The 5 Biggest Project Management Trends Shaping 2018

Successful project management is hinged on good planning. A good project manager is one who can anticipate looming threats to a project and puts in place the requisite controls to prevent the project from going off the rails. To do this, the manager has to recognize that no project exists in a vacuum.

There are not only occasional changes to what was considered best practice but there are also transformations to the operating environment that necessitate a recalibration of the practice of project management. We may be well into 2018 but it’s still relevant to look at the trends that have and will likely define the project management environment this year and into the near future.

1. Remote Teams

The concept of remote teams isn’t really new. Remote work was actually one of the earliest benefits of the Internet. Its significance has only continued to grow over the years. However, the use of remote teams is going to see a meteoric rise in 2018 and beyond due to one factor that wasn’t present before: millennial project managers.

Every generation has certain lifestyle and value preferences. Millennials aren’t any different. In the workplace, millennials have been found to not only be keen on earning a decent pay but also in engaging in work that doesn’t curtail their social life. They are determined to achieve business and personal goals but are deeply uncomfortable with rigidity and predictability. They don’t mind job security but neither do they want work interfering with their ability to live a full life.

Remote work presents an opportunity to do what they love while still retaining a certain degree of flexibility in their daily routine. Millennial workers have always had a thing for telecommuting but the rise of the millennial manager means they now have the ear of someone who can relate to where they are coming from.

It helps that millennials have spent most of their lives around technology. That allows them to quickly learn the software applications that make remote project work a reality.

2. Data Security and Privacy

Cybersecurity is going to see greater prominence in the project lifecycle for two reasons. First, modern projects including those not related to software development, heavily depend on technology. So even for a construction project, enterprise systems, smart phone apps and various IoT devices will be used to generate, relay and store data.

Hacking incidents are still a major problem across the world. For example, a sophisticated hack on dozens of banks that spanned 40 countries led to the loss of more than a billion dollars. With the unrelenting effort to move project data from paper to the digital space, this compounds data security risks for project managers.

Ergo, cybersecurity can no longer be an afterthought that project managers look into once the other aspects of the project have been concluded. Rather, it has to be integrated into every phase of the project right from the start. 2018 will see data security increasingly be accepted as a key performance indicator of project success.

The second reason cybersecurity will gain traction in 2018 is privacy concerns. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been the most significant development in the privacy space for years.

Whereas it was primarily developed to govern the management of any data obtained from European Union citizens, the size of the EU market, the number of companies with global or regional headquarters there, and the difficulty in implementing different rules for different jurisdictions will see the GDPR increasingly become the de facto privacy and data protection standard in many countries outside the EU.

Project managers both within and outside the EU will have to carry out a careful assessment of their data collection and handling practices in order to avoid the punitive penalties laid out by the GDPR when managing data from EU citizens.

3. The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly permeating every aspect of everyday life. Technology research firm Gartner expects the number of IoT devices to reach an astonishing 20 billion devices by 2020. A huge number by any measure. Project management is going to have to evolve too in order to stay current with these changes. IoT will change how project teams communicate and collaborate.

Since IoT takes device connectivity beyond the traditional gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and desktop PCs, it creates numerous new interfaces through which teams can send and receive project data. IoT devices also process and send information automatically which significantly speeds up communication, minimizes errors, increases response times and helps keep personnel head count low.

Device sensors can be configured to detect, respond to and/or record a much broader range of data points than was possible before. This gives the project manager the freedom to have either perform a higher level view of key metrics or go on a deep dive to zero in on problem processes.

Such breadth and depth of data especially in large complex projects means more control of project outcomes and a reduction in the risk of a project team member dropping the ball unnoticed.

Projects will also leverage IoT due to the large volume of data created by the end of the project. This creates a valuable treasure trove that can be used to guide the execution of identical or similar projects in future. Even if the entire project team is replaced by a new one later on, there’ll be adequate historical data for the new project team to understand the actions and decisions their predecessors as well as identify potential areas of improvement.

4. Analytics

You cannot manage what you cannot measure. That’s why every effective project manager must have all key project metrics at their fingertips. It hasn’t always been easy to do especially when the project manager was overseeing multiple teams who were not necessarily using the same system or storing their information in the same location.

The growth in the number of IoT devices used in projects is a good thing but is also seeing an exponential rise in the volume of data generated per project. This can make it difficult for managers to stay on top of the torrent of information. Fortunately, the centralization of data can make this vast information a positive.

Thanks to the proliferation of cloud-based project management systems, availability of server monitoring tools (e.g. AWS CloudWatch), gains in internet access across the world and the ubiquity of the smartphone, it’s today easier for IoT devices and project team members to create, share and relay information to one system or server.

This has made data storage and manipulation that much easier but also given impetus to the power of analytics tools. Project managers will therefore dramatically increase their dependency on analytics in 2018. Intuitive project dashboards coupled with the ability to customize filters in order to view the most important numbers will be the direction many project leaders will go.

Since an increasing number of databases are cloud-based, there’ll be a preference for cloud-based analytics apps that not only report data in real time but that can be accessed from anywhere. Such apps will ease the project manager’s ability to spot trends, identify risks and perform scenario planning that improves team performance.

5. Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development

Social responsibility isn’t a new term. For decades now, businesses have recognized the need to give back to society and play their part in uplifting the communities they work in. This relatively old trend will experience a resurgence in the project management arena. Managers will not only be looking at completing projects on time and on budget but also be conscious of their sacred responsibility to the people struggling around them.

Sustainable development may not be a new concept but it’s certainly much more recent than corporate social responsibility. Applying sustainable development principles to project management hasn’t been as easy to do as social responsibility has.

That’s because unlike social responsibility which could be viewed as a form of marketing with near immediate sales results, the positive effects of sustainable development were often too far off in the future to deliver any meaningful brand advantage to the business.

That is fast changing thanks to sustainable development making its way to the front and center of global conversation. In 2018, the general public has a much greater understanding of the critical role sustainable development plays in ensuring the perpetuation of the earth and its species.

In that regard, sustainable development though beneficial on its own merits now has the power to turbocharge a business’ reputation. Project managers have the incentive to ensure projects are not harmful to the environment.

While knowing and preparing for these trends is vital, it’s important to remember that the principles of successful project management remain the same. One of the most crucial traits of a successful manager is the ability to think on one’s feet.

A manager must therefore keep their ear to the ground for any other new trends that emerge during the year while staying away from practices that are no longer relevant. In other words, leveraging these trends is no guarantee of project success. Getting things done still comes down to the basics of project management.

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