As with all aspects of the corporate environment, project management is evolving quickly and constantly as new tools and new practices emerge. Savvy project management teams need to ensure that they remain ahead of the game in terms of understanding the trends driving change in their sector. Global Delivery Report asked a number of experts what their picks for the most significant trends impacting project management in a global context were, and how project managers can best leverage them improve efficiencies:
Globalization of projects, with dispersed teams working on the same project
With organizations leveraging their global workforce and cheaper labor markets, many IT programs, nowadays, are managed by disparate teams, rather than large centralized teams in a ‘head office,’ James Cockroft, Director of Coeus Consulting, said.
Cockroft noted that this brings many challenges, such as time zones, languages, cultures, and the need for the tools to enable effective collaboration.
Andrei Soroker, CEO of Kato, agreed, emphasizing that dispersed teams are now the norm: “It’s increasingly common even for small teams to work with remote colleagues. This trend is accelerating due to a combination of economic factors and improvements in connectivity.”
Soroker’s advice is to embrace it instead of fighting it. “By effectively using modern communication tools you can get more out of a distributed team than a co-located one. Use real-time text communication to your advantage,” he said.
Soroker added that an alarming trend in this context is data or knowledge fragmentation due to a multitude of different tools used on the same project, which is happening in response to increased geographical distribution of team members and the need to maintain high-throughput communication channels to maintain project velocity.
Soroker said: “Be cognizant of which tools your teams use for communication. Do you have access to all the data that gets generated as a result? This data is valuable, especially for onboarding new project members. Ideally, get everyone to use the same professional communication service, [and] encourage communication transparency.”
Vorex’s CEO and co-founder Michael Salem noted that mobility is key in such an environment. “Web based solutions allow these managers to do all of that…and much more…from anywhere,” he said.
The continuing rise in use of Agile project delivery in IT projects
Michael Kanz, Operations Director at project management consultancy T-exec said: “As traditional project delivery, especially in IT, continues to fail to deliver according to meticulously developed detailed project plans, budgets and, worryingly, consistently delivers less value than predicted, the attractiveness of Agile delivery and thinking continues to rise.”
He said that research has shown that risks of project failure grow substantially as projects grow in length and complexity, so the evolution towards a more Agile project delivery coincides with a drive towards running a series of smaller projects—less than six months duration—instead of big-bang, all-in-one projects. “Both these aspects promise to realize business value faster while reducing risks at the same time,” he said.
In terms of best practices and taking advantage of this trend, Kanz advises offering Agile coaching and education, ensuring familiarity with cloud-based solutions for project management but also for collaboration and communication, and embracing combinations of traditional and agile deliveries based on best meeting a customer’s needs.
Many projects, smaller in size
Cockroft, like Kanz, noted that with the advent of cloud computing and the proliferation of ‘shadow IT’ within organizations, “projects are likely to become smaller in size than some of the large ERP programs that we have become accustomed to.” He added that this also means that there are a far greater number of them to manage and the integration of the technologies is becoming extremely challenging as well.
The Cloud and project and program management tools
The embracing of this trend has evolved to address a number of the challenges identified above, such as the globalization of projects, and mirrors the fact that more and more projects are Cloud-centric.
“These tools look to centralize management information into a single controllable space, from which both project managers and senior managers can track progress, a single version of the truth so to speak,” Cockroft said. In addition, these tools are becoming more collaborative to allow disparate teams to work more effectively—providing project repositories, version controls, and so on.
Jon Hogg, Chief Platform Officer at blurGroup, agreed that the Cloud is a key trend to follow. “Global players in many geographies with different skills all focused on one project need one, real-time place to work. Without cloud technology, efficient collaboration wouldn’t be possible,” he said.
He advised that project managers “build or invest in a flexible, easy to use project platform that all stakeholders can work with regardless of geography, technical experience or technologies used.” Hogg added that companies using services-commerce to source, work with and pay for project collaborators online can benefit from project management platforms such as blur Group’s recently launched Project Space which is free to all customers and their external providers.
