Project management tools and techniques have been critical yet neglected areas. There is a perception that the project management office (PMO) is a slow coach with barely any movement and continues to be the same as it was a decade ago. Nothing has changed much except for changes in technology and business in general.
Well, you are not the only one to think so and here is some great news for you….its changing for good. And hence the title…ChangeTastic !
Yes it is true that the focus is on following standard processes to deliver the desired results but the delivery methods are undergoing a sea change forcing project managers to keep learning and improving or simply be left out as non-performers. The role of modern project management tools and techniques has been quietly evolving in the background. And while all this is happening, there is always that strong eye on governance, which cannot be compromised. It goes beyond what typical project management software can provide.
Table of Contents –
Complete Guide On Project Management Tools And Techniques 2021
- Leading IT Trends Contributing To Changes To Project Management Tools And Techniques
- 1. Cloud Computing is an industry accelerator
- 2. Server Consolidation and Virtualization
- 3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
- 4. Social Media has opened up new marketing and sales opportunities
- 5. Big Data is the new raw material of businesses
- 6. IT projects are becoming more complex
- Human trends driving change in the way projects are handled by Project Managers
- 7. Collaboration makes us better
- 8. Focus on Design…balance between form and function
- 9. Small is better managed
- 10. Sustainability in the projects we deliver (environment needs protection)
- 11. Delivering on Business Strategy
- 12. Virtual work teams are the new normal
- 13. Rolling-Wave Planning is here to stay
- 14. Customer Centric…where the customer defines success
- Continued excitement about Agile projects
- 15. Agile is transforming stakeholder and contributor relations
- 16. Team based Agile Training… not just for one individual
- Project Management Office (PMO) and Leadership Trends
- 17. Project Management “Professionalization”
- 18. Distributed leadership runs the show
- 19. Working With Accidental Project Managers…a double edged sword
- PMO as a Career: Visible Tends
- 20. Why do I need certification when I can learn online?
- 21. PMO: Create Career Paths Or Lose Your Staff
- 22. Successful Project managers are a blend of expertise and soft skills
- 1. Stakeholder relationship
- 2. Great leadership and Communication skills
- 23. Project managers or savvy entrepreneurs
- 24. The cross-skilled Project Manager
- 25. Top Reasons for Project management failure
- 26. The Only Constant will be Change
Contrary to general belief, the PMO is a continuously evolving function both on processes and best practices. Continued improvement and embracement of the consistently transforming business landscape is the backbone of the PMO agenda just as it is for any other business function. Therefore, reviewing and adapting lessons learned from previous projects and keeping to the goals of lean management is of utmost importance to the PMO. After all, it is the PMO that is in charge of execution and delivery of results for the leadership team in any organization.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Most people feel they are better at project planning and management but the reality is just the opposite
- Most project managers cite accidental projects as their introduction to project management
That being said, let us take a look at the latest trends shaping the project management world and how project managers can make the most of it to try and make themselves indispensable (to a certain extent!). This covers project management tools and techniques as well as the career outlook in 2021.The trends have been grouped into broad categories following the Wikipedia style to make it easy for consumption and further analysis.
1. Leading IT Trends Contributing To Changes To Project Management Tools And Techniques
1. Cloud Computing is an industry accelerator
The emergence of cloud computing has brought about big changes in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) landscape. More and more companies are now leveraging the low-cost option provided by cloud computing and moving their software to the cloud. Leveraging the SaaS based alternatives to bring down the cost also means a significant increase in the number of projects required to so. This means more project managers are required to handle these mission-critical projects without causing any downtime. This is where the project manager’s skills and expertise become extremely valuable due to the complex nature of these projects. The project manager therefore has to interact and manage not only internal resources but also cloud vendors and other third-party vendors who may be involved in providing services to the project.
Organizations are facing an acute shortage of the right project management skills.
Importance of project management skills is only realized after a project underperforms but its too late by then
Needless to say, project management tools and techniques will have to be modified to accommodate the needs of such mission critical projects. This is a scenario that will gain significant prominence in the years to come as more and more organizations start migrating their services to the cloud. Project management software vendors are working to accommodate this aspect into their products but it is an evolution game which will take time.
Project management as a role will also undergo big changes in accommodating new processes to make such migrations a success. This also means inclusion of new sets of best practices and raising the bar in terms of real time project execution.
