Who better to answer a question like this than project management practitioners themselves. The question, ‘What has had the most significant impact on project management in the last 5 years?’ was put to over 2000 project practitioners from around the globe as part of an annual report by Arras People. The most popular responses have been organised to give us a top five, which includes;
- The recession was the number one change or event to impact project management yet not all practitioners had the same view as to why and how it impacted.
- The rise of agile in project management took the number two slot.
- Greater publicity of large, successful projects takes the number three slot.
- Changes within organisations was cited as the fourth most popular area to impact project management.
- Finally the advance of software in project management has had a significant impact for those working within projects.
We take each of the five changes or events that have happened over the last five years and find out what that meant to project practitioners:
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The Recession Impacts Project Management
The financial crisis that started back in 2008-2009 was the number one event that made a significant impact on project management. For some practitioners it was this time that lead to the start of project portfolio management and the need for management to focus on choosing the right projects to implement for their businesses. Since that time, portfolio management has exploded in project management with guidance, books and training courses in areas such as project prioritisation and managing the portfolio. Suddenly the project management community were talking about strategic vision and the links to the projects that help deliver strategy.
Benefits management was cited numerous times by practitioners saying that the recession can be thanked for the increasing realisation of its importance to organisations and practitioners and in turn making them more accountable in this area.
Other practitioners felt that the recession had the impact of making organisations realise the importance of the professionalism of project management, especially in the public sector. The creation of the Major Projects Authority was noted as an example with many more private sector organisations seeing the value of making their project delivery capability better. Alongside the question of improving professionalism there was also a perception that an increased focus on the people side of project management has occurred since the recession. Quoted as “the people dimension of project management” it was felt that it has started to come to the fore at conferences, seminars and within training course options.
The recession was also cited as being a major event that helped to bring the discipline of project management to a wider audience, renowned as a way to make sure limited resources in a business are used to the best advantage. In the US specifically, the emphasis on the proper project management of projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act put project management and projects managers into the spotlight in the business landscape.
The rise of project management certifications and training was also partially accredited to the recession. With practitioners looking to gain these more with the thoughts of future employment and opportunities in mind rather than personal development.
The Rise of Agile in Project Management
The recession just pipped agile to the post as the single most change or event to impact project management in the last five years. Although agile has been around for a lot longer than that and there is no conclusive evidence however it seems that there is a link between the recession and the rise of agile.
One participant specifically noted the “rise of agile and its spread beyond the ghetto of IT” and others mentioned that a need for a lighter version of managing projects, a step change from the traditional process heavy waterfall method had been finally recognised. What was interesting from the responses was a lack of insight into how practitioners thought the rise of agile has impacted project management. This was unusual because practitioner responses in all four other areas came with plenty of thought and opinion.
Could it be that the project practitioners recognised that something was/is happening with agile but at the moment their own personal experiences have not been impacted by it? It is still early days on how agile is impacting project management and no doubt an area we will return to again over the coming months and years.
Greater Publicity of Project Management
Practitioners believed that a string of high-profile and successful projects in their countries have had a significant impact on project management. In the UK, the Olympics was mentioned alongside Heathrow T5, Crossrail and the aviation control system as particular examples. These examples have helped to put project management in a better spotlight than previously especially when we consider the raft of articles and press which focus so much on the failure rates in project management.
It was also noted that these high-profile and often complex and complicated successes also help promote programme management in a more positive spotlight too.
For some practitioners it was highlighted that although these often large public programmes and projects may not be relatable to the average project practitioner working today, it was appreciated that learning legacies such as the Olympics have helped to put UK Project Management plc on the map. On the other side of that, “However I am not sure many have learned the lessons from this project” was a sentiment echoed by many of the participants.
Organisational Change Impacts Project Management
We have already seen how the recession was the number one event that has impacted project management in the last five years and how the recession could also have impacted the rise of agile. The changes that organisations have made over the last five years, whether directly or indirectly due to the recession, have also been noted by practitioners as having a significant impact on project management.
So what changes have our practitioners noted? An obvious one, a decrease in funding has impacted not only the number of projects being in run in organisations but also the type of project deemed to be the most important in times of financial restraint. A change in or greater focus on governance has also led to projects being managed and reported on in a different way. For some practitioners, a change in their working environment and also shift to virtual teams and outsourcing have also had a significant effect on project management in their worlds. Organisations who have become more progressive in project management, as one responder quoted “businesses becoming projectified” there has been a focus on increasing the maturity of their project practices. This is not only on the actual delivery of projects but also for the people who manage and support them (competency frameworks, skills profiles, additional training and so on are all hallmarks of an organisation showing a committment to project management).
The Advance of Project Management Software
For a long time project management software was either an Excel spreadsheet or a Gantt chart from MS Project. Now the landscape for project management software has literally exploded over the last five years. And there is something for everyone. From large corporate enterprise wide systems to individual cloud based systems that don’t cost a penny and everything else in between. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by our practitioners and by-and-large they welcome the advances.
It is the ability to keep things simple like project plans and reports that are the most welcomed impacts of software in project management. For the PMO respondents it is the ability to perform the reporting side of the job in minutes rather than days and hours. Other respondents like the collaborative or more social engagement they can get from their team using specific software.
On respondent goes one step further in their insights:
I feel like many software companies that have emerged are putting the power of project management back in the hands of the people who are actually doing the work. Project management is not that complicated but is often overcomplicated by methodologies and “project elitism”. Software like Wrike, basecamp and Redbooth, are making project management accessible for “normal people”.
The recession, agile, publicity, organisations and software are our top changes or events that have impacted the world of project management over the last five years. With each of these changes or events there have been numerous knock on effects into the daily lives of project practitioners. What events or changes will impact project management over the next five years? It’s difficult to predict of course but that’s the beauty of project management isn’t it?
The original article appeared here
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