Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Jonathan H. Avidan, Vice President at AxiomSL

jonathan-avidan
Jonathan Avidan, PMP, CSM

Jonathan Avidan, PMP, CSM., currently serves as Vice President at AxiomSL. He has over 13+ years of experience in financial services, banking and insurance, specifically within compliance, regulatory reporting, operations and related technology infrastructure practices. Graduating from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business with a dual major in Operations & Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, Mr. Avidan is a skilled team-builder and disciplined leader, who can manage people, processes and change while developing and maintaining key/strategic relationships.  Currently a MBA candidate for Temple University’s Fox School of Business, he is also an experienced Process Manager proficient in technology and system implementations (SaaS) and multi-million dollar development projects that impact multiple departments or entities within an organization.  He has a track record of analyzing business processes and developing practical solutions that drive efficiency, improve client service, and reduce risk.

Can you tell me what your organization does?

AxiomSL is the global leader in regulatory reporting and risk management solutions for the financial industry, including banks, broker dealers, asset managers and insurance companies. Its unique enterprise data management (EDM) platform delivers data lineage, risk aggregation, analytics, workflow automation, validation and audit functionality.

The AxiomSL platform seamlessly integrates clients’ source data from disparate systems and geographical locations without forcing data conversion. It enriches and validates the data, and runs it through risk and regulatory calculations to produce both internal and external reports. The platform supports disclosures in multiple formats, including XBRL. The unparalleled transparency offered by the high-performance platform gives users the ability to drill down on their data to any level of granularity.

AxiomSL’s platform supports compliance with a wide range of global and local regulations, including Basel III capital and liquidity requirements, the Dodd-Frank Act, FATCA, AEI (CRS), EMIR, COREP/FINREP, CCAR, FDSF, BCBS 239, Solvency II, AIFMD, IFRS 9, central bank disclosures, and both market and credit risk management requirements. The enterprise-wide approach offered by AxiomSL enables clients to leverage their existing data and risk management infrastructure, and reduces implementation costs, time to market and complexity.

How do they use Project Management?

AxiomSL has a Program Management Office (PMO).  Currently, we have a strong team of experienced project managers who are tasked with ensuring the success of the firm’s technology implementation engagements.  At AxiomSL, project management methodologies, specifically those found within the PMBOK, are used to ensure proper configuration and execution of our flagship platform, ControllerView®.

What does a typical day look like for you as a project manager? 

I currently manage five projects for five different banks in the continental United States.  The project management structure within AxiomSL offers flexibility for the PM role since the main resources responsible for execution of each statement of work (SOW) are the Implementation Lead and Implementation Specialists.  In this regard, I am able to allocate 20% of my time per project, every day and each week.  My primary responsibilities are to manage and maintain proper lines of communication while providing status updates to the client, AxiomSL management and other key stakeholders.  As a project manager it is also essential for me to develop and sustain relationships with various decision makers, as well.

I am also responsible for drafting effort estimations, work orders and other organizational process assets that will ensure efficiency and transparency within the project.

What PM tools and techniques that you value the most at your job?

I often find myself balancing the 5 Project Constraints (quality, time, cost, scope, shareholders) during each phase of a project.  Each client requires their own dynamic project constraint framework in which a specific mix at any given time could make or break the project.

Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) are frequently used in order to keep track of the activities associated with each resource over the duration of the engagement.  In addition to the WBS, Gantt charts, MS Project, and various logs are used to maintain consistency, proper communication and order.  Specific logs utilized are for the documentation of risks, issues, action items and scope changes that may arise.  By listing these items in a log from the very beginning of the project, a project manager can ensure that all key stakeholders understand and are aware of the day to day items that can potentially shift the trajectory of the implementation.

My most important technique is communication.  I put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that all communication lines and open and healthy.  To do this, I create an environment of collaboration and teamwork with a shared paradigm of “one goal”.  When all stakeholders realize that everyone working on the project has the same goal, the engagement becomes more cohesive and collegiate while providing a sense of comradery and professionalism.

How large is your project team and what are their roles?

