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The Insights Behind the Project Management Trends

Trends in Project Management 2019

Strategy Execution released the top ten trends for 2019 a few weeks ago and my first thoughts were; we’re seeing a lot of them in the PMO community which is both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. When we look back over the last decade we can clearly see how much has changed for people working in project management. The methods used; the leadership styles; the technology utilised; the pace of change and the increasing numbers of projects and the people required to work within them.

In this article I’ll take a look at all ten of the trends and highlight some of the insights, thinking and activities we’re starting to see and what that means for project management practitioners today.

1. Disruptive Technologies Will Continue Their Trajectory

Disruptive technology – mainly digital technologies – is impacting many organisations today and will continue to do so. Take a look at Accenture’s 2019 Technology Trends Report to get a flavour of what is keeping executives awake at night (DARQ, DLT, AI are just some of them!) For the change community, disruptive technologies not only become a focus in project solutions, they’re also being used to manage projects too.

If project delivery can be done smarter, quicker, with great data and resulting insights leading to better decision-making – what is there to dislike about that? What it means for the project management practitioners is upskilling, an increase in knowledge about the core solutions that affect their current industry and their business. What is also means is a big change to the way we currently manage projects too, and the question is, do change practitioner embrace change themselves, especially when it comes to fundamentally changing the way they manage projects.

Disruptive technologies present an opportunity to those working in project management – we’re going to be seeing technology use across many different and diverse organisations and they’re all going to want project practitioners with previous experience in implementing them. Will we have a new boom time in IT projects?

2. Artifical Intelligence and Big Data are Permeating Project-Based Work

AdaptiveWe’re already seeing huge collections of data across businesses and across portfolios of projects, but there’s a problem. The vast majority of data collection has led to a whole dump of data that needs cleansing and organising before it can be used to great effect. That’s a big job for anyone and it’ll be an opportunity for anyone working in the data science roles.

That will ultimately mean that project practitioners and data specialists will be working closely together in the future – we’ll be welcoming data analysts into our project teams with open arms. Why are we doing this? Because the data we collect will ultimately inform us about getting better in the future. That means getting better at business cases; requirements; scoping; risks; planning; resourcing, scheduling. It will mean we can really find the insights that stop us from making the same mistakes over and over again – we’ll really start to learn the lessons once we understand what the trends are telling us.

For many in the PMO community, project data analytics is seen as something with great potential yet there’s a fear there that it’s a big job to tackle; it’s going to need a whole host of new skills and tools (Python, Azure..); and it may mean that a large proportion of the PMO may get swallowed up by the click of a button. With a more positive head on, it also means the PMO can move on from the handle-cranking of reporting to providing the analysis and insights from data instead.

3. Vendor Management and Outsourcing is Growing

IT outsourcing is a tricky one that requires a whole host of skills around culture, people and communication. In just a few weeks I’d hear anecdotal stories from different PMOs where they’re currently supporting these types of projects.

The biggest challenges were working with people in different countries – not just the timezone difference, also the cultural differences too. The cultural differences manifest themselves in different ways – the work ethic; the ability to ask for help; confirmation of work to be done; sharing progress and so on.

It’s the nuances of human behaviours compounded by working on projects which are virtual – we lose all those things that help us work together successfully like body language; visual cues; gestures – or just passing the time of day whilst grabbing a coffee. We have to work harder to compensate, just to achieve a normal working relationship which becomes tested when working together on difficult projects.

The opportunity here is to elevate your working practices on outsourcing projects perhaps by focusing specifically on cultural bias and virtual communications.

4. Programme Management is Maturing within Federal Government

With the Strategy Execution trends being globally focused, it’s interesting to see this trend about federal governments. With programme management, the staple Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) originally coming from the Cabinet Office, the UK government and other public sector bodies have long had best practice to draw on. More recently there are highlights of work which are, and continue to contribute to best practice in change delivery. There is the pioneering work within digital with the Government Digital Services, recent work on the Government Project Delivery Standard and developments in managing major projects.

The UK government is doing a great job at sharing resources and best practices for anyone to dip into.


Strategy Execution Trends for 2019

5.  Project Teams are Migrating to Shared Platforms

This is the increased use of tools like Trello, Skype for Business, Slack and Microsoft’s new Team app. For many organisations it’s taken a while to get around the security needs to get their employees online; in fact, one of the biggest problems were project teams readily downloading free collaboration tools without waiting for the IT department to catch up.