2. Server Consolidation and Virtualization
Another area driving demand for qualified project managers is server consolidation and virtualization. Over the last few years there has been a consistent growth in the need for high powered servers with the capacity to expand on a need basis. Therefore, older servers which do not meet current requirements need to be phased out and the workload needs to be transferred to the high-end servers. This is no mean task and can easily expand to a project with a thousand heads. The risk of downtimes affecting productivity of the organization is high and therefore becomes a critical task for the IS organization to handle. Server consolidation on one end and migration to cloud services on the other are two tools to reduce cost for today’s organizations. Project management tools and techniques used in such projects will be different from the regular ones run by the PMO. We will see an increase in projects of this nature as the SaaS and on-demand computing landscape evolves further. These are ideal candidates for project managers with complex project management capabilities to shine their way to success.
3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The concept of bring your own device or BYOD is being well-received across organizations. The main reason for this being the reduction in budgets while also providing employees with the option of using their own devices. While this sounds easy, it increases the complexities in the backend for the IS organization. To create an environment conducive to BYOD, the IS organization has to make numerous changes to its existing set up and make it possible for these devices to seamlessly integrate with the organization’s infrastructure. This also means an increase in the backend infrastructure related projects. Such projects involve a two-pronged approach of integration and security management. Project managers in these functions need to be aware of the technical complexities involved during the execution dealing with software for multiple platforms, development, testing, managing budgets and timely execution. While the BYOD concept is being embraced openly and it does bring down the costs, it has also resulted an increase in the demand for qualified project managers require to manage these backend integration projects.
4. Social Media has opened up new marketing and sales opportunities
Organizations in the B2C and B2B space are increasingly looking at social media as tools for sales and marketing. Social media has become an important part of the overall marketing strategy. B2C organizations are not only using this for marketing purposes but also as lead generators which finally converted to sales.
As a result, items like search engine optimization, website designing, Twitter postings, Facebook and LinkedIn account management are turning out to be mini projects in themselves.
These mini projects make up important pillars of the marketing strategy with the decisive impact on the business. Senior management is therefore keen to understand the metrics behind such social media initiatives. Projects like these require a lot of information sharing between different groups in real time. From a marketing perspective, go to market strategy and campaign management which involved social media tools for lead generation and information sharing are huge projects in themselves. From a project management tools and techniques perspective, the inclusion of social media is a positive addition as it provides for more data points that can be analyzed to improve best practices. These require qualified project managers who understand marketing and sales operations and its impact on the business while also having skills and expertise to closely monitor such projects on a day-to-day basis. The reporting dashboard, after all, is a result of these activities in action. Going forward one can expect an increase in the number of social media tools and thereafter a consolidation in an attempt to bring all the results into a single dashboard, all of these would be complex projects that will need to be executed just like any other IT project.
5. Big Data is the new raw material of businesses
In the last couple of years, big data has made a grand entry and has gained a lot of hype across organizations. However organizations are still not fully aware of how to leverage big data to improve business results. There has been a lot of investment by organizations that got sold on the hype surrounding big data and these led to a spur in the number of complex big data projects. The hype is now settling down and organizations are now beginning to see and understand how to collect meaningful metrics and data and analyze them to make business sense. Social media is one of the key areas where big data is being used immensely. Data from Google searches, Facebook, LinkedIn searches, etc. are being collected to understand consumer trends. This was initially being used mainly for B2C organizations but now the trend is picking up with B2B organizations as well. While the uses are endless, the setting up of such projects can be very complex. It is imperative to understand the goals and objectives of these project right in the beginning as it involves huge investments. From a project management perspective, these initiatives require multilevel collaboration, defining new processes and best practices, creating new business relationships and multimodal dashboards. These projects will keep evolving in the future as more needs surface and the manager will need to review overall project management tools and techniques to accommodate additional project requirements from time to time.
6. IT projects are becoming more complex
As mentioned above, emerging technologies and the focus on cutting costs and improving the bottom line for organizations has resulted in the creation of complex projects. In many cases, issues like new technology platforms, inclusion of mobile, social media, cloud computing and server consolidation and virtualization need to be tackled together in a single project. This also involves handling multiple departments, stakeholder management (both internal and external), dealing with different cultures and virtual organizations across the globe. The level of expertise required to handle such complex projects is usually not available in the resource market.