My project teams are typically comprised of the following roles and responsibilities:

Role Key Responsibilities
Project Manager Responsible for the overall success of the engagement.  Specifically, the PM ensures proper execution of all implementation project activities including but not limited to requirements review, configuration, testing, training, change management.  Responsible for project plan creation, maintenance and upkeep, status tracking, updates and communication, as well as coordination with client stakeholders and other teams or individuals working in conjunction with the AxiomSL implementation team.
Implementation Lead Brings in-depth knowledge in regulatory reporting and work experience with AxiomSL including tracking Federal Reserve report updates, enhancing report functionality, researching reporting requirements, development, configuration, and implementation of regulatory reports.

Responsible for implementation by taking direction from Solution Architect and following the timelines managed by Project Manager.

Subject Matter Expert Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing enterprise MIS solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements, and financial reporting.

Responsible for reviewing the functional specs and working with client, Solution Architect and Configuration Specialists to fill in any requirements gaps from regulatory and implementation perspective.

Solution Architect Brings extensive experience in designing and implementing AxiomSL solutions for risk, regulatory, and financial reporting requirements for major financial institutions. Possesses both subject matter expertise in U.S. risk and regulatory requirements and reporting, and in-depth technical knowledge in Axiom software.

Leads the project team in implementation. Responsible for conceptual and functional design of implementation. Reviews the Functional Specs documents to ensure all required functionality is implemented.

IT Specialist The IT Specialist brings deep experience in deployment of AxiomSL software including knowledge of databases and data structures.  Provides support to the implementation team and client staff for testing, performance tuning, installation, database connections and technical support

Project teams can range from 5 to as many as 15 resources.  This depends on the complexity of the implementation coupled with the number of reports requiring on-site configuration.

What type of leadership style do you use to support your team given their diversity, multiple locations and expertise?

I have always believed that a true leader empowers others with the tools and knowledge they need to then become leaders themselves.  Additionally, I feel that a successful leader is able to incorporate “people skills” into their management style – basic things like recognizing the efforts of team members to simply complimenting them for a job well done.  Ultimately, I put a strong emphasis on ensuring that my team members clearly understand their objectives while buying into the corporate vision and mission.  I always try to inspire others while delegating responsibility.  At the same time, I let them do their own work and expecting nothing short of success.

We met in Philadelphia during a Scrum Certification training. Why did your company sponsor your Scrum training?  

AxiomSL PMO feels that software development projects in the banking industry are moving towards a more Agile methodology. The Scrum pattern is one of the more popular methods in which results can be fruitful if implemented properly.

What is the value that your company sees with Scrum for their projects?

AxiomSL is a technology company that implements software on a client site in order to improve the transparency, auditability and filing processes of the bank’s regulatory reports.  One of the reasons AxiomSL is so successful in what we do while maintaining our position as a “best-in-class” provider is our ability to fit into our clients’ existing project management methodologies and software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes.  This means that if one of our clients wants to execute our implementation by using the Waterfall methodology, then we will do it. On the other hand, if the client is Agile and uses Scrum, then we will adapt our implementation to fit within the Scrum pattern (i.e. sprints, backlogs, ceremonies).

In regards to internal projects like new product development, AxiomSL is looking at Scrum as the pattern to deliver these new products more efficiently.  Since these projects would be executed in-house, the organization will have more control as to the type of methodology used.  In the past, more traditional methods like waterfall have been utilized for internal projects.  The results suffer due to the lack of ability to adjust and improve on the fly.  We are hoping to mitigate these challenges with Scrum moving forward.

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What other things have you and your company put in place to make sure Scrum is implemented successfully?

We are in the process of organizing an internal Scrum training for product owners and our development teams.  The main reason for doing this is to raise awareness about Scrum and its benefits.

As a project manager we use a lot of different methodologies, why do you think Scrum is most suitable for your type of projects?

As I mentioned above, AxiomSL harnesses the power of flexibility when accommodating to our clients’ existing project management methodologies.  If Scrum is most suitable to the client, we will need to ensure we have trained resources who are ready to adapt.  This is accomplished through certifications, trainings and communicating internally with different departments in order to get the message out there about Scrum and its ability to streamline and improve the way we do business with our clients.