According to Kanz, the choice of cloud-based collaboration and project management tools has increased and they have become powerful enough to enable and facilitate management of distributed projects not seen before.
“This makes it more realistic and cost efficient for project leaders and their resource management to integrate external or remote experts into the project from a global talent pool of contractors and delivery partners,” he said.
Cockroft cites the example of a recent program he was involved in, which saw an incredibly complex set of projects being effectively managed and governed, delivering on time and budget. The program had over 35 interdependent projects and about 70 full-time people, excluding external suppliers, which would have been hard enough to deliver under normal circumstances, but made it even more challenging was that there were travel restrictions for the team which were spread over more than ten countries and countless offices.
“The use of centralized reporting tools enabled the team to effectively escalate issues and identify when projects were going off track, allowing senior management to take corrective action,” he said. “The use of collaboration – from instant messaging, through project stores, to video conferencing – allowed the team to act more cohesively and ensured that everyone knew their specific responsibilities.”
Outsourcing of project management services to third parties
Cockroft said: “Many organizations are outsourcing traditional internal project management services as well as IT operations to enable cost reductions. Whilst this does provide a number of [benefits] for organizations, such as resource on demand, access to different skill sets, [and] access to lower cost markets, it does bring in other challenges and often leads to a ‘two in box’ philosophy, with the client still having to fulfill many of the expected responsibilities.”
For Cockroft, additional complexities lie in the acceptance of one supplier having authority over another and the inevitable commercial conversations about scope and price that crop up: both of which often end up with the client having to step into the breach.
Increasing need for highly effective program offices and portfolio management capabilities within organizations
With the globalization of work and the increasing number of smaller projects, the program office will become even more important, according to Cockroft. “These program offices will rely heavily on the new generation of project and program management tools, in order to sustain the thirst and demand of senior management for accurate and up to the minute information and dashboards,” he said.
Dr Russell Darnall, PMP and lead faculty member for Walden University’s M.S. in Project Management program, emphasizes that projects are becoming increasingly complex. “The increasing speed of technical development, globalization of the economy, and changing cultural expectations are creating the need for more highly skilled project managers.”
The changing environment is also requiring change in unexpected areas. Darnall said that more industries are looking to project management to help make transitions. “For example, healthcare is going through significant change and increasingly requiring staff to have the ability to manage projects.”
He added that there is an increasing need for proof of project management competence. “Organizational leaders are looking for project management degrees or certifications to demonstrate that potential project managers have the knowledge, skills and ability to manage their projects,” he said.
Other Emerging Trends to Watch
While the above trends are very much in the spotlight, there are other, less well-known trends lurking under the radar that project managers should be keeping an eye on:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions: Salem explained that, up until now, project managers have looked at CRM as a tool used only by the company’s sales staff to bring in new clients and increase the company’s sales. “However, these project managers will notice soon that the conversation history the client had with sales staff – recorded on their CRM system – can give them critical pointers and hints on what is expected from them by the client, what were their pain points during these conversations, and what were their expectations before the project deal was signed. A project manager without this data is like a person going out on a blind date,” he said. For the same reason, this information would be equally, if not more valuable for Business Analysts on the same teams.
A movement away from email: Soroker said that email is going away as a means of internal communication. “This is still under the radar, because it’s unclear what will serve as the replacement. Managers should be keeping an eye on new communication systems that have scalability, data integrity, and security semantics similar to email,” he said.
Services-Commerce: According to Hogg, there is a shift in how companies are finding and working with project managers and their suppliers. “The entire tender process is coming online as organizations have neither the time nor resources to facilitate physical pitches,” he said. “The international nature of project management, even for local projects, means that companies want seamless access to the best possible expertise regardless of location and with no additional administration. As such, we’ve seen huge growth in adoption of services-commerce across several departments within our customer organizations.”