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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

5 Big Changes in the World of Project Management

There’s a lot of change going on in project teams and project management offices (PMOs) right now. Many factors are driving change, from the new ways people work and communicate to the need to be more efficient. The net result is that the world of project management is changing.

As more companies struggle to boost their bottom line—in many cases by reducing costs, because their markets or industries aren’t growing significantly—project teams are charged with prioritizing initiatives to stay in line with new business strategies.

And improving efficiency is key. The Project Management Institute reported that for every $1 billion organizations invest in projects and programs, they risk losing more than $100 million. New methodologies and better communication are driving the change to more efficient projects.

Project leaders, stakeholders and team members are navigating a tremendous amount of change today as they strive to meet new expectations in the world of project management. Here are five key changes:

1. The PMO is less tactical and more strategic

Historically, PMOs weren’t typically responsible for the strategy behind the projects they managed. Responsibility for the objectives and strategic alignment of projects usually resided somewhere else, and the PMO was simply tasked with executing—whether the strategy was right or wrong.

Here’s what’s changing. Two-way communication of business strategy from executive levels to project teams means all levels of the business are aware of strategy and how every project plays a part. Strategy is more clearly communicated by executives and team members are empowered to make adjustments to keep projects aligned, creating an environment where bottom-up guidance is as important to strategy as top-down direction. All of this gives the PMO a vital strategic role as it analyzes and communicates to both the executive stakeholders and the project teams.

2. Team members expect to collaborate

Project teams today are more democratic. Each individual team member is empowered with more responsibility and a voice that can impact the direction of the project. There are many factors contributing to the nature of project teams today, from new methodologies to the influence of social media.

New methodologies like Agile have had a huge impact on how project teams interact today, whether teams officially practice Agile or not. From stand-up meetings to simply identifying obstacles, project teams today have taken on collaborative techniques and team members expect to work closely with their colleagues to collaborate and drive consensus.

The influence of social media has impacted all areas of our lives and project teams are no different. We are all accustomed to showing reaction or commenting on what we see on social media—where participation is not only encouraged, it’s expected. Putting forward our opinions and seeing the opinions of others has become part of our culture and it’s making our project teams more collaborative than ever before.

3. Social media has changed team communication

While social media has impacted the way we interact with colleagues, it has more directly changed how colleagues and teams communicate with each other. Work colleagues now expect to communicate with each other via the same social network threads and messaging that they use to communicate in their personal lives.

The collaborative nature of today’s project teams heightens the need for this modern communication. Project teams now expect their project-related applications to have the same social network communication functions that they use in their personal lives. Just as email has come to be too disconnected and slow in their personal lives, team members expect project-related communication to be thread-based by topic and visible to everyone on the team.

Increasingly, PMOs are taking advantage of cloud-powered social communication tools that let team members initiate conversation and share information between status calls. By facilitating more timely conversations, PMOs can ensure that projects are kept on schedule, and maybe even accelerated. Team members can quickly communicate crucial information, or just get a quick answer to a simple question.

In addition to more efficient collaboration, discussion threads give project leads a well-documented record and timeline to track precisely how big and small decisions were made during the course of the project.

4. Lean technology has taken over

The days of large, complex project portfolio management (PPM) systems customized for specialized processes are over. Systems that were once considered comprehensive when first implemented have become cumbersome and expensive to manage, and difficult or impossible to upgrade. This can leave an organization stuck on an old system built to support processes that may no longer even be used and without modern functionality to meet today’s project management needs.

I’m seeing many organizations transition to solutions that are easier and lighter to implement and require less overhead, maintenance and cost. They are typically moving to more out-of-the-box functionality and staying away from customizations or even complex configurations. They are looking to keep things simpler and lighter, focus on the core functionality they need, and stay up-to-date on new versions to take advantage of new features as they materialize.

The cloud is a big factor in leaner technology. Like in most other lines of business systems, cloud-based PPM systems are becoming the norm. Project management leaders recognize that cloud solutions provide lower overhead and the ability to prioritize initial investments in core functions, and then seamlessly roll out other capabilities as needed.

5. Project insight must be up-to-the-minute, 24/7

Many of the same factors driving the changes in team communication are driving the need for immediate insight. Project managers, stakeholders, and team members all expect up-to-the-minute insight into execution, financial, and resource status in the same way they expect to collaborate and communicate at all times. Project methodology changes—including the shift to more iterative project delivery—create shorter project timeframes, further driving the need for more immediate insight.

PMOs today have no choice but to utilize a system that can provide up-to-the-minute project insight with comprehensive data to answer project-related questions at any time. Increasingly, PMOs are opting for solutions that offer self-service dashboards for stakeholders and team members to access key metrics on their own.

To learn more about how to transform your PMO into a nimble, strategy-driving engine, read our whitepaper, “Five Minutes on Modern Project Management.”

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