Connect with Jonathan Avidan: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanavidan

AxiomSLAxiomSL was awarded The Asian Banker’s 2016 “Best Compliance Risk Technology Implementation of the Year” as well as “Best Implementation at a Sell-side Firm” in the 2016 Sell-side Technology Awards. In addition, AxiomSL was voted Best Reporting System Provider in the 2015 Waters Rankings and was highlighted as a ‘category leader’ by Chartis Research in its 2015 Sell-side Risk Management Technology report. The company’s work has also been recognized through a number of other accolades, including success in the Best Reporting Initiative category of the American Financial Technology Awards and in the Customer Satisfaction section of the Chartis RiskTech100 rankings.

 

Projectizing Hospitals: Hiring and Retaining Talent in Healthcare Organizations

healthcaretechnology_800_500_s_c1By Dr. Terrence D. Duncan

Healthcare organizations feature a multitude of positions and departments based on the unique specializations.  Whether it is a hospital, assisted living center, or skilled nursing facility, the variety of positions can create a strain on human resources and regular operations management.  The rigorous demands of each position sometimes feature a combination of their essential functions of the position, as well as absorbing some form of other responsibility from other positions in that particular department. As a result, the ability to hire and retain the appropriate talent and building a quality team is essential in managing a healthcare organization.

Turnover is relatively high in the healthcare industry. High turnover results in increased direct and indirect costs. Direct costs could include costs associated with training, recruitment, separation, and litigation. Indirect costs could include lower morale, lower productivity, and negative perceptions of the organization and leadership.  Although these costs ultimately affect the bottom line, these costs also negatively affect the organization’s ability to take care of one of the most important stakeholders: the patient or resident. Ultimately, the human resources management processes also correlate with understanding risk and determining how to mitigate your project and organization against high risk.

As project managers continue to acquire and build talent for their associated process, two Human Resources Management processes come to mind: Develop Project Team and Manage Project Team.  Hiring and retaining talent in healthcare is an operational priority.  Due to some of the current challenges provided through recent legislative changes and federal funding restrictions, it may be difficult to pay or maintain a competitive wage in the industry.  Despite this fact, once you have an associate come to the door, it is necessary to try to remember or employ these tactics in retaining the talent.

Training Does Not Stop at Orientation

One of the most common comments uttered by staff is there is not enough training or they are not sure as to what they are doing.  What leadership must keep in mind is that the most important cargo, the patient, is in the hands of another employee who may not have the adequate training from orientation.  Due to the numerous regulatory requirements from a clinical, legal, safety, and risk perspective, an associate who has been hired on the job may feel overwhelmed by the numerous requirements thrown at him or her during the orientation process.  Unlike some industries where you may have more predictable outcomes occur, healthcare outcomes are unpredictable. Depending on the type of position and healthcare organization where the associate works, the acuity of the patients may present a daily challenge. Residents feature mental health illnesses or dementia creates a highly volatile nature in attempting to provide quality care.

Develop Empathy and Understanding

I recall years ago that I trained several people who reported to me on a regular basis.  I had difficulty in having them to recall some of the information provided in training.  One day, I saw with one of the newer trainees a couple of months later, and she informed me how difficult it was to learn not only one major function of her job but to learn about another set of procedures that were very nuanced. It was at that moment I restructured the entire way to train and provided more accessibility and availability to newer trainees to allow them time to become comfortable in what I required.  Although your day as a manager or leader is packed with an ever-constant to do list, checking on your associates or being available to assist their needs, especially when an associate is relatively new to your organization, is a good way to retain associates because you also develop a rapport with that individual. Turnover sometimes is attributed to a lack of empathy, compassion, and understanding. If you know an aide, tech, or R.N. has limited experience when you hired him/her, not providing that extra one on one is a quick way to allow feelings of resentment and frustration take over to the point where resignation creeps in his or her mind.

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Identify Ongoing Needs Assessment

The healthcare industry is heavily regulated.  Some of their requirements include in-services to take place with regular frequency.  Despite the state or federal mandates requiring ongoing training, each of your associates has a different level of understanding.  If you are in the healthcare industry, you are in the business of customer service and quality of care.  These two objectives are mutually exclusive, and therefore, if you are not providing an ongoing assessment of your team, you subject your organization and patients to poor outcomes.  In the course of your monitoring associate performance, remember you are generally responsible for their overall performance.