Due to this, in many cases, we see the birth of accidental project managers who may not be suitable for the role but have to fill in due to lack of availability of talent. Complexities are expected to increase further and project managers who can demonstrate the ability to deal with these situations and help the organization succeed will be in huge demand.
2. Human trends driving change in the way projects are handled by Project Managers
7. Collaboration makes us better
Collaboration is gaining significance with each passing day. While a lot of science and research has gone into improving the available or existing collaboration tools. Psychological traits around how people behave and learn and what motivates them is now being incorporated into some of these tools. Needless to say a lot of these features now being added to the capabilities available with existing project management tools as well. This is resulting in better communication through collaboration while also helping in understanding the gaps and helping in getting the assignment or project done quickly without wasting a lot of time. Previously, it used to be a case of identifying lagging milestones and activities through daily stand-up meetings or the weekly review between the teams. However this is changing for good as a project manager can now identify pitfalls using the dashboards available for these project management tools.
A project management check list is of no use without proper communication.
Most project management metrics show negatives due to lack of project management communication.
These are human skills which cannot be corrected by using software project management plan!
Due to these improvements, there has been a continuous change and departure from the traditional views on project management. Earlier theories are being challenged by incorporating human behavior for better communication and collaboration in these tools and increase the success rate of projects. This does not mean that projects don’t face hurdles any more but yes it does help in reducing roadblocks, saving time and improving quality of the final deliverables.
Such a human behavior based approach to project management helps the project manager improve upon existing best practices and raise the bar when it comes to successful project delivery. In short, one can expect to see vast improvements on the collaborative capabilities of software available for project management monitoring.
8. Focus on Design…balance between form and function
The traditional form of project management has been following a set of standard practices and processes in scoping, planning and executing projects. These form the base parameters of any project management tools and techniques manual. While one can argue that the system has been designed taking into account all the necessary steps to leave the project to success, it has been clearly seen that it sometimes lacks focus on aligning with the strategic direction of the organization and lacks the ability to leverage innovation and change in the process. The rigidity of the system sometimes becomes a limiting factor in executing projects mainly due to the inability to make changes midway without clearly understanding the impact on other parts of the project.
Project and portfolio management tools focus on project management technology and processes as these are important components of project management.
However, a skilled project manager needs to have a clear idea of the end result and list down possible risks during the project management planning phase itself.
Clearly it is not enough to just take into account the needs and requirements of the project as a standalone. It is critically important to make sure that the project is in sync with the strategic direction that the senior management wants to follow. This is where the approach of design thinking comes into play. The usage of methods like pathway mapping, observational analysis and experience modelling helps in achieving the above-mentioned objectives. This also helps in understanding the complexity involved. What may seem as a simple project, when subjected to the design approach, may come across as a complex deliverable in the larger scheme of things for the organization.
Going forward, project managers would have the additional responsibility of understanding the strategic direction and the alignment of the project in question and then taking a call on how best to execute the project.
This will also bring out the willingness of senior management or the respective leadership teams in sponsoring the project and the level of engagement they are prepared to provide both from a collaborative and problem solving perspective.
In other words, focus on design helps in going beyond the realm of traditional management approach and ascertaining whether the project is really necessary and whether you have the right team in place to make it a success. It is the ability to ask a multitude of questions and seek answers right in the beginning that helps minimize pitfalls at later stages. Focus on design of the project as an important parameter helps incorporate the agile project management approach to project management thereby making it flexible and open to changes at any point during the project while also staying aligned to the strategic direction.
9. Small is better managed
We have already mentioned that IT projects are becoming more complex with each passing year. There is a lot of investment involved and a failure or delay in completing the project means additional cost for the organization. Taking this into account some organizations are trying to move away from large projects by breaking them down into smaller sequential projects. This way they have an eye on the cost and can monitor the progress better. This is true especially in cases where customers continue to expect faster return on investment and have a low risk appetite. This is where the agile methodology or agile project management approach comes into play enabling project managers to deliver daily weekly and monthly milestones without causing a big dent in the overall investment. One of the other benefits of this approach is that project managers can deploy the right talent for the right job. This approach is also supported by research that suggests that multiple smaller projects have a higher probability of succeeding when compared to a large complex project.
