2020 has disrupted project execution

BearingPoint has helped guide hundreds of projects since March 2020, and in doing so, we have been afforded an exceptionally wide-ranging view of the European project management experience throughout the pandemic. Teams have faced considerable challenges, and as a result, project needs in today’s ever-changing ‘new normal’ have altered.


Projects are vital – Scarce resources mean only projects crucial to company adaptation or survival are given a green light to proceed.
Projects are urgent – Companies are under great pressure to protect their people, clients, suppliers, and ecosystems, as well as cut costs, build revenues, and ensure survival.
Projects are shorter – With such uncertainty looming, businesses are curtailing large-scale projects with extensive timeframes.
Projects are adapted – Faced with freezes or cancellation, projects typically experience a deliberate process of adaptation, so they assuredly meet business needs.


of high-maturity projects are completed on time, and just 67% were completed on budget, with 9.9% of every dollar wasted due to poor project performance. PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report 

Up to 75% of software projects are always or usually “doomed right from the start”. Geneca, 2017 And 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. HBR, 2015.

These challenges were typically due to misalignment between stakeholders, poor communication, a lack of transparency, or unclear responsibilities. Project managers still contend with these problems today, but due to facing a new working reality, must now tackle a fresh range of complications.

  • Increased complexity – Managers must mobilize fragmented siloes and teams, collect meaningful performance data, identify project issues, and coordinate effective action while considering changeable hybrid ways of working, and unfamiliar virtual collaboration tools.
  • Additional constraints – Reduced time, fewer resources, sanitary measures, and separated employees and teams are reducing the abilities of managers to drive action.
  • Extra pressure – Due to reduced budgets and people resources, managers whose projects are approved are under immense pressure to show results.

With such an array of problems to overcome, now is the time for project leaders to innovate, fail fast, and rapidly discover new routes to success. In doing so, they can build robust short- and long-term project stability, simplicity, and effectiveness.

Projects are living entities – each must adapt to a set of unique characteristics

To succeed, project leaders must free themselves of one-size-fits-all mentalities and approaches. Projects are never mechanical. They are living bodies that are constantly changing and subject to an ever-unique set of characteristics, environments, drivers, and objectives.

Successful projects are also never the product of chance, and rarely proceed as planned. Therefore, it is essential that managers adopt deliberate, proactive approaches that adapt quickly and efficiently surmount the multiple problems all projects face.

To successfully treat a project as a living entity, BearingPoint has identified the key criteria for success:

A real, new purpose

First, the purpose of projects must be clarified, thereby allowing them to be driven by the value they provide. This allows individuals within teams to sense and understand the overarching purpose of the project and work accordingly. Throughout the project, it is crucial to measure the impacts of the outcome, assessing the performance data gleaned to form assuredly effective decisions.

Working for an airline company when 80%+ of their planes were grounded, it required a strong top management vision and trust to pursue external spendings and people engagement on a project that was implementing new data-driven decision-making processes. 

At a completely different speed

To control the speed and scope of projects, it is vital that project managers adopt a more agile approach. At a program level, meetings can take place on a daily – as opposed to monthly or weekly – basis, speeding up and illuminating the decision-making process to provide a sense of urgency.

For example, with an experienced team and strong methodology assets, BearingPoint was able to successfully manage 65 design workshops, fully virtual, for a multibillion Euro company – over a single month. This allowed a crucial ERP project to quickly set the ground for the required transformation from a content and people perspectives.

This sort of action removes bottlenecks and allows team members to express their ideas and concerns, bringing insight into the decision-making process. However, it should never devolve into micromanagement, as this will demotivate team members by removing their sense of responsibility, ultimately harming team cohesion.

With empowered people

All project members must feel they are key to the success of the project, and must be aligned with and understand project goals, working as a partnership. Every project is a journey for every team member, and there is a degree of give and take. Team members must be given metrics to personally manage and be subject to a process of constructive feedback and praise. This will ensure they are empowered, able to professionally develop, and able to perform their best.

Significant to this is providing space for empowerment, and for this, BearingPoint uses innovative methods such as Steerio. The platform enables project managers to regularly consult with their teams, identify best practices, and support the continuous development of the team and the project.

These save time while increasing the frequency of people feedback loops from once every six to 12 months to every one to two weeks. This lets all team members voice and share their opinions and provides managers with a view, grounded in data, that they can use to drive further improvements.

Leveraging hybrid ways of working

Project success is intimately tied to efficiency. As the past few months have shown for many businesses, hybrid ways of working that flexibly combine digital and physical contact are often much more efficient than purely home or office-based work, and hugely beneficial for international teams.

In our experience, on average 60% of work can be carried out remotely, where fewer distractions and the benefits of home working combine to improve performance. The remaining 40% of time should be spent in the office, accounting for sanitary measures.

This time spent working in-person is deeply important. By working in closer proximity, serendipitous, ‘water-cooler’ moments can occur – discussions that could lead to project breakthroughs. Additionally, a significant portion of this physical time should be dedicated to collaborative meetings held in spaces that allow creativity to flourish. Such sessions should be planned via a design-thinking methodology that guides the purpose and method of collaboration, going beyond simply sending an invite and agenda.

Successful project delivery is steeped in frequent, consistent, and people-focused processes. By adopting a methodical yet adaptable mindset, project leaders can confidently overcome the challenges of today, and build lasting approaches that guarantee results tomorrow.

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