5 trends that will transform project management

The project management landscape may look different in 2016. As clients, stakeholders, businesses, government and environmental expectations change, the need for PM certifications, technical knowledge and training will be in higher demand – but that’s not all.

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A transformation is taking place in the project management field as the result of changes to business practices, requirements and expectations. It’s putting a sharper focus on the people, processes and technologies needed to successfully execute projects. It may no longer make sense for companies to use limited resources as they have in the past. Here are five trends that could reshape project management in 2016.

Trend 1: The laser-focus on strategy over projects

Competition, limited resources, internal and external environmental factors, time and budgetary constraints, are increasingly impacting businesses. Leaders will need to transform their PMOs or project management teams to focus all efforts around reaching business goals.

While industry benchmarks are useful in planning directionally, leaders will need to focus less on general industry-related data that sometimes guides planning sessions, and more on precise business strengths and weaknesses to determine the best opportunities to reach specific identified objectives. Setting up an enterprise project management office (EPMO) that is focused solely on reaching overall business strategy instead of individual departmental goals can greatly increase the chances of reaching those goals.

It may also serve the business better if individuals are selected for goal-centric projects based on their high-value core strengths in relation to business requirements, instead of selecting project team members in the traditional style of departmental representation. Taking this laser focus approach to strategy over projects can optimize resource, time and budgetary use.  

Trend 2: The move away from operational hierarchies to leverage employee strengths

While organizational and cultural strengths are greatly influenced by the management team from top-down, there is typically the quiet employee-level buzz that resonates throughout the rest of the company, which also greatly impacts the organization and the culture, whether recognized or not.  Leadership will need to find positive and productive ways to seek, promote and reward the various strengths of their people to build and brand a stronger team environment.

Smart leadership may choose to adopt an open-door policy when non-management employees hold differing opinions, ideas and ways of working. They may instead seek opportunities to optimize these individuals’ strong suits in ways that can have an innovative, progressive and constructive influence within the company.

Hierarchical organizational charts will need to be redrawn in a way that allows people with “intrapreneurial” mindsets to share ideas with decision-makers, despite the chain of command.  It is better to adopt an environment where big ideas can flow internally from any employee, rather than external from your competitors later. Individual and cultural differences are not bad, they have the potential to be the new and improved, but requires the need to fight fear and control to think bigger.

[Related: 6 strategic projects any business can implement in 2016] 

Trend 3: The increased need for accountability and social responsibility

If you ask business owners what the most important thing is, they may just say profits, but is it enough to just focus on the bottom line. How much should social responsibility and accountability factor in when it comes to executing projects or doing business in general for that matter?  With the whole world watching, businesses can no longer conduct themselves in anonymity, while giving no thought to social or environmental factors.  

People and businesses want to do business with companies that provide transparency, offer visibility and conduct themselves in ways that are ethical, socially responsible and accountable. Projects are no exception. They are impacted by, and should be carefully monitored and measured in ways that ensure they meet with legislative, legal, environmental, tax and reporting, and socially responsible requirements. Safeguards should be identified and implemented to ensure accountability is at the forefront to protect stakeholders, clients and the general public as it applies to the project activities and outcomes. Ultimately these factors do have the power to directly or indirectly influence the bottom line.

Trend 4: More emphasis on softer skills, not just technical training

 In addition to PM certification and technical training, softer skills and solid communication -- whether verbal or written -- will continue to increase in value. A large part of project management is people who are impacted to a great extent by interactions with other people. Skills like the ability to resolve conflict, deal with ambiguity, diplomacy and confidentiality will be at the forefront as more projects are globally implemented, and transcend language and cultural barriers.

Project managers will need to develop positive and constructive ways to address issues as they arise.  These soft skills are not easily found and will become increasingly popular and in high demand. Sometimes what may seem like an innocent gesture, word or even body language can cause big misunderstandings and discord. Other high-value soft skills that employers will look for in a project manager include agility, adaptability and the skills to rapidly refocus efforts, as well as sound judgement.

Trend 5: Remote work, PM tools & security

Each day the workforce becomes more widely disbursed and mobile, increasing the need for remote project management tools and labor. Having the right technology, can make or break project schedules, budgets and overall success. Remote project management is not for every company, but it is increasing in popularity and demand. As a result, security policies and procedures need to be developed and implemented to keep client data secure, especially when employees or vendors use their own mobile devices.

Other issues that factor into remote project work include productivity degradation, location, distance or time zone differences, communication barriers, and technology and data access issues. Realistic and practical policies and practices should be identified and implemented to address these. Teams will need to be connected with increased frequency as the workforce becomes more mobile, creating the need for improved business intelligence, cloud-based project management solutions and mobile apps for data sharing, and collaboration.

This story, "5 trends that will transform project management" was originally published by CIO.

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