The flip side to this approach is that there will be a significant increase in the number of projects being handled within the organization. From a project management tools and techniques perspective, this means pressure on both quantity as well as quality. In many cases it may require more project managers than it would have in the case of one large project.
10. Sustainability in the projects we deliver (environment needs protection)
A new parameter being added to evaluate project success is its ability to protect natural resources and reduce the waste footprint. This is being done with the objective of delivering sustainable projects with minimal impact on the environment. This is particularly true in the case of construction and IT related projects. Sustainability as a pattern meter is still at its infancy and new processes and methodologies are expected to be added as best practices to deliver upon this objective.
11. Delivering on Business Strategy
The scope of the project management role is expected to widen with the additional responsibility of helping in translating the CEOs ideas into reality through a set of projects. They will no more be seen as individual project owners but will be expected to understand the strategic vision and turn it into reality. Strategy execution will be a key part of their portfolio.
12. Virtual work teams are the new normal
Organizations are seeing opening offices emerging and developing countries in a bit to leverage low cost talent and infrastructure options. Having presence in multiple locations in multiple countries leads to a complex situation for project managers. More often than not, projects will involve resources and infrastructure from multiple locations. Project managers are already facing the challenge of managing resources from different time zones and cultures while ensuring project success. Gone are those days when the project would be managed from within the meeting room. Project managers will need to be savvy users off the latest project management tools to be able to manage virtual teams effectively.
13. Rolling-Wave Planning is here to stay
Rolling wave planning is the process of planning projects and phases as opposed to creating a plan for the entire project. It is similar to creating a broad table of contents of a book and then for each chapter. This methodology evolved out of the realization that it is practically impossible to provide a detailed plan for each phase at the beginning of the project. Providing a broad outline in the beginning and adding details as the phase progresses helps in countering the obsolescence. This methodology in sync with agile is the way to go forward for project management professionals.
14. Customer Centric…where the customer defines success
The definition of project success is changing slowly. While the conventional framework focused mainly on scoping, planning and execution, the modern approach isn’t leaning towards measurement of perceived customer value. Today it is not enough to just ensure that the costs are contained. It is equally critical to make sure that the customers requirements have been clearly understood and met.
The “Customer” is now taking over as priority #1 among project management objectives. Project management process groups are now including this parameter while assessing workflows and results. Leaders are focusing on customer based assignments as project management examples during trainings.
In other words, project management is moving from being a mechanical system and embracing the customer centric approach. Customer retention is only possible if the customer is happy. Transparency in the project management process and stakeholder involvement go a long way in achieving this goal. As visible with the earlier trends, it is becoming increasingly critical of the project manager to understand the business side of things while also developing leadership qualities. Needless to say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find project management professionals having all these qualities.
Organizations understand that merely following the methodologies and frameworks cannot assure the success of any project. It needs stakeholder engagement, teamwork, proper collaboration and the human approach to make a project successful in the long-term. This is also one of the reasons that project success is being measured on the final customer value.
3. Continued excitement about Agile projects
15. Agile is transforming stakeholder and contributor relations
With the increasing popularity of agile, project managers in the IT landscape are now being forced to review the traditional approach to project management. They now have the additional responsibility of getting both the stakeholders and the contributors on board, communicating with each other, discussing requirements and deliverables and reaching a consensus regarding the milestones to be achieved.
Benefits of agile project management can be recognised only when the whole team is in sync with the end goal. People have different notions of ‘AGILE’ which often results in ego clashes and unnecessary delays. In many cases, its not the project but lack of coordination and communication around the agile methodology that fails the project.
While this is a big departure from the conventional project management approach, it also means that the project manager needs to on his leadership and communication skills to make this approach work. In addition, this is not a one-time task. Continued communication between the stakeholders and the contributors is essential on an ongoing basis. With the agile methodology, changes would be incorporated in a phased manner and it will be a consistent need to refine the final deliverables and the timelines for the same.
This approach will continue to gain importance and acceptance as the end results are far better than the conventional approach. That being said, organizations will need to figure out better ways to implement agile methodologies while also keeping a sharp eye on the scope cost and resources involved. This will demand a completely different mindset not only from project managers but also from the stakeholders and the contributors. Organizations may even have to identify the right form of training to make agile work.
