What are the changes happening in the project management sector and how does it help project managers lead with success?

The New Paradigm

The Emergence of new technologies has changed the face of project management. Complexities in projects have resulted in project managers moving away from standard tools like PERT ( Performance Evaluation Review Technique) charts, GANTT charts, Flow charts and spreadsheets, TQM (Total Quality Management) techniques, etc. to the evolving applications of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML(Machine Learning). Though the pillars of project management are unchanged, like that of timely delivery of a product or service within the accepted parameters of cost and quality,  the processes have changed.

Modern project management has become complex with demanding clients, a wider scope of work, pressing timelines, and varied deliverables. With multiple tasks to be managed synergistically, the traditionally used “Waterflow project management” method may not be the answer anymore. Simplicity in project management is passe`.

Project managers currently depend considerably on automated tools in project execution. Leveraging technology to help plan, execute, and organize projects not only adds to operational efficiency but also results in better value.

The Basics

Finding what works best for a particular project specification is not an easy task. Many ready-made solutions are available in the market, and it is best to talk to specialists for the better-suited option. Project managers need to hold threadbare discussions about the requirements of the project, the desired throughput, and client needs, with technologists having the requisite skills and domain expertise. Towards this end, project managers must have absolute clarity about the project they are undertaking. Comprehensive project definitions and objectives, shortlisting of key features, targeted goals, client expectations, resources and budgets, schedules, road maps and milestones, timelines and deadlines, etc., will have to be drawn up and documented prior to the onset of such discussions.

The project management tool should not only be able to provide end-to-end solutions for planning, execution, tracking, MIS generation, team and task management, etc., but also have inbuilt flexibility for midterm tweaking and scalability if required. Ease of use and a straightforward UI ( user interface) are desirable elements.

Needless to add, the size of the project, its degree of complexity, and the number of variables will underlie any choice. Small projects with small teams and low budgets may be well aligned with lightweight tools, while complex large-sized projects may require customized tools capable of heavy lifting, like having predictability features and the capability of crunching metadata for deeper insights.

The Reason Why

Application of the new technologies in project management can be expected to result in a more focused and productive approach to delivering successful project closure. It is this Agile methodology that is fast becoming the backbone of successful project management. Data from 2018 indicates that projects using Agile methodologies are 28% more successful, and almost 71% of organizations use Agile with varying frequencies.

Complex projects required more dynamic and flexible tools than were hitherto available. The Agile methodology enables this. Product development iterations, ongoing up-gradation and improvements, and reducing response time to quickly changing dynamics with a  macro view allowing for superior control and management. Within the Agile framework Scrum, Kanban, XP ( Extreme Programming), and Adaptive Project Framework (APF) comprise the tools for implementing Agile methodology. Stated simply, these software tools allow a project to be bifurcated into several stages. Close and constant collaboration with all stakeholders and iteration at every stage make improvements possible throughout the project execution cycle.

The Benefits

Some key advantages which project managers may hope to garner by adopting this project management system are:

  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Changing dynamics and modifications in customer requirements can be easily addressed;
  • Quick Response Time and Continuous Improvement: Feedbacks, reactions can be quickly acted upon for improvements;
  • Effective Damage Control: Slips, missteps, and deviations within sprints can be rectified and managed with a greater degree of control;
  • Better Outputs: Manageable stages make for faster deliveries with better efficiency and  higher productivity;
  • Better Quality and Customer Satisfaction: Iterative and incremental development ensure timely problem identification and corrective action leading to a qualitatively better end product and satisfaction for stakeholders;
  • Enhanced Predictability and Risk Mitigation features
  • Higher Returns: Cost and time efficiencies provide a higher return to investment

Some Caveats

Even though the Agile framework gives distinct advantages to project managers in coping with complex projects,  they need to be aware of the downsides too, so as to make the best possible choice of tools. Varying degrees of risk prevails in both the traditional Waterfall method and the new Agile process; the latter seems to offer better solutions. The shift to smaller cycle iterative and sprint-based delivery model of Planning 》Developing 》Testing 》Final Product across multiple stages away from the linear and rigid project delivery method of Requirements > Design > Development > Testing > Implementation, used traditionally, provide for better risk controls. However, the readiness of an organization to transit to Agile technologies is a critical factor in success. Right governance and collaborative open communications culture, adaptability to new capabilities and processes are prerequisites that must be developed, if not in place currently.

Lead With Success

Any change calls for considerable investments and any move will have to be a well-thought-out strategic decision. If the organization is convinced of positive payback and results, the investment will be a successful endeavor.