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The top 10 trends in project management for 2014

What lies ahead in 2014?

ESI would like to wish everyone in the project management profession a happy and prosperous 2014.

As is tradition, we begin the New Year with a look ahead to the top 10 trends in project management, as identified by our senior executives and subject matter experts.

While there are many positives to look forward to, particularly the high demand that project managers will continue to be in, the trends for 2014 highlight there will also be big challenges ahead for organisations trying to find project managers with the right mix of qualifications and experience in this continually-evolving industry.

As well as this, a growing unease with current project management practices means that we will see more importance and emphasis placed on the ability to lead a team, rather than manage projects.

1) Agile will expand in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong

IT project management professionals in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong are interested in turning to Agile, but face internal resistance to this radically different, yet compelling, project management model.

While there are pockets of practice, many existing project managers and PMO heads are trying to thwart Agile implementation, believing it to be yet another management fad.

The serious and interested players in these regions however, understand that the key to its adoption is the necessary internal buy-in from stakeholders, selecting the best project for an Agile pilot and establishing or modifying a Centre of Excellence to support the Agile framework.

Pockets of managerial resistance should therefore not stand in the way of its implementation by those who understand the benefits that Agile can bring to an organisation.

2) Portfolio management will continue to take centre stage

With the PMI’s new Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)sm credential recognising the advanced experience and skill of portfolio managers, we are bound to hear more about this important area in project management.

The PfMPSM demonstrates a proven ability in the coordinated management of one or more portfolios to achieve organisational objectives.

The execution of the portfolio management process, communication around portfolio progress, and recommendations for action are ideal skills, regardless of whether the credential takes off or not.

At a time when there are more projects than people to work on them, the ability to pick the most high-value projects has never been more important.

Organisations now want to see all their investments pay off, which is the reality of this new portfolio management approach.

3) Project managers are turning to virtual learning

The days of classroom-based training are slowly being consigned to a thing of the past.  Project management training today is shifting to faster, internet-based courses, accessed by desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices.

Dispersed in a mix of video components, webinars and online modules, it is a cheaper and more time-accommodating option.

For many project professionals, this is the only way they can ensure their skills are kept up to date and competitive, and many are taking advantage of it.

However, it remains to be seen if it will be as effective as classroom training.

4) EPC companies will seek professional help

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies are experiencing their share of project management related problems, due to the changing nature of the industry.

While the project type remains the same (megaprojects lasting for years and costing hundreds of millions, into the billions, of dollars) owners of these projects no longer seem to be in control of the key technical staff on their contracts.

Vendors are managing vendors and projects are suffering as a result. For years, EPC firms looked inside for their professional development needs but that is changing. More EPC organisations now seek the services of outside vendors to ensure that their project managers receive the latest and most up-to-date project management training and advisory services.

It’s a complete U-turn from the days when they believed only they had the knowledge to teach project management to their staff.

5) Companies now need two PPM tools

Project portfolio management (PPM) tools can be hard work to implement. Many organisations struggle to select and implement a PPM tool that will satisfy the needs of everyone from the project manager to the C level, and everyone in between. But for organisations that are now using Agile, the standard PPM tool will no longer cut it.

This is because the tools that have been available for years are based on the Waterfall method of project management.

Agile development, based on iterative, incremental methods, means that the entire approach to structuring work and reporting progress is now completely different, requiring an Agile-based PPM tool.

While implementing the Agile approach is hard enough in many organisations, it has now got harder for the companies who want to implement Agile, and an Agile PPM tool, at the same time.

6) Servant leadership makes a comeback

Servant Leadership, a term coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 is both a philosophy and a set of leadership practices.

Servant leaders place the needs of their teams above their own by sharing power and serving others. The scrum masters in Agile are encouraged to adopt this approach and serve their teams rather than manage them.

Now that finding the right leadership model for projects has never been more crucial, the servant method can be seen making its way back into more traditional projects, not just in Agile.

Whether the team is also willing to share the blame when things go wrong however, remains to be seen.

7) Benchmarking takes on greater importance

Every organisation wants to know how its project managers’ practice compares with others in the same industry.

Having the data to back it up however, is now achievable with the PMI’s acquisition of Human Systems International – a leading assessment and benchmarking company offering a wide range of diagnostic and analytic tools for improving organisation project management capabilities.

Its database, highlighting organisational project and programme management best practices will provide organisations with the opportunity to see just how good they really are.

As competition therefore heats up, benchmarking will take on more urgency within many organisations.

8) Organisations dissatisfied with the PM performance will  radically change their approach

Despite organisations investing hundreds of millions of dollars in project management tools, credentials and training, reports by the Project Management Institute (PMI), Gartner and Forrester continue to reveal poor project results.

Organisations tired of disappointing results will start to take drastic action to turn things around.

This action will range from better leadership programmes and lean methodologies, to making sure each project has a sponsor with a backbone, in order to ensure significant change.

 9) Key project management jobs will remain hard to fill

Despite huge demand for project managers, many of the key project management roles such as those at the VP and executive level – e.g. PMOs, product strategy and portfolio management – remain unfilled due to the lack of suitably experienced applicants.

For organisations searching for that key professional, it will be difficult, but not impossible to find the right candidate.

Without doubt however, project management will remain a growth industry. For those with a strong set of technical, business and leadership skills, a proven track record and a willingness to relocate, the future looks bright.

10) Project and programme managers will be asked to spend more time leading

A small, but growing number of organisations are now calling their project professionals leaders, rather than managers.

While the term project manager will never go out of favour, to some companies, the ability to lead a team is more important and ultimately more of a success factor, than managing it.

The emphasis will be on making sure that the professionals who are accountable for major projects not only have the technical and management capabilities to get the job done, they also have the all-important leadership skills to pull a team together and align them in the pursuit of a common objective.

These organisations are not interested in training project leaders on generic leadership skills, they need them to have specific project and programme leadership skills.

The chances are we’ll be seeing a lot more project and programme leaders than managers in 2014.

ESI Executive Vice President J. LeRoy Ward discusses the trends further on ESI’s You Tube channel.

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About Rebecca Leitch

Rebecca Leitch
Rebecca Leitch is a marketeer at TwentyEighty Strategy Execution - focused on bringing new project management content for the PM community.

One comment

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    Great article while I agree with your big 10, I would also add new tools like universal sharing of project management data via common XMLSchemas, by the UN/CEFACT standard, reporting.

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