) of change leaders identified their businesses as either 'innovators' or 'early adopters', whereas others prefer to wait and see.

Just over a third (36%) confirmed that they intended to invest in new project management software in the next 12 months. This is not surprising as most respondents were either not satisfied or only somewhat satisfied with their current project management dashboard tools.

Darren D'Arcy, Director, PwC Ireland Portfolio and Programme Management practice, said: "The study highlights some room for improvement in the deployment of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence/robotics in the planning and delivery of projects. Greater investment in these digital solutions will have a positive impact on ongoing monitoring and day to day delivery of projects."

'Soft' skills are critical

Change leaders see a broader skillset requirement rather than narrow technical programme and project management skills. Around half of respondents identified either 'soft interpersonal' skills or ‘commercial’ skills as the most valuable skillsets for a project manager.   

Darren D'Arcy added: “When we looked at the 'soft' skills in closer detail, change leaders told us that influencing stakeholders, communication and facilitation skills were very important. However, digital awareness was less prioritised as a valuable skillset, re-enforcing the fact that the human component is of critical importance for successful delivery of projects and programmes. Looking to the future, the research suggests that organisations will require their project managers to be able to deploy agile methodologies, have a commercial acumen and understand and deliver on stakeholder management."

Salary not the driver for recruitment

The study reveals that challenging and interesting work, flexible working and better work life balance were more important than salary when looking to recruit project management resources. The biggest priority for change leaders to retain their talent pool was investment in career paths (60%). Investment in skills development and training was less important. It is noteworthy that a different approach has been taken to entice millennials to a career in project management. The research finds that strong development plans and valued corporate social responsibility programmes were important strategies to entice the younger generation.

Feilim Harvey concluded: "This is an exciting time to be a project manager and change leader. The research tells us that there is a common theme of opportunity. Opportunities from Brexit, opportunities to help organisations with challenging and interesting assignments and opportunities for greater use of technology and artificial intelligence to help deliver and report on projects."


Contact us

Féilim Harvey


Tel: +353 1 792 8631

Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications

Tel: +353 1 792 6547

Follow PwC Ireland