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2015: Reviewing Trends in Project Management and Collaboration

Project Management Trends

I made some predictions about what trends would affect project management in the first edition of *. I’ve updated that manuscript this year for the new edition which is out in the spring.

It’s time to hold myself accountable. Get a coffee and let’s see how accurate my thoughts were on project management trends.

I said: Traditional project management tools will take on the features and functionality provided by social media tools.

On target? Yes.

Project management software today does include social collaboration features on a more routine basis. This allows companies to consolidate their tools and achieve better compliance for security and integration.

Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant report into project and portfolio software applications concludes that this is happening in four ways:

  • Vendors are relying on basic communication tools such as discussions and email integration.
  • Vendors are partnering with social networking and collaboration software firms such as Salesforce’s Chatter.
  • Vendors are developing native social collaboration features as part of their core product.
  • Vendors are buying companies that provide that capability and incorporating it into their offering, such as Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, or Planview’s acquistion of Projectplace.
I said: Project management software portals will consolidate behind the scenes social tools and present a common interface to the user.

On target? No.

I haven’t seen this happen, but there are greater connections between systems through APIs and third party tools that allow for synchronisation and sharing of data.

I said: Biometric scanning will be incorporated into the next generation of tools.

On target? Not really. This isn’t widespread.

While fingerprint recognition lets you log into Apple hardware without a passcode, retina and fingerprint scanning for logging into online systems is still not common. Most online social, collaboration and project management systems still rely on user names and passwords probably because it is cheap and easy to implement and there is, as yet, not sufficient user demand.

I said: Teams will become less reliant on hierarchy as a result of flexibility in the workplace.

On target? Yes.

Both formally and informally, there is a growing acceptance of flexible working practices and non-hierarchical methods. In other words, we have moved even further away from the old command and control style of management than we were six years ago.

This hasn’t changed the requirement for having a project manager on a team. Self-managed teams still benefit from a project manager to facilitate the completion of a project, but they are internally motivated to get the job done, and to work in a more open, collaborative way.

I said: The make up of teams will continue to evolve.

On target? Yes.

We’ve seen a greater shift towards partnership, crowd-sourcing and user-driven contributions. The inclusion of external partners in project teams, as more companies adapt to the requirements of globalisation and competition, is the norm. Tools are recognising this, with functionality that offers limited views of the project data to third parties.

I said: The Net Generation, the digital natives of our society, will drive the demand for social and collaboration tools.

On target? Yes, although perhaps the change has been more slow than I anticipated.

Some industries haven’t embraced social as quickly as others, but it will continue to change as those millennials make it to senior management positions. For this generation, these tools are not gadgets or novelties; they are a way of life. Having grown up in a digital economy, we should continue to expect their background and working preferences to influence project management and wider business.

A project software firm I was consulting with asked how they could better position their product to attract project managers in more traditional industries. I responded that I didn’t think the industry itself needed to change: the people holding those project management positions would change and it would be the profile of the team members who drove and demanded new technology.

I said: Project management training will move out of the classroom and focus on soft skills.

On target? Yes.

The past few years have seen a significant shift away from technical project management skills to the acknowledgement that projects are all about people and perhaps it’s time we started training our project leaders in soft skills.

Classroom based training is still incredibly popular but it feels like there are more quality, approved, online training options.

I said: The focus on ‘being green’ will support virtual working and collaboration tools due to reduced travel costs.

On target? No.

While green project management is still at the forefront of many people’s minds, the environmental aspects of flexible working are not publicised as the reason why companies adopt flexible working practices or collaboration tools. The economic position over the last few years has driven down margins, and smarter, cheaper ways of working have been, I would suggest, in response to reducing cost, rather than reducing the impact on the environment. Where the two objectives align this is a happy accident.

The questions about the green credentials of cloud computing and the ‘always on’ culture have yet to be answered. Huge server farms sited off-shore may cut your immediate utility bills, saving on power and the cost of running the air conditioning in a server room. But these costs are just redistributed to the SaaS provider. What are the green credentials of these server farms? These are the ethical implications for managing from the cloud. In addition to this, manufacturers still have to ensure the smallest possible carbon footprint for devices that are going to be used 24 hours a day to receive project updates.

I said: Social media and enterprise collaboration tools will make more of the notion of ‘presence’.

On target? No.

Presence is a concept that shows who is online at any one time and how they want to be communicated with. For example, someone on a conference call may be willing to be interrupted by instant messages, but someone preparing a detailed document may set their contact preferences to ‘none’.

Presence technology hasn’t taken off significantly and hasn’t evolved in the mainstream any further than relying on the user to update their notification settings. It could pick up clues from the user’s location or activity and update their status directly but it seems we are a way off that right now.

How did I do?

I predicted a mixed bag of things in Social Media for Project Managers. Some of them seem to have hit the target, others have been slower to see any traction and some might come to nothing.

It will be interesting to see whether the next 12 months brings any additional movement on the themes here, or whether 2016 will see us talking about totally different trends. Watch this space!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

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