Leadership is an ever-changing process. The challenge is not only recognizing the statistical numbers that are present in key metrics, it is the ability to analyze the human element associated with such stats.  Empathy, compassion, understanding, and communication are areas that are not easily available by a means of a spreadsheet, as well as some customer satisfaction surveys. Sometimes your ability to become intuitive to your current operational environment could pay dividends with improved operational efficiency, improving patient satisfaction outcomes, and addressing the needs of one of your key stakeholders: your associates.

Dr. Terrence D. Duncan: Author of The Four Fits of Holistic Growth (2016), a book that focuses on personal development and self-motivation. By encouraging readers to think outside the box, The Four Fits provides 16 axioms or foundations along with 15 interactive worksheets.

Connect with Dr. Terrence D. Duncan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-terrence-duncan-8045064a  

Follow on Twitter: @drtduncan

 

 

Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Erika Flora, President and Founder of BEYOND20

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Erika Flora, PMP, PgMP, PRINCE2

Erika Flora, President and Founder of BEYOND20, started her career as a Microbiologist turned Project Manager and has always had a passion for improving how companies manage work and serve their customer base. In 2006, she started BEYOND20, a consulting and training firm built on expertise in IT Service Management, Cloud Services, and Project Management. Since that time, BEYOND20 has grown to include offices in Washington DC, San Diego, and Phoenix. BEYOND20 customers span 28 countries on 5 continents, and over 25% of Fortune 100 companies work with BEYOND20 to support their process improvement initiatives. BEYOND20 is proud to be a DBE certified woman-owned, minority-owned small business.

Continue reading Thought Leadership in Project Management: with Erika Flora, President and Founder of BEYOND20

Some Reasons Why Projects Fail

– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, CSM

Rapid globalization of business means organizations must significantly increase its capacity to accurately manage information and data. In response to this growing capacity demand, more discussion is needed to develop effective project management processes and approaches.

Many new product developments are cancelled before completion and never implemented. Researchers have indicated that most projects fail because of poor project management skills. In these failed projects, estimation mistakes, lack of clarity, and unstable goal and objectives were cited as core problem areas. Below are additional areas of concern as described in the article, Why Web Projects Fail.

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1. Poor planning

In more traditional functional organizations, project managers often lack the time to appropriately plan because of the pressure from senior management, and as a result, the project is performed before the plan is appropriately defined.

2. Unclear Goals and Objectives

Projects must have clearly defined requirements, the absence of which can create timing delays and communication bottlenecks. If a project manager lacks the experience to describe the type and the extent of resources he or she really needs, the project is at risk.

3. Misalignment

Information systems need to be aligned with the organization’s business objectives. When discussing alignment, it is important to address market share, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, corporate citizenship and innovation. To begin, companies must properly assess everything, and then align its findings

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Conclusion

Interest in project management is expected to increase in the near future, partly due to rapidly developing globalization and growing awareness of knowledge management. Companies must manage a wider range of coverage, increasingly complex information system architecture, and the rapidly changing environment. In order to face such challenges, senior project managers must create a portfolio management model that is aligned with business goals. It will help the project manager and the team to maintain control over corporate assets and project processes. Furthermore, the project manager should be aware of the common mistakes that destroy business projects and learn from the identified mistakes. These learning experiences should be captured in a repository as “lessons learned” so the successors do not make the same mistakes.

 

Risk Factors in Communication Management

By Alexandria Loveless, Associate Project Manager at Starbucks

Alexandria Loveless
Alexandria Loveless

It is important for the project manager to understand the cultural differences within their team, department and organization. Cultural factors can create barriers within a team through verbal language, body language and written communications. This can include semantics and connotations, social conventions and nonverbal communication. The project manager needs to take the time to be aware of those around them and respectful of each team member in order to avoid causing cultural issues. This can be done by communicating diversity goals and expectations clearly to the team, not by setting out rules but by setting out the benefits for each individual and the company.

