Project Management Trends and Emerging Practices
By Keith Wilson, B.Comm., PMP, MCT, MCTS
The new Sixth Edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) identifies important shifts in the way certain project events and tools are handled.
Read on for some trends and emerging practices to take note of now.
Time Management / Scheduling
Interactive scheduling is an emerging practice for project scheduling, and it starts with a backlog which is a form of rolling wave planning often used in Agile projects.
Another trend is to employ on-demand scheduling. This is an approach typically used in the Kanban System. It is based on the theory-of-constraints and pulled-based scheduling concepts from lean manufacturing to limit the team’s work in progress. On-demand scheduling does not rely on a schedule that was developed previously but pulls work from a backlog immediately as resources become available.
Within the practice of Project Cost Management, trends include the expansion of earned value management (EVM) to cover the concept of earned schedule (ES). Earned schedule theory replaces the schedule variance measures used in traditional EVM (earned value-planned value) with ES and actual time (AT). The equation for calculating schedule variance is ES-AT. When earned schedule is greater than 0, the project is considered ahead of schedule. In other words, the project earned more than planned at a point in time. The formula for schedule performance index (SPI) using earned schedule metrics is ES/AT, which indicates the efficiency with which work is being accomplished.
Modern Quality Management approaches are another example of trends and emerging practices, which seek to minimize variation and to deliver results that meet defined stakeholder requirements. A greater emphasis is on customer satisfaction which includes understanding, evaluating, defining and managing requirements, so that customer expectations are met. Additional trends with respect to quality relate to continual improvement. The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) is the basis for quality improvement and initiatives such as total quality management, Six Sigma, and Lean Six Sigma may improve both the quality of project management, as well as the quality of the end product, service, or result.
Modern Quality Management approaches also involve the participation of all members of the project team and is not just primarily the responsibility of management.
An organization and its suppliers are interdependent. But we see trends in partnership and cooperation with the supplier — which are deemed to be more beneficial to the organizations and to the suppliers than traditional supplier management.
Project management styles are shifting away from a command and control structure for managing projects. We see a more collaborative and supportive management approach and a focus on team empowerment by delegating decision making to the team members.
Due to the scarce nature of critical resources in some industries, several trends have become popular in the past several years. These include lean management, just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, Kaizen, total productive maintenance (TPM), and theory of constraints (TOC), to name a few. A project manager should determine if their organization has adopted one or more Resource Management practices and tools and then modify their project accordingly.
Given the choice of selecting a highly technical project manager with low Emotional Intelligence (EI) or a project manager with little technical skills but high EI, which one would you choose?
Well, the project manager with high EI has significant self-awareness and self-control. In addition, they are motivated. In dealing with others, they strive to be aware of their team members’ strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes and are empathic to the other demands for their team’s time. Research suggests that project teams that succeed in developing team EI or become an emotionally confident group are more efficient.
Another trend that has arisen due to the increase in the use of Agile approaches is the self-organizing team, where the team functions with an absence of centralized control.
Implementing appropriate communication strategies is vital to maintaining relationships with stakeholders. Trends and emerging practices for Project Communications Management include the inclusion of stakeholders in project reviews and project meetings.
Increased use of social computing like closed Facebook or LinkedIn groups or adding social media web parts to SharePoint sites is another emerging practice in Project Communications Management. Project managers are also taking advantage of multifaceted communication approaches using many features or perspectives.
There is an increasing recognition that non-event risks need to be identified and managed. Non-Event risks are more subtle than standard risks. For example, there may be speculation on a new governmental administration’s tax reform or regulatory relief. Any misstep or delay in these highly anticipated occurrences will cause them to be non-events.
Another trend concerning risk management is to understand variability risk. Productivity may be above or below target, the number of errors found during testing may be higher or lower than expected, or unseasonal weather conditions may occur during the construction phase. All of these are examples of variability risks. Factoring in uncertainty as risks is starting to be an emerging practice. Examples of uncertainty include risks that might happen in the future and risk associated with areas of the project where imperfect knowledge might affect the project’s success.
The existence of emergent risk is becoming clear with a growing awareness of knowable-unknowns. These are risks that can only be recognized after they have occurred. These risks can be tackled through developing project resilience, in other words, by overcoming adversity and continuing with the standard project progression. Lastly, integrated risks are the risks associated with the project as part of a program or portfolio. The risk exists at the project, program, and portfolio level, and risks should be owned and managed at the appropriate level.
There are some major trends in software tools, risks, processes, logistics, and technology that can affect project success rates. Trends and emerging practices for Project Procurement Management include Advances in tools, and more advanced risk management.
A greater emphasis is now being placed on thorough risk assessment for projects that involve international contracts with multiple contractors from multiple countries, as they are riskier than projects using only local contractors.
A trend in infrastructure and commercial construction projects is the use of technology including web cameras (webcams) to improve stakeholder communications and relations. More attention is now being placed on logistics and supply chain management, as management of the flow of materials becomes critical to the success of projects.
A new practice is to form trial engagements with selected suppliers. This involves engaging several candidate sellers for initial deliverables before making a full commitment to the best suppliers to complete a larger portion of the project scope.
Broader definitions of stakeholders are being developed that expand the traditional categories of employees, suppliers, and shareholders to include groups such as regulators and lobby groups.
An emerging trend with respect to Stakeholder Management is to also consider environmental groups, social/political activist organizations, financial organizations, the media, and those who simply believe they are stakeholders.
Ensuring that all team members are involved in stakeholder engagement activities and regularly reviewing the stakeholder community are representative of other trends in Stakeholder Management.
Also, emerging practices involve consulting with stakeholders who are most affected by the work or outcomes of the project through the concept of co-creation, and capturing the value of defective stakeholder engagement, both positive and negative.
Keith Wilson is a Microsoft Project and Project Management Senior Consultant/Trainer for International Institute for Learning, Inc. His background includes over 25 years of successful management and consulting experience, with a focus that includes project management, training, and business planning. Well known for his public speaking skills and enthusiasm, he has been a welcomed facilitator at numerous Fortune 500 corporations, Universities and Associations worldwide.