2018: the time comes for project managers

Young woman facing away from a window and looking forward

What has 2017 meant for project managers and what is coming around the corner in 2018? Karen Ferris of Macanta Consulting looks ahead to the challenges facing project managers and their organizations next year.

Karen FerrisThe need to be both waterfall and agile in projects has hit a lot of project managers this year.

And while many organizations are talking about agile, unless they were “born digital” they’ve been struggling to come to terms with what agile means to them.

Yes, there’s no denying that business is changing more quickly than ever. However, project managers still need to question the use of agile, regardless of it being “new and shiny”. If most of their resources are neither agile-enabled nor trained they need to decide whether it’s actually needed.

That said, change and digital disruption are also becoming a constant and businesses will need the capability to shift direction rapidly, with change becoming more iterative and incremental. In that case, project managers need to become more agile to work in such an environment. It might start with doing agile with a little “a” to accommodate small, but rapid, changes happening all the time to keep the business moving ahead.

Room for improvement in projects

For too long, project success has been defined by time, budget and functionality. However, especially in IT, businesses are becoming more savvy and less accepting of those success criteria.

Instead, they’re asking how much value the project has delivered, what’s the uptake and what’s the customer experience? Projects are going to have to improve on all those fronts.

It’s a well-worn statistic that 70% of projects fail? In reality, if only one third of projects were successful we’d all be out of business. Organizations today need to define new ways of measuring success.

Project managers and teams

Project managers and teams will need to be more versatile to handle the speed of change. Individuals will need to have more than one specific area of knowledge and incorporate leadership skills, communication and facilitation into their skills toolkit.

Delivering rapid, short-term improvements to businesses will require a team of people who will do that but then disband. So, the project manager needs team-building skills as teams form, self-organize and then dissolve, making way for the next team. And these teams could be globally dispersed.

The demands of organizational change mean that businesses will have to be “change ready”; that means having people transition skills also.

On a slightly worrying note, I keep hearing discussions during projects that “we need human/user-centric design, getting users involved up-front to see what they think”. Really? The penny ought to have dropped by now that it’s essential to involve users/customers in the design!

IT projects need to overcome the tendency to improve something based on “working in the dark” because users and customers now expect from business technology the level of customer experience they get from technology in their personal lives.

With such a rate of change affecting organizations, there is going to be even greater demand for the skills of project managers. They should recognize that this really is their moment!

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Karen Ferris

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Comments

11 Dec 2017 Wesley Derrick
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Looking forward to the year 2018! Thanks for sharing the article.
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