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Gender factors can have an impact on communication styles as well. Men and women can complete the same job and task but may communicate the work differently. Male and female communication differences can consist of different styles and structure. Those two factors mixed with the stereotype that both men and women face can cause uncertainty in perception of what is being communicated. The project manager can practice inclusion not only with cultural differences but also with gender differences. This is important to do in as many communications as possible.

supplier-risk-communication

Personality factors are built on the human relationships between the project team and others within the office. These personality factors can be obvious such as raising your voice, disrespect, condescension, and intimidation. Personality factors, especially from the project manager, can have dramatic effects on the entire team and can be felt throughout the organization by setting the “organizational tone”. Project managers can seek those with different personalities to be a positive addition to the team by allowing them to be who they are which can allow free thinking and creativeness that can lead to thinking outside the box and problem solving during the project life cycle.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandria-loveless-709160121 

Reference:

Project Communication Management & Leadership, Gray, Laron, Schneider, Dowd & De Janasz. (2015) McGraw Hill, 2015.

Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare. The Six Factors of Communication Risk. May/June 2006.http://www.psqh.com/mayjun06/dunsb1.html.

Business Dictionary. Risk Communication. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/risk-communication.html.

 

The Benefits of Risk Management Planning

A risk management plan ensures that risks are managed properly. The goal is to reduce impact of negative risks and to increase the impact of opportunities. The risk management plan provides a tool for reporting risk to senior managements as well as the project sponsor and team.  The risk management plan does not identify projects risks.

A Risk management plan details how the team will manage risk (Newton, 2015). It describes the level of risk that is tolerable for the organization (Newton, 2015).  It ensures that the level of risk management is commensurate with the identified risks and the organization’s appetite for risk.

risk-management

As a sub plan of the Project plan, the risk management plan includes the methodology that will be used to manage risk including the tools and data sources. It also identifies the owners of risks and what their responsibilities are to manage those risks. Budgeting for risk management is also included so that resources and funds are available to manage the risks. Risk categories are identified as well as definitions of risk probability and risk impact.  The plan may also describe the reporting formats that will be used in the project as well as the process of communicating risk to stakeholders. Risk management plans will also include a probability and impact matrix to assess impact on project objectives (Newton, 2015).

A risk management plan is developed early on in the project, but is reviewed and updated throughout the project.  The development of the risk management plan begins with looking at project assumptions including data, staffing, etc. (Kendrick, 2015). Risk identification is integrated into all the processes of the project to help uncover additional risks and to decrease the unknowns (Kendrick, 2015).  It is critical to review stakeholder tolerance for risk in the beginning of the project so that plans can be made to address the stakeholder need for precise estimates, clearly defined deliverables, and frequency of communication (Kendrick, 2015).

The risk management plan is integrated with other project management plans. It needs to be aligned with the other documents beginning with the project charter. Certain kinds of projects have specific kinds of risks associated with them.  The cost plan determines how risk may be carried into a project through budgeting, procurement and expenditure.  The schedule plan will highlight risk that is carried into a project because of tight timelines or the level/complexity of activities.   The communication plan has information about key stakeholders and their concerns about specific risks and the frequency with which they must be updated.

Defining risks is part of determining scope, budget and schedule.  Project managers need to be alert to risks that may be hidden or unknown as these processes unfold. In particular, risks can be found where there are knowledge gaps or incomplete data.  The risk management plan is integrated with all processes in the management of the project.

Planning For Risk Management

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References

Kendrick, T. (2015). Identifying and managing project risk (3rd ed.). New York,
NY: AMACON.

Newton, P. (2015).  Managing project risk. Retrieved from http://www.free-management-ebooks.com/dldebk-pdf/fme-project-risk.pdf

Careers in Project Management – future PM

By, Ioan Gaitan, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Civil Engineering Operations and Student in MPM Degree Program 

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Tech. Sgt. Ioan Gaitan, inspects aggregate brought on site for an airfield project at Suwon Air Base, Republic of Korea

Although the project management practitioners continue to be in high demand, the opportunities offered will vary by sector and location. Based on my research, I estimate that the energy industry will see the greatest need for project managers in the near and far future. Worldwide energy consumption is estimated to grow by 53 percent from 2008 to 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2011. The increasing demand for energy, combined with the high risk associated with these projects, translates into a significant need for experienced project managers (Hot sectors for project managers, 2010).