16. Team based Agile Training… not just for one individual
Gone are the days when an individual member from the team was trained to deliver on a particular objective. As mentioned earlier, project management tools and techniques are witnessing a sea change and one of the factors involves moving focus from the individual to the team. With the increasing use of agile approach, it is important to improve efficiency of the team as a whole rather than specific individuals. Therefore, it makes more sense to train the entire team so that responsibility can be shared.
Going forward, we will see organizations training the team as a whole on the nuances of the project and the skills required to make it a success. Yes it involves additional cost but then the cost is justified when the foster outcomes and collaborative approach contribute significantly in delivering far higher customer value than the traditional approach. Team training also ensures that each member of the team feels equally important raising the overall productivity levels.
4. Project Management Office (PMO) and Leadership Trends
17. Project Management “Professionalization”
Organizations are realizing that project management is a professional job and cannot be done by just any individual. It requires people with professional qualifications in project management who also possess strong leadership and communication skills. Understand that project management tools and techniques is not just a term for the books but needs to be followed with a practical approach. While the CEO can come up with ideas take the organization to the next level, it is the project management office that has the added responsibility to convert these ideas into real projects with executable milestones. We do see accidental managers in project management roles but that is simply due to the lack of availability of qualified project management professionals. Organizations are slowly realizing this and making extra efforts to retain their project management professionals. This is being done by supporting such professionals with additional training and certification programs and providing them with opportunities to handle more complex projects.
18. Distributed leadership runs the show
We mentioned earlier that projects are getting more complex and customers are shifting their preference to into many smaller ones. This also creates the case for distributed leadership as it would be impossible to manage a large number of projects directly from the project management office. This creates the need to groom leaders at different levels in the organization to make these projects successful. With greater adoption of the agile approach, it is common sensical to start tapping into talent within organizations and grooming them for leadership roles. This will also mean grooming accidental project managers with the right education and mentoring to enable them to deliver results.
19. Working With Accidental Project Managers…a double edged sword
We have mentioned accidental project managers many times before. We have also mentioned that it is the lack of talented project management professionals which gives birth to these accidental project managers. Without formal training it becomes extremely difficult for these accidental project managers to lead and ensure project success. Needless to say, it also becomes difficult for stakeholders and the contributors to work in sync unless the project manager is equipped enough to make this happen efficiently. Therefore, the largest challenge for the PMO is to figure how to quickly train these people and bring them up to speed on their project management capabilities. The PMO will have to focus on these individuals and engaged with them on a continuous basis and provide support and guidance throughout the life of the project.
Each project manager will have to be mentored differently. Some may be good leaders while others may be natural project managers – so the training needs will have to be identified separately. Going forward, we expect to see the PMO encouraging more individuals to take up the role of accidental project managers and thereafter grooming them into true professionals. Over a period of time, it is expected to become a key result area for the PMO to groom talent internally.
5. PMO as a Career: Visible Tends
20. Why do I need certification when I can learn online?
This is the big question being raised especially due to the emergence of open online courses provided by some of the popular institutions. The advantage with these open courses is that accidental managers and even professionals for that matter can learn the required skill as and when the need arises during a given project. This is an excellent resource especially for accidental project managers who do not have certifications on hand. On the other hand, a certification goes a long way in building your expertise and justifying your credentials to the PMO. That said, Project Management certification will still lead the way to further development and understanding of this role.
The certifications and credentials prove that dedicated efforts have been invested in acquiring project management skills as a profession. Going forward, there will be a blend project managers with both type of skills. We will see more of business analysts transitioning into project management roles and vice a versa. However, certification will continue to be a prerequisite for individuals aiming to develop a career in project management.
21. PMO: Create Career Paths Or Lose Your Staff
Individuals feel highly motivated and they have well-defined career paths within their organization. However, not many organizations want to talk when it comes to defining clear career paths within the PMO. This often leads to project managers looking for better roles and progression outside the organization. In organizations that are project centric, it becomes difficult to recruit and groom another project manager in a short span of time. Managing career paths for existing resources would be a far better option for PMO’s than having to invest time and efforts and recruiting and grooming new talent. Given the lack of qualified project management professionals and the increasing number of projects both in terms of complexity and volumes, the scenario is bound to change. The project manager’s salary is another area that needs revision although very little is being done to understand the benefits of this role in isolation.
