According to an article published by Northeastern University, one of the project management trends impacting the industry in 2021 will be a closer connection between project management and strategy.

In today’s business environment, characterized by rapid change and increasing complexity, organizations struggle to implement the strategies they need to generate and sustain a competitive advantage.

A key challenge to making this connection is that many organizations manage projects, programs, and portfolios based on traditional, measurable outputs—such as time, scope, and budget—without consistently tracking whether they help the company achieve its larger strategic goals and adjusting them appropriately. The result is a clear gap between strategy and project management.

Management teams today must make big-picture, strategic decisions that chart an organization’s course amid great uncertainty. Organizations frequently have many projects underway at any given time; these projects are more complex, interdependent, and based on less-reliable assumptions than in the past. As a result, they need to be more disciplined and adaptable in how they implement and oversee these projects to ensure strategic objectives are met despite herculean efforts. Most organizations struggle to realize the full potential of their strategies. According to the Project Management Institute, 50 to 75 percent of large-scale project efforts fall short of expectations. The principal problem is that, in many cases, organizations focus on executing individual projects and judge their performance based on traditional output-driven metrics such as time, scope, and budget. What gets lost in this approach is a clear perspective on whether the projects, individually or collectively, are truly helping the organizations achieve its ultimate strategic objectives.

The integration of project management and strategy helps maximize projects, programs, and portfolio value by incorporating and articulating accountabilities across stakeholders to identify, execute, and sustain strategic outcomes, support information flow, and maintain effective dialogue among all key stakeholders.

Given the importance of connecting project management and strategy, organizations need a deliberate approach to implementation. Three key guidelines include:

  • Managing the portfolio of projects based on real strategic outcomes—specifically value creation for the organization
  • Creating dedicated space for meaningful dialogue among C-suite executives, management, and project managers
  • Setting the right conditions for success, including establishing expectations regarding required behaviors, having the right project managers in place, and securing senior-level sponsorship

Northeastern’s article concluded that for project managers who wish to put their skills to better strategic use within their organization, it is essential to understand the relationship between project, program, and portfolio management. Doing so will allow project managers to see how individual projects relate to each other and the organization’s strategy, which can help guide making smarter decisions.