5 Project Management Developments for 2017
5 Project Management Developments for 2017
With exciting trends impacting the field, the new year promises to be an eventful one for project management.

The Project Management profession is evolving. Just this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gave project management its own occupational category, a major sign that Project Managers are more important players than ever.

Here, we feature some of the most intriguing Project Management developments heading into 2017, including 3D and virtual reality PM, crowdsourcing, corporate social responsibility, big data, and the rise of DevOps.

Trend #1: 3D Printing and Virtual Reality

Many projects today take place in the cloud and via distributed teams, which can make it difficult for team members to feel fully immersed in their work experiences. Virtual reality and 3D printing technology reinvigorate the project lifecycle so that tasks and collaboration efforts resonate more strongly.

dFakto is a small 45-person startup in Brussels, Belgium that has brought both VR and 3D into the field of program and project management, mainly for large enterprises like banks. As dFakto CEO Thibaut de Vylder said in a recent Forbes article: “We created a UX experience in project management that allows people to update their project status in 30 seconds or less each month just by focusing on what’s most important.”

The virtual reality experience provides full immersion with an app that allows Project Managers to see progress charts in a personal theatre style. Focus your eyes on a particular chart, and it grows. You can dive into elaborations the same way. The 3D printing component, similarly, facilitates the sense of touch. It creates something you can put on your desk, unlike a digital report that you can’t see once you close it.

Trend #2: Crowdsourcing

 According to a recent article on Raconteur, more project managers are taking advantage of new software programs to coordinate contributions from various sources. Wazoku Idea Spotlight is one software-as-a-service tool that allows organizations to create a central hub for ideas, innovation, and feedback. Users include Aviva, Oxford University and Waitrose, a UK-based supermarket that leverages Wazoku to capture ideas from its 60,000 employees.

“The success of our Partner Ideas scheme goes to show that sometimes the truly great innovations can be as simple as making small changes to the tasks you do every day, rather than the big ideas which transform everything,” said Stuart Eames, operational improvement manager at Waitrose. “By engaging our partners with the right platform and process, we’ve managed to achieve significant productivity and financial savings.”

Trend #3: Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and project management are growing more intertwined, but according to African project management expert Shadreck Phiri, it’s not deliberate. “It appears that CSR is incorporated as a by-product of other processes,” speculated Phiri.

“For instance, as organizations seek to reduce operational costs, they use equipment that is energy-efficient, and in their quest to achieve this objective, they inadvertently contribute to the environmental integrity objectives of CSR in their project management.”

Phiri discussed a recent study that defined the extent to which CSR is included in enterprise-wide project management activities. The research uncovered that CSR tends to filter down from the policies of the organization to all the business units and functional areas. The incorporation of CSR in subsequent project management activities is thus driven at the organizational level and not at the project level.

Although PMs still view CSR as non-core to their activities and tend not to consider it strategically in planning and implementations, there is some evidence that it is often factored in due to the need to tick a box. “A burning platform for CSR will only be created when consumers and other stakeholders demand that products are sustainable,” said Phiri.

But in the meantime, PMOs and EPMOs can encourage the expansion of project management responsibilities to include CSR metrics. “Project managers should ask themselves deliberate and conscious questions about how the project they are running affects CSR,” recommended Phiri. In other words, whether the project contributes to environmental integrity, societal benefit, value creation, and good governance should be addressed as part of the initiation, planning, scoping, and implementation processes of each project.

Trend #4: Big Data

On his blog, project manager Dennis McDonald described his efforts to understand the integration of big data and project management, and specifically, what we know about how and why big data projects are successful.

“Many organizations have a lot to learn when it comes to making use of emerging big data analysis techniques,” McDonald said. “Understanding of potential costs and benefits of predictive and descriptive analytics is unevenly distributed throughout most organizations. Senior leadership support aside, adoption of new analytical techniques and data sources as standard inputs to management and decision-making still has a long way to go.”

Organizations that are already data-driven in their decision-making are better positioned to adopt new techniques than those that are not already engaging with data analytics methods.

McDonald was quick to point out that data type matters. Data types that are already well defined and understood will more readily be adopted by organizations than highly specialized or process-specific data.

Data governance should also be integrated with enterprise portfolio management. “If we view enterprise portfolio management as a systematic planning and management of all corporate resources in alignment with corporate business and performance objectives, relevant data need to be viewed as resources to be managed,” McDonald said. “That means that business process management, technical project management, and data management need to be integrated as projects are organized into programs.”

Trend #5: DevOps

DevOps builds on the agile movement as a means of managing change in an iterative, feedback-focused, and responsive process. But what is DevOps’ immediate application to project management? Datapipe’s Patrick McClory simplified it this way: “Agile is the process used to set up adaptive software development for fast feedback cycles. DevOps adds the cultural aspect of concentrating on business results, focusing on improving the collaboration between developers and long-term operational teams.”

“Both are crucial to the effective management of project flow,” McClory added. “If we do not address the people, processes, tools, and technology needed during production and management, we cannot expect to realize the benefits of faster delivery of functionality achieved through Agile. It is only when modern project management methodologies come together with DevOps that a technology organization can see optimized results.”

Some are apparently concerned that DevOps will take over operations. According to the Agile Admin blog’s Ernest Mueller, this is unlikely to happen. “It’s a misconception that DevOps is coming from the development side of the house to wipe out operations,” he said.  “DevOps (projects) are initiated by operations teams more often than not. This is because operations folks have realized that existing principles, processes, and practices have not kept pace with what’s needed for success and need a fundamental reorientation to provide systems infrastructure in an effective manner.”

“All the successful teams I’ve run using this approach have both people with deep dev skill sets and deep ops skill sets working together to create a better overall product,” Mueller added.