PMOs will be forced to take this seriously and start defining clear career paths and retaining talent within the organization as this will become the need of the hour.
22. Successful Project managers are a blend of expertise and soft skills
1. Stakeholder relationship
We have already seen this is a key requirement for agile methodologies to succeed. It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that both the stakeholders and the contributors are well connected and have a transparent communication process to reduce possible roadblocks. This is a necessary skill for project managers and become only through practice. As the focus on perceived customer value increases as a parameter for success of projects, there will be increased emphasis on the project manager to focus on relationships. Moreover, having an engaged stakeholder relationship is crucial for the successful management of complicated projects.
2. Great leadership and Communication skills
Project managers need to go beyond their professional skills and focus on soft skills as the era of agile approach matures. Why talent management is an important aspect for the PMO, they would focus their energy on retaining people with good leadership and communication skills. While certifications are necessary, the business understands and values leadership skills as the core element of any project, be it simple or complex.
Just like leadership, communication skills is another aspect that each project management professional needs to focus upon. The best projects could go wrong due to bad communication skills. Lack of transparency and communication between the stakeholders and the contributors of the project could lead to disastrous results. On the other hand, continues communication and objective feedback can help even after badly plan project to succeed without too many problems. Communication skills is one area where not only the PMO but also the individual needs to invest in taking his career to the next level.
23. Project managers or savvy entrepreneurs
An effective project manager is expected to be a great leader and communicator. They grow with each project and the learning is enormous. It is just like starting a new business or taking the entrepreneurial route. Project managers learn to tackle roadblocks and overcome hurdles during each project. The agile and lean methodology teaches them to bring changes in existing project management tools and techniques, and refine the deliverables on an ongoing basis. They are also expected to align projects with the strategic vision of the organization. In short all these activities helps them build their business acumen and it is not new to see project management professionals taking up entrepreneurial roles within organizations are starting up new businesses by themselves. Organizations and the PMO will find it extremely difficult to retain talent due to the entrepreneurial nature of the PMO role.
24. The cross-skilled Project Manager
This is no surprise. Project management professionals are expected to go beyond the certifications and hone their soft skills. Many a times they are required to be involved in business analysis and alignment of projects with the strategic vision. Being involved in multiple projects gives them the exposure to deal with different aspects of the business apart from the core project management function. Needless to say, this gives rise to talented project management professionals who are skilled in multiple areas. These skills can also be applied on other domains which might not be there area of expertise, with minimum effort. The cross skilled project manager is here to stay and will often find acceptance and employment in multiple areas of the organization.
25. Top Reasons for Project management failure
- Lack of team inclusion during planning phase of project management
- Lack of clarity and timing of various project management phases
- Underestimation of technical project management details
- Corporate project management being misunderstood with business goals
- Senior management not understanding project manager requirements
- Lack of knowledge to use the right project portfolio management tools
- Wrong assessment of project management risk
- Using wrong project management maturity models
- Incorrect project management metrics
- Lack of best practices in project management
- No project management check list in place
- Ego clash within project management leadership
- Little or no knowledge of project management strategies
- Project manager lacking tools and techniques of project management
26. The Only Constant will be Change
Successful project managers will be the ones who go beyond their certification and adapt to the changing business landscape. They will need to continue honing the skills and learning how to use the latest project management tools effectively and efficiently. They will need to understand emerging technology platforms, social media, cloud computing, and other areas of technology that directly impact their projects. This trait is what will separate the men from the boy’s. Only those who embrace changes and move faster than their peers will be successful in this profession. Others run a higher risk of burnout and therefore being left out. Project management as a profession will not change significantly but the tools in use and the processes will definitely evolve, forcing project managers to be on their toes and adapt to these changes.
So there you have it! A compilation of the TOP trends in Project Management in today’s ever changing and competitive world. As we move forward, some of the above points will get washed out giving in to other new trends while some others will evolve further. The project management office is here to stay but will witness a sea change in the usage of various project management tools and techniques – what will drastically change is the way it is handled to achieve the desired results. In some cases it will get merged and become an eternal part of business management while with others, it may strengthen its position and highlight the need to be run as a separate Project Management Office accommodating the evolution in its long journey ahead