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Top Project Management Trends

In the previous two posts, I have established a research-based view of the importance of good project management and the role it plays in successfully completing projects. “Research-based” means it’s not my opinion, but rather what I discovered by working with a large sample of data from other people. In this post, I want to explore trends in context.

Research Versus Experience

In more than 40 years working in IT, I have developed my own opinions about managing projects based on experiences ranging from managing small two- and three-person projects to a program where my job was to encourage half the world to adopt certain cloud-based technologies (a team member had the other half of the world). Somewhere in between this range of small challenges and impossibly large tasks were the jobs I took to mend failing projects. Sometimes projects go astray as the technical lead and project manager fail to get the basics done. Sometimes, in the middle of the effort, the project leader takes a leave of absence, moves to another project or quits.

Experience has taught me that what is required is firm leadership to get the project moving in the right way. As I wrote previously, most projects fail (54 percent) because they are poorly managed, so a big part of the solution must be to manage projects better. Solid project management must be a big component of the cure, right? That has been my experience, and leadership success has given me the confidence to take on almost any management challenge.

Trends, Trends and Trends

There is no shortage of articles on important trends for today’s IT project managers.
Examples include “The 5 Biggest Project Management Trends Shaping 2018,” “Top 12 PM Trends for 2018” and “Pulse of the Profession 2018”. These are just three examples.

Some of the trend articles, presentations and blog posts are from people who work for companies that make project management software. When you read some of these articles you will probably agree that the association with project management software is an asset, not a liability, for these writers and practitioners. Tool use generally helps the project manager do their job better, especially when it comes to task tracking and repository tools.

One thing that strikes me about the trends discussed is how the selection of a specific trend can depend on your work experience. For example, the rising role of women in project management doesn’t seem like a trend if you have observed women as project managers in your work experience for decades. The same is true for remote teams. Global companies have built project teams from people all over the world for decades, so it may not qualify (based on your experience) as something that is just now developing—it’s not exactly an emerging movement. Put aside your own experience and consider these trends.

What Matters?

The trends that matter should be those that align with the research. What trends reinforce good project management or help focus on alignment with the business or project personnel? Here are three trends that matter.

  1. Use of artificial intelligence and analytics dashboards could help with better understanding and managing projects. According to CIO from IDG, estimation, resource management and KPIs are just a few of the key areas where machine learning and predictive analytics can have a positive impact on project outcomes. It makes perfect sense, right? This is just the next step for basic tools that have been used for more than a decade.
  2. The importance of emotional intelligence (EI) is something that has been around for some time but has been slow to be appreciated. However, EI as a key success factor is now catching on. Emotional intelligence is related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and team leadership as applied to the management of project teams. A good primer to the topic is available from the Project Management Institute website. You can study and learn the tactics to improve your EI.
  3. Remote teams have been part of everyday life for some companies for years but are emerging more and more as a trend in assembling teams. What’s new is a focus on how to effectively manage those teams. Remote teams can be made up of people from the same country or different countries. As more countries are involved, this introduces time and cultural challenges. When is the best time for a status meeting between the U.S. and Japan? How do you know the holiday schedule in Israel so you avoid conflicts when scheduling events like product announcements and education? This activity is challenging enough that there is software that has a special focus on resource scheduling that helps to address these challenges.

Next week, I’ll finish up this series on IT project management with a discussion on skills, experience and certifications.