Project Management Trends

Where is project management going in the next decade? Being able to look at current trends and see where they will take us is an interesting and thought provoking exercise. It can give us a much needed competitive edge to move ahead of the pack. Through our continuous, extensive global research studies we have identified a number of key trends that will have a positive impact on organizations and how they manage projects over the next decade. Here are 8 trends you can expect to see happen that will help you gain organizational momentum:

1. Project management culture assessments will be used to ensure consistency in the management of projects

Reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction rates and positively impact your bottom-line by creating an organizational structure that supports project management.

Those organizations that incorporate project management knowledge and skills into everyone’s job as a required skill set will benefit. To achieve it, these organizations will use a project management culture assessment to help them assess, identify and close the gaps between an organization’s existing project management culture and the “ideal” project management culture. The assessment will also help them to determine:

  • The “right” reporting structures for projects.
  • The project prioritization systems necessary to align projects with corporate strategies and business objectives.
  • The “right” Performance Management System to recognize work performed on projects.
  • How to integrate project management best practices for all projects.

When project management is built into the corporate culture than everyone who works on a project will immediately know what they have to do. They won’t have to locate a PMO or anyone else to tell them how to manage a project, what tools to use, what templates to use, etc.

2. New performance management systems to better reflect work performance on projects.

Generally speaking, traditional performance management systems are out of touch with how employees perform their work nowadays. This is because they fail to measure employee performance on special projects that are outside the realm of the employee’s day-to-day job responsibilities.

As a result, employees are less likely to consider their work on projects of equal importance to their measured job performance. Furthermore, functional managers may add fuel to the fire if they disapprove of an employee’s project work or are inflexible about work deadlines.

Because of this, we are noticing a trend for organizations to overhaul their performance management systems to make sure that they are able to measure their employees’ total work performance. This new breed of performance system captures feedback from both functional managers and project managers in performance reviews.

This “Total Performance Management System” will capture and evaluate all the work an employee performs; ensuring that the project manager or sponsor communicates overall employee contribution on the project to the employee’s functional manager.

3. The evolution of project management into a new hybrid with quality principles at its core.

Our research indicates that applying good quality management practices to projects improves project success rate. Organizations that apply a quality based approach to the development of their project management methodology will have greater success than those who do not.

These “project quality management systems” will improve project management success by imposing specific and measurable quality standards for project processes, tools and templates. This will lead to greater consistency in the management of projects. As well, with quality standards in place, there will be a shift in the competency requirements for project management roles.

Keeping this in mind, organizations will need to reassess their project management training programs. They will want to search for and/or develop project management training curriculums that include both quality management and project management knowledge bases.

4. Increased importance and use of project health checks and/or project audits.

To protect their bottom lines, organizations will become more and more proactive in how they manage their projects to reduce risk of failure. They will check the health of projects through various phases of execution in order to quickly identify the interim issues, concerns and challenges that their projects may be facing. Using project health checks and project audits, they will be able to reduce fire-fighting and management by crisis so as to quickly identify the root causes of problems.

This forensic view will allow leadership to develop corrective actions that will bring projects back on track; providing assurance to management that the project will overcome any obstacles that would otherwise prevent it from meeting the required schedule, budget and customer requirements.

5. Risk assessments will become a standard practice for all projects.

We are seeing more and more project teams conducting regular project management risk assessments at the beginning, mid-way and at the end of a project. They are doing this to proactively identify what might prevent success in the management of their projects as well as to have contingencies in place to manage a risk, should it occur.

Proper risk management implies control of possible future events, and is proactive rather than reactive. It, not only, reduces the likelihood of an event occurring but also the magnitude of its impact. Organizations that consistently follow a risk management process on all of their projects will see a reduction in their management by crisis.

6. New reporting structures for project management offices.

Despite considerable effort and investment in Project Management Offices, the findings of our research indicate that for the most part, they have failed to gain the support of the most senior management teams. Just as quality departments and quality steering committees are far less prevalent today than they were 20 years ago, the current version of a Project Management Office is also becoming passé, having played out its role as an agent of change inside the organization.

Today, senior management is focusing more and more on the interests of the organization as a whole. They want to know that the projects the organization is implementing are strategically necessary to achieve the organization’s objectives before allocating resources to them.

As a result, organizations are beginning to centralize their project management functions through the creation of an “Enterprise Project Management Office” or EPMO. The main purpose of an EPMO is to review all the projects across the organizations and ensure that they are truly supportive of the organization’s key strategies. They prioritize projects to make decisions about which should move forward and receive the necessary resources to proceed.

Global organizations will likely continue to have local PMOs but all of these will likely have to report into a single EPMO – using similar project management processes, tools and templates.

7. “Project Manager” as a unique role will disappear.

The role of the Quality Manager is no longer today what it was 20 years ago. In fact, this title is not commonly found in most organizations. We can expect to see this happen in project management as the role for the Project Manager will evolve to such a degree that that it will become a work skill that is part of every employee’s job responsibility.

8. Project management knowledge retention and best practices will be used to guide new projects.

In a more competitive and fiscally lean organizational environment organizations cannot afford to repeat mistakes. That’s why organizations that follow best practices will be at a competitive advantage to those who do not apply a structured process to each project. Project management best practices will include a disciplined approach to planning, executing and learning from projects.

As part of the move towards greater use of best practices we will also see:

  • Use of project management competency assessments to select the best project resources for any given project.
  • Incorporation of project management best practices into all aspects of project management infrastructure including project management tools,project management templates and techniques.
  • Incorporation of portfolio project management to make sure that projects are prioritized and resourced to align with corporate strategies.
  • Increased training for project sponsors to improve their understanding of their orles in helping projects to succeed.

Organizations will record and document “Lessons Learned” on projects as a means of passing along the things that worked or did not work on a project. This knowledge retention will be a major benefit to organizations because it will pass on wisdom from one project to another providing continuous learning and avoidance of repeated mistakes.

Concluding Remarks

Many of you will read these trends and believe that you are not “senior” enough in your respective organizations to carry them through. This is not at all true. One of the great strengths of leaders is their ability to use influence and critical thinking skills to bring about positive change. Each of us can choose to be either a leader or a follower. We must decide. Our organization’s future may depend upon our leadership ability to make the right decisions today. Hopefully, awareness of these trends will help you manage better by helping you stay ahead of the competition and contribute to your organization’s future success.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

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