10 Important Trends in Project Management 2018 (Interview)

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+++ “Without Professional Resource Planning It’s Going to Get Harder than Ever” +++ Johann Strasser, TPG Partner in an Interview +++

By Matthias Kutzscher                                                                                                         Read article in German

Project management is changing – as the companies’ challenges are changing. In this interview, TPG’s managing director Johann Strasser talks about the most important 2018 project management trends. They involve new technologies, new strategies, new models, new competencies.

Find the resource and project management trends for 2019 in this article.

1. Which trend will be important in resource management in 2018?

Strasser: The availability of a sufficient number of suitable project staff will remain the most critical factor in project planning. In Central Europe, the struggle for staff will be intensified. Companies of various sizes and from all industries are looking for qualified personnel.

These days, it takes months until vacancies are filled. This affects the project portfolio directly. Not only do companies need to decide what projects to implement. In deciding which projects they are able to start next, they are now even more dependent on actually available qualifications.

Strategic resource management in accordance with corporate objectives will also become more important.

2. What will have a significant impact on portfolio planning in the coming year?

Strasser: Digitalization and Industry 4.0 are going to entail entirely new challenges. Companies looking to remain competitive often have to develop completely new business models. As long as it is unclear how the competition should be won, there can be no optimal mix of projects for the upcoming changes.

Find out why you should choose Microsoft Project Server / Online over Standard.

The world is becoming ever more complex, both technically and politically. A clear focus calls for timely decisions that have to be in line with corporate strategy. If priorities aren’t set correctly in the project portfolio, there will be more losers in the future.

Though it has always been necessary to prioritize, there will be less and less time for adjustments in the future. But through the flexible planning of project scenarios in the various portfolios new winners will emerge, too.

3. How is the status of the Project Management Offices going to evolve?

Strasser: Top decision-makers’, project and line managers’ awareness of PMOs will be more marked than ever. The number, complexity, and relevance of projects will reach a hitherto unknown level. Organizational structures and hierarchies will change accordingly.

I forecast that PMOs will gain considerably in importance regarding the coordination of the projects. They will gain even more competencies and likewise more resources.

But PMOs are also more frequently under high scrutiny to demonstrate their benefits. After all, there are costs incurred which need to be brought in again by a higher project output and less friction in the organization.

4. Up to now, resource management has been a sort of by-product of project management. Will this notion change?

Strasser: In fact, companies tend to advance the topic of project management first. This happens with a view to eventually improve resource management in some way, too. Therefore, they start by introducing PM methods and systems and training project managers. At a later stage, they involve team leaders whose staff are to be used as resources in the projects.

With this approach, surprise is usually inevitable. Even after two years, you won’t be arrive at a reliable utilization overview.

This has two reasons. Even at this stage, not all projects will have been added to the system.  And, on the other hand, team members also perform activities outside of projects. Very often, team leaders still plan these in their home-made Excel tables.

Another interesting read: 6 Steps to Resource Management

Without bringing together the databases of project managers and team leaders, there can be no adequate solution. A paradigm shift needs to come soon.

For 2018, I would recommend: Focus on the team leaders in resource management! They are the only ones able to plan a complete resource utilization. Having a complete and possibly only rough utilization plan for all the staff is much more important. Having access to a detailed project assignment plan for only some of them is less relevant.

Of course, team planning and project planning have to be aligned regularly. At least at project level. For resource planning by the team leaders, easy-to-use systems are now available. Some can be used locally, others are cloud-based. These can also be connected to different PM systems.

5. What is your verdict on the topic project management in the cloud versus internal solutions?

Strasser: Forget internal servers; the cloud is the panacea – you can’t reduce the discussion to this phrase. But it is a fact that more and more companies are switching to project management systems in the cloud. And sooner rather than later.

Of course, there are industries that don’t want to rely on cloud-based server solutions due to extreme secrecy. But many others find that projects are faster, less costly and also better to edit on cloud-based systems.

Especially the cross-company collaboration is much easier via a system in the cloud. This has a simple reason. External staff do not require access to the solution operated at the company.

For new implementations this year, we have seen a slightly higher number of PM systems in the cloud than local installations. I venture to forecast that this trend will increase to 75% in favor of the cloud in 2018.

6. What are the inhibition thresholds for cloud solutions in project management?

Strasser: The fear not to be able to reach the system at the critical moment, insufficient performance as well as external, unauthorized data access.

But for most providers the accessibility and availability or performance have ceased to be a problem.

Regarding the data security, those responsible in the companies are beginning to understand one thing. The biggest security hole is not technology but man. Successful hacker attacks on the server infrastructure of Microsoft, for example, are less likely than the data piracy of a disappointed employee.

Moreover, most project data – including schedule and cost planning – have been in the cloud for a long time. Or haven’t you ever sent a project plan by e-mail?

7. Agile, hybrid, traditional – the ideal way for companies to control projects is subject of controversial discussion. Will this change in 2018?

