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Project Management in the Gig Economy

12 Jun 2017
Project Management in the Gig Economy

Project management has evolved over the last 60 years and is now a key discipline used across all industry sectors around the world.

The continuous growth of project work dictates the increasing relevance of project management. The Projectification of Societies - defined as the degree of diffusion of project management in all sectors of the societies - is growing.

Research from Germany and Denmark shows that money spent on projects accounts for 35% of GDP and is projected to increase. The implication of this finding is that Project Management will potentially become a basic competence for very many people in society.

But we cannot just look at Project Management in isolation.

The Impact of the Gig Economy on Project Management

In a gig economy, temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.

The “gig” economy is here, perhaps partially propelled by the global financial crisis in 2008.  As more digitalisation, connectedness and insecurity permeate projects, executives want faster results and more projects undertaken.

Simultaneously, over the last decade, more employers are reluctant to hire on a full-time basis in order to avoid the high cost of medical insurance, taxes and another employee “benefits”.

Now, many professionals are simply moving from project to project. Long term employment is no longer the norm.

What does this mean for the PM Professional Discipline and Project-based Organizations?

When a traditional project life cycle for any large project can take years, how does the proliferation of short-term project gigs affect project teams and outcomes? What are the risks and opportunities?

Because projects now permeate all industries and elements of society, many general trends can also have an indirect yet significant impact on project management.

For example, demographic changes can impact organizations and project teams, stakeholders, communication methods, project outcomes, project environments, etc.

project management gig economy

So where will Project Management be in 20 Years?

Rapid changes in technology and employment moving towards the ‘gig economy’  are already common currency.

Perhaps a look back at the construction sector of the 1970s might give us a clue. Remember, this sector frequently deployed the PMO concept for large projects – a concept that is now pervasive across practically all sectors in large part due to the exportation of the approach by project managers transferring their expertise to a new environment.

Furthermore, this was a sector where the main contractors engaged full time, permanent employees across all trades and professions. With the economic downturn in the 1980s, they rationalised, downsized and reverted to merely being construction management contractors extensively engaging former employees who had established themselves as sub-contractors.

Many people refer to Outsourcing as a fancy name for sub-contracting. So an approach that again had its roots in construction grew exponentially across all sectors. The Gig Economy may be seen as a massive outsourcing exercise with a key difference – the duration of many of the gigs are much shorter.

Project Management is well capable of evolving. Hopefully, it will adapt, evolve and change to continue to deliver value and be relevant?