PMI – 50 Most Influential Projects

In the past few months, PMI has released a list of their 50 most influential projects of the year. I was given the opportunity to speak to PMI’s Vice President, Global Experience and Solutions, Mike DePrisco about the list, their motivations for creating this list and what PMI is hoping to bring to the wider community with this initiative.

I was really inspired to see many of the projects on the list and have seen the development of these projects as the year progressed. One of the key factors for appearing on this list was being able to achieve a “significant milestone in the past 18 months“. For me, this list was an example of showing the true ability of several countries and companies to deliver against the odds but more important: Add significant and sustained value to the wider world.

1. My first question centered around why PMI wanted to create the list again. Why not just have one list like last year? Why was 2020 such an important year for projects

Mike: Last year, for our 50th anniversary, we launched the inaugural Most Influential Projects list, shining a light on the amazing feats that projects have made possible over the previous five decades. We also curated 14 top 10 lists to highlight influential projects in specific regions or industries. Starting in 2020, PMI has committed to celebrating the Most Influential Projects annually, highlighting compelling efforts across industries and around the world that achieved significant milestones the previous year. This year’s Most Influential Projects lists highlights 259 different compelling efforts across industries and around the world that achieved significant milestones within the last 18 months. The honorees — an overall Top 50 as well as Top 10 lists covering 30 categories — represent the creative spirit shaping how the world collectively reimagines a new future, especially this year as the global pandemic has challenged all of us, disrupting the rhythms of our lives and forcing us to adapt to new realities. Never before has innovation been pushed to such a breakneck pace —demonstrating how progress must take precedence over perfection.   

2. My next question centered around the particular projects chosen. Why did these particular projects make the list? How did PMI make the cut?

Mike: The 2020 Most Influential Projects lists reflect how humanity has found ingenious ways to keep moving forward in the face of unexpected obstacles associated with the global pandemic. It also highlights long-standing innovative projects in transportation, renewable energy, architecture, technology, and more. We selected these projects because of their scale, influence, and advancement they created for their field or industry. 

Specifically, to identify the 2020 Most Influential Projects lists, PMI gathered input and recommendations from the project management community itself, including experts, chapters, academics, and industry thought leaders from around the globe. The pool of project candidates, which numbered in the thousands, was then vetted by a special PMI thought leadership team. Finalists were then individually researched, with each project required to achieve a significant milestone over the past 18 months. The final selections were chosen to represent the broad portfolio of activities, regions, and industries.

3. I wanted to see if PMI are planning to continue this on a regular basis or how they envisage the list evolving in the coming years. For me, it’s really important to acknowledge the innovation and spirit that comes from the new projects and initiatives and I wanted to see what PMI thought.

Mike: The annual Most Influential Projects lists are designed to recognize the projects that have defined the past year and give the general public a new perspective on projects and the kind of impact they can have on society. The list will continue to expand and evolve as global megatrends introduce new challenges as exemplified this year with the COVID-19 global pandemic. In the face of potentially overwhelming challenges, project teams and their leaders stepped up, responding with ingenuity, cooperation and a deep determination to make a positive difference. As a result, 10 COVID-19-related projects were included on the 2020 lists reflecting how humanity has found inventive ways to keep moving forward in the face of unexpected obstacles.

Ultimately, this list represents PMI’s vision of how project work, and the change makers behind them, make ideas and dreams reality, and as a result change the world. PMI is committed to annually empower and celebrate change makers and their innovative projects that impact the world we all live in. 

4. From a motivation standpoint, it can be really interesting to see how the list is received by the Project Management audience. I’m really interested to see if the list can be used to encourage people to enter the Project Management Profession or to support the development of Project Managers

Mike: The purpose of the Most Influential Projects lists is to raise awareness of the project management profession and the opportunities for project managers to have a positive impact on the world. As the world’s leading association for those who consider project, program or portfolio management their profession, PMI understands the important role projects play in implementing strategy and change. By recognizing the most influential projects of the previous year and their impact on today’s world, PMI is bringing deserved attention to the project management profession, and we hope it encourages others to explore the project management space.

5. I wanted to delve into which project stood out to Mike and why:

Mike: When looking at the 2020 MIP lists, there are so many inspiring initiatives. One that stands out to me personally is Learning Passport, a massive educational initiative requiring collaboration between educators, administrators and engineers. It is a wonderful example of how projects pivoted in 2020 to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. While it was originally designed to assist displaced and refugee children, it adapted to help children all around the world continue learning in our newly remote and virtual world. The project managers behind this showed incredible agility and talent to make the Learning Passport a bright spot in a challenging year for all.


What projects from this list have inspired you? Which are the ones that you think will stand the test of time?

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