It’s been interesting seeing how the adoption of these tools has started to spread. From the PMO point of view it’s been easier to see progress; for the teams, collaboration across borders and continents is achievable.

If you’re using a shared platform in your project team today; leave a comment below and let us know what you recommend.

6. Agile Rises From the Tech Store to the Top Floor

Agile Project Management90% of senior executives give high priority to becoming agile (according to a recent survey from Deloitte). That’s an astonishing figure when you take a look at the reality today. Many organisations certainly like the sound of the benefits of Agile delivery – and also the benefits of becoming a more Agile business, but are they at the point where the commitment level is high too?

We’re seeing a struggle with many organisations – both large and small – to adopt Agile delivery approaches. Often their projects are entrenched in waterfall approaches and making the change has seen a lot of challenges. Taking an Agile approach to delivering change requires a culture change too, right from the top of the organisation to the delivery teams. Senior executives need to move beyond just recognising the benefits of Agile to a place of testing if its the right thing for the organisation to do before going down the road of instigating big changes.

Agile won’t be right for every organisation and a recent term I hear that I love is ‘method mixology’. Perhaps a cocktail approach to delivering change will be more achievable and successful for organisations instead?

7. Managing Changes in Change Management

Do you have dedicated Change Management resources? Those management roles who are responsible for the Management of Change in projects or programmes? They normally focus on getting the organisation ready to accept the change by working on the people side of projects. In many organisations the role of Change Manager has been combined with the role of the Project Manager with varying degrees of success. In this year’s trend, the changes are about decentralisation of change management.

My interpretation is that everyone involved in the change business should have the skillset and the toolbag of a change practitioner. If you’re working in PMO, you should be skilled in the different approaches, models and frameworks that can be used to increase change acceptance and utilise those skills alongside the Project or Programme Manager. If you’re working as a tech in a project team, you should also have an awareness of change management principles and how the solution you’re working on will be accepted by users. If you’re a user in a department, you too should also have an appreciation of projects and what your role is in the change – your need to speak up, ask questions, inform the project about your needs and so on. We all have a duty to work together and support the business as it moves forward in a certain direction – we all need to be good change citizens.

8. Curated Learning on the Rise

Curated learning sounds like a brilliant approach and one which anyone with a need to get on in their work and their career will appreciate. It fits into the 70-20-10 Model for learning. You gain 70% of your knowledge from on-the-job experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal training.

10% of formal training could become more personalised for you or the on-the-job experiences from others who have trod the path before you could be turned into a learning experience. The ability to take packets of learning from the shelf and combine them in a way that works for you and your current skills gaps is making headways, thanks to the sheer amount of online learning experiences available.

9. Project Management is Booming in Developing Nations

PMIProject management roles will grow by 20% over the next eight years according to PMI’s Growth and Talent Gap Report (2017-2027). Most of that growth will come from China and India which in a global economy may not surprise anyone – where there is growth and change, there are projects. Closer to home, the demand might not be as great as developing nations but there is and will be a greater demand due to the pressing problem of the attrition rate in project management through retirement (also mentioned in the PMI report)

The other interesting thing about the report is that the insights come from jobs in which project management is fully or partially the job responsibility. As more and more people are moving towards project-based work; utilising project management processes, tools or approaches in their day-to-day work, I’m surprised that the figures won’t be higher. In the UK, the report states there are one million project-oriented jobs in 2017, with a prediction that it will be 1.2 million in 2027. I think it will go much higher than that.

For a more UK focused look at the project management marketplace, Arras People have just launched their report which also looks at similar insights with figures aligned to the UK economy.

10. Supply Chain Mounting in Complexity

The supply chain theme in this year’s trends is closely aligned with customer expectation – we’re becoming use to having products and services delivered to us faster, smarter and cheaper. It’s just one industry that has been picked out but the trends facing supply chain right now are easily applicable to others such as manufacturing; construction; healthcare and IT.

The complexities are driven by talent shortages; technology advances and the changes in the economy with trade deals and agreements. It’s the perfect storm and one where both opportunities and threats will emerge.

They all have one thing in common; to take advantage of the opportunities, it’ll be change driven by projects that will see organisations capitalise on it.

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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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