Posted: March 26, 2018
By: Nicole Laidler
Three Project Management Trends to Watch
With more than 25 years of managing complex systems integration and software development projects, Kevin Aguanno has had a front row seat to the evolution of project management. It’s an industry in flux, says Aguanno, President of Procept Associates Ltd. and its Agile Practice Lead.
As organizations struggle to keep pace with a rapidly-changing work environment, it’s up to project managers to keep stakeholders working together towards a common goal. Here are three project management trends Aguanno says can help them succeed.
An expanded lifecycle
For many years, a project was deemed successful if it was delivered on time and on budget. Today, Aguanno says that’s no longer enough.
“Business people are looking for the achievements of business case benefits and whether the project delivers the value it was intended to bring in the first place.”
Project work actually begins long before a contract is signed, Aguanno notes, and involves everything from gathering project requirements and preparing the business case to setting realistic expectations and budgets.
“I would strongly suggest that upfront work is sometimes what makes or breaks a project,” he says.
In response, professional standards bodies such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) have identified stakeholder management and business analysis as key knowledge areas for project management professionals.
And a project manager’s work no longer ends when the deliverables have been met. “We may have delivered a new system, but we need to make sure that people are trained and are motivated to use it,” Aguanno explains. “A project isn’t over until the benefits are realized, which may extend the project well into the future.”
Motivating a global team
In the past, most projects were completed in-house. Today, team members may be located in different countries across the globe.
Managing a virtual team presents project management professionals with several new challenges. “Not only do you have to work across time zones, but you may be managing projects with team members from diverse cultural backgrounds,” Aguanno notes.
Communicating via email or over the telephone eliminates visual clues that can be crucial to effective team management. While video conferencing can make things a little easier, technology still can’t replace face-to-face discussion.
Aguanno believes that the next big trend in project management will be learning how to grow cultural awareness to better manage virtual teams. “How do you motivate somebody you’ve never met?” he asks. “That’s the challenge that we will see more of as we continue to become a globalized society.”
An ability to manage rapid change
As the scope of project management grows, so too does the necessity to respond to a complex work environment where change is indeed the only constant.
Traditional project management, which takes a phase-based approach with minimal communication between team members, often can’t adapt quickly enough to rapid change.
That’s led to the rise of Agile project management – a strategy that incorporates flexibility into the process from the outset.
“Agile is a set of management practices intended to reduce project risk in a high-change environment,” says Aguanno, who currently teaches the Certificate in Agile Project Management at Western Continuing Studies.
“The idea is to have a high-level plan, but to work out the details in little pieces just-in-time. By breaking a project up into smaller segments you can use the latest information instead of creating waste by planning too far in advance.”
While Aguanno cautions against taking a one-size-fits-all approach to project management, he says the ability to adapt to change will continue to play a key role as organizations struggle to maintain their competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Alison Adair has completed certificates in Project Management and Agile Project Management through Western Continuing Studies. She says growing her knowledge has helped her “keep all the balls in the air” in her role as Communications Manager at Western Continuing Studies.
“In communications and marketing, you often have numerous projects on the go, whether it’s a new campaign or a website launch. I knew that project management would really help my skill set,” she explains.
Adair says learning the Agile approach has been particularly valuable. “Agile allows you to constantly evaluate and to build in efficiencies as the project progresses,” she says. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the huge improvement in communication and collaboration. Everybody now feels accountable for the end result. They feel part of the bigger plan and can see the role they play in achieving it.”
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