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Five Key Trends in Project Management

Five Key Trends in Project Management

February 23, 2022

John F. Kennedy once said: "Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or the present will certainly miss the future." These words are as relevant as ever for project management. Change is driven by projects, and there are now more projects in organizations across the world than ever before. The pandemic that began in 2020 and technological innovations have changed how projects are managed in many organizations today, and they have also changed the requirements to project managers.

We have analyzed our own experience, as well as a number of sources we respect, and identified the five following trends that are present in project management practices of Ukrainian organizations from various sectors:

1) Rapid growth of cloud technologies adoption for managing projects, portfolios and teamwork.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of employees who work remotely or have a hybrid work schedule has increased significantly, for safety reasons. According to Gartner research, the number of employees who switch to a remote work schedule in 2021 will only increase in subsequent years. To effectively adapt to such working conditions, cloud technologies for storing project information, communications, group work and generating ideas become indispensable. Such software systems can quickly collect actionable data for tracking, validation and use by project managers and team members to make informed decisions in real time.

As companies become more dependent on technology, project managers are faced with the need to learn more complex software products in order to be able to effectively control project workflows. For many project managers, lack of knowledge and experience in working with such systems can be an objective reason for losing a good job offer.

2) Adaptive methodologies in project management, which are not tied to a specific framework, don't have strict rules, and allow the hybridization of tools from classical and adaptive approaches.

This is no longer plain-vanilla Scrum, Kanban or Lean, but attempts to compile the useful components of each to achieve the desired results. In recent years, organizations have begun to experiment with hybrid approaches when developing a methodology, and project managers form project management strategies by combining different elements from two or more approaches at the same time. You can find projects that use both Scrum elements and Kanban metrics, and predictive projects can use burndown charts, regular retrospectives, and demonstrations of intermediate results to increase stakeholder engagement.

This hybridization is also actively present in the field of project management information systems (PMIS): more and more PMIS providers enhance their systems with the possibility to combine methods and tools from different frameworks in one project.

We are witnessing an active transition from individual frameworks to a set of methods and tools that lose the label of a particular framework. Therefore, project managers are also expected to have an appropriate breadth of knowledge, allowing him or her to effectively combine various tools for the sake of the project’s value.

3) Tailoring (adapting a methodology or framework to the needs of a particular project) is becoming mandatory.

10 years ago, it took much effort for a project manager to explain to stakeholders why Scrum should be used in his or her project, what is its advantage, and why it will reduce project risks. 5-8 years later, many organizations included agile practices into the core of their project management methodology, and if a project manager suggested a more classical approach, s/he had to work hard to prove its worth.

Now, due to a significant change in the structure of the organizations’ project portfolios, the emergence of new project types and the use of disruptive technologies, the PMO leader may have doubts about the competence of a project manager, if s/he insists on applying some framework or methodology “as is” and will not tailor them for the project. Consequently, critical thinking, a systematic view, and even a creative approach are now expected from a project manager.

4) A more systematic approach to knowledge management.

Many companies have policies for storing project information, organize trainings and micro-learning for their employees aimed at developing their hard and soft skills. But in recent years, more organizations have started shifting from managing simple information repositories to implementing knowledge management systems so that they could collect critical knowledge and information to freely and quickly transfer them among employees within the company.

One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that with the switch to the remote mode work, many organizations are faced with the problems of losing project information, as well as explicit and tacit knowledge about projects. Remote work reduces team engagement and osmotic communication, and many employees may store documents locally, sometimes even on personal computers. Thus, in the event of dismissal or technical failure, such information is often lost. In our PMP prep courses we teach our students that the regularly updated project information in PMIS is one of the indicators of good virtual team involvement.

One can see this trend manifesting in the introduction of metrics and systems for monitoring the efficiency of storing project information knowledge sharing, an increase in the number of internal projects to implement cloud-based corporate project management systems and learning management systems, purchases of ready-made or contracts for the development of special training video courses, annual plans for internal communications and microlearning, holding sessions for the experience and lessons learned sharing, as well as enhanced control over the storage of certain information about the project in a codified (written) form.

Thus, a project manager is now expected to be able to effectively manage the risks posed by the virtual nature of the team's work, as well as successfully integrate learning and knowledge sharing activities into projects.

5) Integration of Organizational Change Management, Benefit Realization Management and Project Management.

Previously, project management was used to create deliverables. Projects were considered successful when the results were obtained within the given constraints and according to requirements. The benefits realization, as well as the deliverables integration into the organization, was considered a separate task, which was usually the responsibility of the project customer or other person, not a project manager.

In today's world, however, the project becomes a management level that integrates the activities for creating deliverables, the activities for managing the organizational change driven by the project, as well as the activities for its benefits realization management. 

To ensure the project’s success, it is important to treat organizational change with the same respect as contextual change. To do this, it is necessary to ensure that the people affected by such changes are sufficiently aware, motivated, prepared and receive the necessary support. The principle of "explain, then demand" has already joined the field of project management, and will continue to gain momentum rapidly in the future of project management.

Benefits realization management is often considered the task of program managers. However, developing the necessary metrics and processes to track their achievement, adjusting project scope and business metrics in response to end-user or market feedback, communication, advertising and other activities to promote the created deliverables are now considered as part of a project's objectives. This allows the project manager and team to expand their focus from creating deliverables to the so-called benefits or outcomes, and thus increase the chances to achieve organizational goals.

A project manager who is well versed in existing organizational change management models, as well as understands the business context and market for the project’s product, will be more attractive to the employer than the one who has honed technical knowledge, but little understanding of the project’s organizational context.

In order to keep up with competitors, it is worth being able to identify, anticipate and adapt to changing needs. Don't try to fight change, but adapt to it. Build, redesign, update, and restructure your systems, processes, and project management skills so that you not only successfully implement change, but thrive when that change hits the market.



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