Notes on project management trends

Notes on project management trends

Whilst I have no formal training in project management (but plenty on the job experience), I'm convinced that as a discipline, it has never been more critical. Integrating project management into the way you work and where possible into the wider organisation has very tangible benefits, from adding competitive advantage to staying on-budget across departments.

Interestingly, according to PMI research in 2018, only 58% of organisations fully understand the value of project management. Another report suggests that just 22% of organisations use project management software. Despite this slow uptake, the global project management software market is expected to grow more than 10% between 2019 and 2025.

The overarching trend is that project management is better understood, more popular, and more effectively supported by great cloud-based software. As the benefits of project management are felt more widely, so its value as a framework increases. Here are some change-driving trends...

1. Agile interdepartmental collaboration

Departmental silos are being broken down by the adoption of feature-rich technology and a general shift in how teams collaborate and communicate. New tools enable quick and simple interdepartmental communication. Think of Slack, Microsoft Teams, and team-focused project management tools like Asana and Trello. These foster online collaboration, and faster sharing of ideas than ever before. These ideas must be managed through validation, execution, and reporting.

2. The rise of growth marketing

Growth marketing is the pursuit of business growth through rapid iterative experimentation. Fast-paced, dynamic, and flavour of the month in the startup world, growth marketing demands an agile mindset and the ability to pivot quickly based on data-led conclusions.

Furthermore, growth marketing experiments demand collaboration between marketing, product development, customer service, sales, and other departments.

At one of our clients, we formed “Squads”, whereby teams are comprised of members from different departments: developers, designers, marketers, salespeople, customer service agents, strategists, and more. These teams brainstorm ideas, which are subsequently scored (see ICE scoring method) for potential impact on the business. These are then put forward as “growth experiments”, but each experiment must be run as a mini-project to ensure successful delivery and reporting.

3. Consolidation of tools and methodologies

Naturally, organisations wouldn’t function without some level of project management in the background. However, it’s common to see each business unit following their own processes, terminology, and tooling. Technical and development teams typically favour JIRA and an agile methodology, whilst marketing teams prefer Asana or Trello and a task-based approach. Others might stay loyal to Microsoft Office documents, Outlook, and calendars.

As business-wide project management and interdepartmental collaboration gains traction, we see the need for a shared set of tools and processes. Some technologies are making better strides than others. I see Asana as a major player, due to its supreme flexibility and multi-functionality. It’s feasible to see an entire business running on a cloud-based platform like this, providing holistic project overviews and zoomed-in granularity on a task level.. Another tool to try is Notion which is taking an interesting approach of providing a single platform for notes, documents, knowledge-base, task, projects and databases.

4. Senior leadership buy-in

You either love or hate the granular tracking of tasks and timelines. We all know the team members who don’t respond well to nudges, and don’t welcome the transparency and visibility of rigorous project management. Some push back against the adoption of project management software, and don’t contribute to the conversation in a constructive way. But this is changing.

As the benefits of project management tools become clearer, and as more millennial digital natives assume senior roles in organisations, we will see project management methodologies gain more traction and become obligatory. This is easy for startups, because they can set their stall out early. But for larger established businesses, the retrofit process can be painful. Entrenched methodologies must be dug out.

As a project manager, I like to say:

“If it didn’t happen on <insert project management tool of choice> , it didn’t happen.”

I.e. If team members are not tracking their work effectively in the project management software then they can't get credit for it.

5. Distributed workforces

According to Invision, 73% of remote workers have gone remote in the past four years. This is a recent phenomenon, which means that organisations (especially large ones) are still adapting to the new landscape. Remote work is here to stay, and its continued growth means that management of projects involving remote staff, freelancers, and contractors needs closer attention.

Cloud-based tools will of course help, but it’s not just the technology that needs to be adopted. Project plans must account for flexible working patterns, different locations, and other variables brought about by remote teams. This is a holistic issue that impacts multiple areas of the business.

Final takeaways...

Project management has traditionally been seen as separate and distinct from other business functions. Sometimes, it has even been shunned as an unwelcome outside force. This is changing, and fast. Project management tools are more accessible than ever before, and they have more functionality than ever before. Real-time Interdepartmental collaboration is becoming the norm, and remote teams need to track progress in smart new ways to stay on track.

We’re seeing fundamental changes in how teams operate, and this has already had a profound impact on the role of project management in business. It's becoming something we all need to be good at.