Although many nations are actively exploring renewable energy sources, traditional energy is still a hot sector for project managers. Some of the largest energy projects in the world are currently driven by the new oil-field discoveries and advances in fossil-fuel extraction technology. Let’s discuss about some countries that are experiencing this growth and have difficulty finding experienced PMs.

In Brazil, for example, the untapped oil fields off the coast of Rio de Janeiro could turn this country into one of the world’s leading oil producers. Moreover, the country’s 10-year energy plan intends to attract $133 billion in investments and triple its renewable energy by 2020. In order to get there, the nation will have to overcome a shortage of qualified project practitioners. According to PMI, more than 1.3 million new project management roles are expected to be needed by 2020.Despite this high demand, more than two-thirds of employers in Brazil report that they can’t find enough workers with the right skills.

In Norway, oil production has steadily declined over the last 10 years. Despite this fact, experts predict the fields still have 30 to 40 years of production left. The deep-sea oil drilling in the North Sea region is expected to need 100,000 new workers with college degrees in finance and administration by 2030. According to an industry survey released by Oilandgaspeople.com, the world’s largest oil and gas jobs board, found that 65 percent of North Sea oil and gas companies cannot recruit enough project engineers to meet the current and future demand. Because many workers will be retiring soon, the sector’s need for skilled project managers may reach “near-crisis levels.”

Australia has three operating liquefied natural gas projects and seven more under construction. This represents an investment of more than AU$200 billion. Here, a corresponding labor shortage translates to higher salaries for project managers. According to PMI, more than 375,000 new project management jobs are forecasted to be needed by 2020 (Sykes, 2014).

The developing countries will need project managers as well.  Here, project management is still new for many energy organizations. Mr. Olaoluwa Ibilola, business development manager at Korea National Oil Corp stated, “The regions that have giant oil fields and facilities could be tagged as hot, including Libya, Kuwait, [and] Syria.” In this case, the demand for project managers will depend on the amount of discovery and development in these regions. For example, a significant gas discovery in a certain region will drive more jobs for project managers.

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According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report, renewable energy is estimated to produce almost one-third of the world’s electric power by the end of 2035. A survey of industry leaders conducted by Cooley LLP in 2012 stated that the U.S. investors, executives and entrepreneurs predicted that the renewable energy sector would play at least a moderate (57 percent) or significant (25 percent) role in U.S. job creation over the next five years. Additionally, the Solar Foundation’sNational Solar Jobs Census 2011 stated that “the solar energy industry has bright days ahead, with a 24 percent market growth and 24,000 new jobs predicted for next year” (Bowles-Jackson, 2012). I estimate that these impressive numbers will only continue to grow in the near and long term.

In the last portion of this assignment I will answer the question Why are skilled PMs in such a high demand in the energy sector? Today, skilled project managers are very difficult to recruit and retain in this sector because the large projects in the oil and gas industry become increasingly complex and technologically demanding. According to Nava & Rivolta (2013), “Schedules and budgets are tight, safety is crucial and every project faces a network of stakeholders concerned about its impact on the environment and communities.”

In conclusion, I would predict that the need for experienced PMs will only become more acute as a generation of experienced engineers will soon retire in many countries. Under this circumstance, companies cannot afford to bring second-rate talent into their organizations because projects will only get more complex and their scope will grow (Nava & Rivolta 2013).

References:

(2010). Hot sectors for project managers. Retrieved from http://www.pmi.org/learning/professional-development/career-central/hot-sectors-for-project-managers.aspx

Bowles-Jackson, M. (2012), Sectors to watch. Here’s where the jobs are – and the skills you need to get them. Retrieved fromhttps://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Professional-Development/PMN0112%20Sectors.ashx

Nava, R. & Rivolta, T. (2013). Large project management in oil and gas. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bain.com/publications/articles/large-project-management-in-oil-and-gas.aspx

Sykes, K. (2014). Global jobs report: hottest industries, highest salaries. Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/learning/PM-Network/2014/global-jobs-report.aspx