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Project Management and the Pandemic

04 Nov 2020
Project Management and the Pandemic

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the Coronavirus. The pandemic occurred at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, causing global pauses in all sectors and industries of the global economy. It has been felt across all industries and communities and affected how we live, work, communicate, and interact. It changed our concept of work and guided us to create new strategies necessary to continue our work and our lives.

For the project management field, COVID-19 was catastrophic, leading to many changes in organisations, and these changes were stressful for employees who experienced a depletion of emotional and physical resources. Identifying these new variables due to the pandemic, projects and resources in organisations have suffered from scarcity and shortage and had a significant impact on the productivity of most organisations. On the other hand, some organisations had identified enormous opportunities for productivity and thus chances for new projects. In general, this situation led to changes in most organisations' productivity levels and positively and negatively impacted the productivity of project management jobs and multiple jobs worldwide.

COVID-19 has affected various businesses, including the entire process of managing projects, from the initiating to the closing phase of the project and led to many changes on project levels, but not limited to the following:

1. Communication in projects

Communication is necessary and dynamic in any project. It involves one-to-one interaction and internal and external communication to perform the tasks needed for the project's completion. During the pandemic, most companies globally were less experienced in remote work and with the global lockdown and social distancing protocols, working remotely from home was a revolution in the world of communication, especially for the project management profession; the organisations learn remote communication and start to apply it to ensure continuity of projects. Here, it is important to mention that one of the significant challenges was the loss of face-to-face communication, which is vital and critical for any project; this huge shift in communication presented misfortune for the creation of project processes in some periods at the beginning of the pandemic until shifting to remote communication which led to the loss of some informal communication demanded extra effort and concentration and made reaching consensus on some aspects of projects more challenging and take longer than face to face communication. Now, after around four years, most organisations work globally and remotely through dispersed teams, which costs less and widens the talent pool for any organisation.

2. Extra Pressure

The need to achieve results during the pandemic caused disorganisation and anxiety among project team members. Most team members were under double pressure, which involved sharing the project's work and helping with household responsibilities. These responsibilities led to longer working hours and isolation, which affected the mental well-being of workers and, thus, poor results in the project process and completion. On the other hand, working from home gave most workers insight into their family lives and allowed them to cooperate more with them. 

3. Need for Creativity

During the pandemic, projects faced various challenges because of the lockdown, forcing most project teams to focus on their project's most critical processes. This led them to be more creative in solving problems during the project life cycle and to increase their inventiveness in achieving the expected results. 

4. Delays in Delivery

The lockdown led to the postponement of many projects worldwide; some industries slowed or stopped most of their projects. It required physical teams and disrupted the supply chain due to closed borders and isolation. This situation pushed many foreign employees to return to their home countries, and, as a result, there were delays in the delivery of many projects, cost increases, and delays in products or parts supply. These changes caused a shift in the planning phase of most projects and, thus, a re-planning of the entire resources process to ensure the right deliverables are achieved within the minimum set time limit.

In addition, according to "The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on project business" survey, published by PMI1, on June 2020 in cooperation with the project business foundation, surveying project management practitioners who primarily provide project, program or portfolio management services to external clients and consulting and/or training external clients and 49% of them are PMP certified, 46% are PMI members, 31% are chapter members, 57% are in IT sector, 36% in business, 27% in engineering and 25% in operations; managing projects where 60% of them have team's size from 6 to 25, median ranging budget between $500,000 to $ 1 million and median duration range from 6 to 12 months, across the USA and Europe; the findings of this survey highlighted that 6% of qualified practitioners have lost their jobs, 1 to 4 of practitioners said their organisations who provide project management services to other organisations are highly likely to lay off and 16% think they will be part of the layoffs; 8 to 10 said that COVID-19 had an extreme to moderate negative impact of their business in general, otherwise, 20% have not been negatively affected at all; in addition, 33% of practitioners who are not PMP certified said their contracts are not at all likely to be renewed versus 21% of who are certified have a better chance of getting renewed. Moreover, European practitioners seemed to be less affected than other regions.

Here we can say, as a result of this crisis or pandemic, many changes have occurred:

  • The ending of regular physical meetings and daily interactions with workers presented an opportunity to adopt remote communication. Creating a virtual team and adopting new chat and video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams have become essential to hold regular meetings and facilitate constant communication. This would help project managers identify issues, offer viable solutions, and lead the project team to meet the deadline within the allocated budget.
  • Organisations have discovered that centralising information such as project reports and documents is important and necessary to enable project managers to access project data in real-time and track the status of every project. This ensured that everything went as planned and that all team members involved in the project were aware of their responsibilities, tasks, and deadlines. 
  • COVID-19 forced project managers to monitor project progress more closely to ensure effective and efficient project management. Both monitoring and centralising tools facilitate accurate time information and enable team members to take appropriate actions when needed. 

Finally, post-pandemic and from an optimistic view, COVID-19 left significant marks on our lives that will remain many years ahead. We and the coming generations will remember it as a transformational period for the project management profession. It brought many changes and new approaches into this field that ensure the continuity of projects and the achievement of the organisation's goals.

Reference Literature:

1Project Management Institute. 2020. “The Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on Project Business.”