Project management has been a critical business discipline for decades and with the fast paced societal, environmental, economic and technological changes on the horizon, it’s important to consider how these changes will impact how organizations manage and execute projects. More importantly, enterprising professionals should consider what they can do proactively to be prepared to ride the wave! Let’s explore four project management trends on the horizon and specific steps you can take to be prepared.
Trend #1 – Increasingly, Projects Will Be Impacted By Artificial and Data Intelligence Technology
The U.K. based Association for Project Management (APM) references this Fourth Industrial Revolution in their Projecting the Future report. While no one knows precisely how Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will impact project management, virtually everyone is certain that it will. Jon Broome, Chair of APM’s Contracts & Procurement Special Interest Group suggests that AI technology will likely automate many administrative project management functions. For example, he expects “First draft programme schedules and risk registers will be created by AI using hard data.” Furthermore, Michael DePrisco, Vice President Global Solutions, Project Management Institute (PMI) points out that, “While traditional project management roots focused on tasks like scheduling and tactical planning, AI will likely automate much of that functionality thereby shifting the Project Manager’s core focus to understanding how to leverage this technology to deliver more value for customers.”
How You Can Prepare: Don’t try to become an AI expert, but talk to thought leaders in your industry to identify the most likely areas of automation and AI impact. Then incorporate professional development opportunities around those specific areas into your training plan.
Trend #2 – Project Managers Will Need Broader Skills…Ranging from AI to EI
Seemingly, both technical and soft skills may be in higher demand for project managers (and those in project management related positions) in years to come. On the technical side, project managers will more likely become engaged on projects that incorporate or in some way touch AI related technologies (e.g. robotics, blockchain, data science, machine learning, etc.); therefore, this will require them to acquire some basic rudimentary knowledge base in these areas.
On the other end of the spectrum, as projects become more complex and interconnected, project managers will need to collaborate with (and ultimately seek to satisfy) broader groups of stakeholders. As a result, soft skills will become more important ingredients for project success. Broome insists, “Project managers will have to be masters of influence and soft skills because projects will have more stakeholders outside the core team who are affected by and receive the completed project.” Director, Strategy and Project Management with Medtronic Corporate Science & Technology, Dr. Michael O’Connor adds, “Mastering the triple constraint will no longer be enough. Project Managers of the future will need to be multi-faceted and multi-skilled.”
“The new professional reality demands a combination of technical and project management skills, leadership skills and strategic and business management skills – along with the ability to learn and keep pace with technology,” says DePrisco. “Digital skills such as data science, security, privacy knowledge and the ability to make data-driven decisions are needed for the PM of the future.”
Furthermore, PMI predicts a significant skills gap in their recent report “Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017– 2027”.
“Across the globe, there’s a widening gap between employers’ need for skilled project management workers and the availability of professionals to fill those roles. The shortage of qualified talent poses a notable risk for organizations that rely on that talent to implement strategic initiatives, drive change and deliver innovation. The talent gap could result in a potential loss of some $207.9 billion in GDP through 2027 for the 11 countries analyzed.”
How You Can Prepare: Be sure you’re focusing on both technical and relationship skills in your individual training plan. As most professionals have natural strength in one area and weakness in the other, consider soliciting 360 degree feedback to get a sense of others’ perceptions of your primary developmental areas.
Trend #3 – Project Managers Will Increasingly Embrace Customized or Hybrid Project Management Approaches and Methodologies
Increasingly, project managers and organizations seem to be looking for methodology flexibility in an attempt to accommodate rapidly changing project environments. In 2017, PMI bundled the Agile Practice Guide with the PMBOK Guide – Sixth Edition. PMI’s DePrisco shares that “the Guide was developed in response to stakeholder requests asking us for more content on agile and to provide tools, situational guidelines and an understanding of the various agile approaches available to enable better results.”
This release may be just another sign of the increasingly popular agile project delivery approach that prioritizes speed to market and change readiness over processes, plans and documentation. These increasingly commonplace agile practices should create exciting options for project focused organizations whether they adopt the approach fully or develop their own hybrid agile methodology.
While there are long standing debates about different project management approaches (e.g. Waterfall vs Agile), there are clear advantages to each. While some will argue that these approaches are diametrically opposed and therefore mutually exclusive, my own personal experience begs to differ. Over the course of my project management career, my organizations typically leaned towards hybrid, blended project management approaches in fact. Decades ago (prior to knowledge of the waterfall/agile lexicon), our teams incorporated many “agile” style practices into our traditionally managed projects. For example, we took time to flesh out a project charter early on, but we also emphasized that it would be a dynamic document that would need to be updated as the project progressed. We maintained a “waterfall style” project schedule, but we embraced the concept of rapid prototyping and built shorter phases into our overall schedule. While we never used the term “agile” to describe our project, we conducted daily standing hallway huddles in lieu of more formal status meetings. We incorporated these agile style practices not to comply with a particular methodology (indeed, the term “agile” hadn’t become prominent in the project management zeitgeist at that point), but because we felt they best complemented our traditional project management approach. As Agile and other project management approaches gain additional traction and become more commonplace, project managers (and those working in project management environments) should certainly become familiar with the full spectrum of project management philosophies and methods.
How You Can Prepare: Pick one day a week to watch 30 minutes of online videos on different project management methodologies during your lunch hour.
Trend #4 – Project Management Teams Will Become Increasingly Diverse
SHRM’s 2016 Future Insights report confirms the generally accepted belief that workplaces will continue to become more and more diverse in the coming years. Arguably, factors like changing parental roles, shifting policies and attitudes regarding sexual orientation/gender identity, increasing globalization, and an aging workforce will result in increasingly diverse project teams. While these types of diversity are more readily expected, there are other more subtle types of diversity to consider as well. Teams of tomorrow will have increasingly varied types of workers (including full time, part time, contractor/freelance, remote, etc.) potentially complicating administrative operations, day to day communications and team dynamics. Finally, as younger employees in particular tend to have increased social corporate responsibility expectations, this diversity of thought/values can present yet another opportunity to consider differences. Overall, the trend towards increasingly diverse teams will create a broad range of issues for project teams to contend with as they strive to collaborate effectively and efficiently. While some issues might be minor, practical considerations and others broader overarching ones – both can significantly impact team culture and cohesiveness.
How You Can Prepare: Develop a list of discussion questions to solicit feedback on key issues about how the team will work together. This discussion is a healthy way to move past polite agreement and identify areas of potential conflict. This conflict management can be a healthy tool in the development of a high performing team.