Strasser: Companies are looking for the adequate method for their project management. The discourse about agile or traditional methods tends to degenerate into ideological turf wars. But lately we can observe a trend. It is becoming more and more common to talk about appropriate hybrids between agile and traditional.

For 2018, I hope that the people in charge will engage in iterative principles. Even in traditional project management, you have things like weekly or monthly status meetings. This is similar to sprint planning and retrospective in the agile world. Even high-rise buildings are built story by story, hence in an iterative way.

Agile, Traditional or Hybrid Project Management? When to use which.

Project managers have to plan and control. In regular iterations, they have to assign tasks, check results, reevaluate the remaining work, and redistribute it. Different types of projects require different intervals for the iterations. And different methods for the assembly of tasks are necessary.

For agile methods, this usually includes a flexible definition of objectives. Traditional PM methods, on the other hand, are associated with a fixed definition of objectives. But these methods of operation can be linked. For example, it is possible to have a specification and research phase managed with agile methods. Based on the proof of concept, you subsequently use classic methods to arrive at the specified goal.

Work packages in classically managed projects can also be completed using agile methods. In this case, you have a concise Gantt chart with the necessary phases, milestones, and rough work packages whose details can be planned and tracked in Kanban boards.

There are many ways to establish optimal methods and processes with the aid of good consulting. The demand for the integration of tools for project management is going to rise sharply next year.

Another interesting read: Integration of MS Project with JIRA or TFS

8. What do project managers currently underestimate the most?

Strasser: In 2018, projects will mainly fail for two particular reasons: The complexity of the project results to be delivered and the time pressure due to lack of resources. Both continue to increase steadily.

Added to this, it can be that the goals, or rather the benefits, of project results aren’t sufficiently understood. Let alone specified. All too often, the question how everything is expected to fit together in the end gets the answer, “we’ll use Agile for that.”

My forecast is this: The actually set project goals will be underestimated even more often than is already the case. And this will be realized much too late. Agile methods can provide a remedy only to some extent, if all stakeholders bring along the implicit flexibility – otherwise they can’t.

9. Project work is a working model of the future. Do we need more specialists or more all-rounders for the project organization?

Strasser: The trend away from knowledge silos continues. Complex products and processes do require expertise in technological, legal and other areas. But more than ever, these specialists have to think outside the box. This is the only way to achieve project goals together.

Project managers need to be all-rounders with an understanding for the dependencies between the special areas in the projects. Though they don’t have to master the architecture of complex solutions, they must understand very well which interconnections there are. Only in this way, can they plan well at the start and make better decisions in the case of crises.

The ability to orchestrate global projects with members from diverse cultures in a clever way will also become more important next year.

10. Will German companies bet on project work in 2018 more than they have done to date?

Strasser: According to various studies, the share of work completed within the context of projects will continue to increase steadily over the next few years. To a large extent, the increase is due to digital transformation.

In the future, there will be more automation projects for evermore far-reaching processes within companies. As a result, considerably more employees from all departments of a company will be involved in project work.

An increase will also be observed in the research and development areas, which have traditionally been home to project management. Scarce resources as well as high time and cost pressure require more control options and transparency. Portfolio and project management are means to this end.

The Ten Most Important Project Management Trends 2018 at a Glance

  1. Suitable staff is becoming scarcer. This will have a growing impact on the portfolio selection, i.e. which projects can start when.
  2. Flexible planning of project scenarios in the various portfolios provides great opportunities in an environment that is growing ever more complex.
  3. PMOs will gain considerably in importance regarding the coordination of projects. They will gain even more competencies and likewise more resources
  4. It will be advisable to focus on the team leaders in resource management! They are the only ones able to plan a complete resource utilization.
  5. Cloud acceptance is growing. We will reach a ratio of 75% cloud to 25% on premise for new implementations or PM systems.
  6. The attitude regarding data security is changing. Companies are beginning to understand that man is the biggest security hole, not technology. And that most project data have been in the cloud for a long time. After all, project plans are often e-mailed.
  7. The demand for the integration of tools for project management is going to rise sharply.
  8. The actually set project goals will be underestimated even more often. And this will be realized much too late. Agile methods can help.
  9. The ability to orchestrate global projects with members from diverse cultures in a clever way will also become more important for project managers.
  10. More automation projects will cause more employees from all departments of a company to be involved in project work.

Which of the above trends do you regard as the most important? Do you feel we have missed important 2018 project management trends? We are looking forward to your comments below.

Final tip: Subscribe to the TPG Blog Newsletter now and never miss another blog post.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Blommaert on

    Thanks for this interesting article!

    On the 2nd question, it’s stated that “As long as it is unclear how the competition should be won, there can be no optimal mix of projects for the upcoming changes.”. If I understand well, this implies going from one (sufficiently) solid state, over an uncertain period, to a next solid state.

    In our complex world, e.g. nicely described in Philippe Husser’s new book, what is your stand on those solid states? Will solid states still persist for considerable amounts of time? Should we try to abandon thinking in terms of unclear periods as they become a constant? Does it depend on the pace of the sector one is in? Or…?

    Kind regards,

    Robert

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