2016 Project Portfolio Management Trends


The end of the year is a time for reflection, assessment and rejuvenation. In the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) cloud applications world, the end of the year offers an opportunity to synthesize our lessons from the previous year and make some bold assertions about the trends that will affect project managers in the coming twelve months.

State of Play

Let’s take a look at some of the factors at play in business today. Perhaps the most important event affecting business is occurring right before our eyes. The technological and generational shift with companies moving to the cloud, an insatiable demand for digital data and analytics, and a push for anytime, anywhere, any device access to corporate information is changing the way enterprises are viewing themselves.

This move to contemporary technologies is augmented by a number of macros trends. Automation of all roles is turning every employee into a knowledge worker, highly skilled at his/her job, and deployed into assignments accordingly. In the United States, the millennial population is now 83.1 million, representing over a one quarter of the nation’s populace, while globally, millennials will comprise half the workforce by 2020. Further, today there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. By 2020, this number will be 6.1 billion.

As a result, the very nature of work - how, where, what, and by whom it is done - is undergoing a radical change. And it is under this environmental and technological backdrop that a project manager must lead and define success.

So, let’s get right to the trends for 2016!

Trend #1: The Project is the Business

This trend could just as easily be called “Coping with Complexity”. As companies look to reinvent the way they operate by re-imagining every facet of its processes, the transformation initiatives are being created as strategic projects. By this token, the project becomes the business. In order for the business to survive, the project must succeed.

This digital transformation is requiring new methods of project delivery (social, mobile, analytics, in the cloud) that are changing the very nature of the project management discipline. The digital requirement is pushing PPM tools to cross silos – both within and between organizations – via integrations to business systems including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Human Capital Management (HCM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM).

Modern, natively integrated PPM tools, spanning business process and function, that facilitate project cross-pollination will be critical to success. A corollary to this thought is the needed versatility of the PPM tool itself, which must allow for diverse project types including Internal IT, innovation management, as well as embedded and professional services projects.

Trend #2: Collaboration in Context

The last 10 years have seen the industry create a range of collaboration functionality (and acronyms) related to the “social enterprise”. These have included user profiles, groups, content sharing, conversations, blogs/wikis, tagging, ratings, and instant messaging. We are at a point today where our personal usages of these items and collaboration technologies have become relevant to the enterprise workplace.

For the project manager, communication and collaboration are virtually synonymous, and are deeply rooted in successful project execution. As organizations demand greater project collaboration capabilities to deal with ever challenging projects, those with a high proportion of collaboratively interactive workers will realize tremendous productivity improvements through faster internal communication and smoother collaboration.

Technology plays a big part in facilitating this collaboration; however, the definitive edge will go to tools that allow in-context collaboration.

As an example, a social conversation will be specifically tied to a task in the context of a specific project. Only those involved in the task, and members with a role-based security have secure access to the conversation.  An alternative example is a CFO glancing at the strategic project dashboard for plan vs. actual rollups, and then directly initiating a quick, secure in-context conversation with a project manager to answer a question. These types of examples using in-context collaboration for faster issue resolution will drive the successful execution of critical, complex, corporate initiatives.

Trend #3: Virtualization of Project Management

Statistics suggest that there are an increasing number of independent workers in the global economy. In the US alone, there are 30.2 million independent -- full-time and part-time – workers, an increase of 12 percent over the previous 5 years. By 2020, the independent workforce will be up to nearly 38 million workers.

As target skill sets become harder to recruit, hybrid project teams - consisting of remote and onsite team members acting with a central or core objective  - will become prevalent. Resultantly, as hybrid project teams become the norm, organizations will be pushed to rethink their approach to project talent and its link to corporate strategy and project execution.

Modern project managers will be - and are - being asked to build, guide and manage these teams. The successful hybrid team must have business acumen, technical skills, political sensitivity, a commitment to solving problems/achieving objectives, and exhibit a strong self-esteem. The modern project manager will also require superior human resource and management skills, and be able to identify team member capabilities to work in a hybrid team environment. The biggest challenge for the project manager will be one of team selection.

Trend #4: The Modern Project Manager Redefined

The project manager role has never been glamorous, and is often thankless and unrelenting. However, the modern project manager has a pivotal part to play in the digital transformation landscape.

The skill set required to be not only a highly competent, but a successful modern project manager is diverse and takes a fine balance of mental agility, subject matter expertise, and commercial flair. A person who thrives as the main catalyst behind the scenes!

Modern project managers are being asked to lead highly complex, pressurized, business critical initiatives. To this end, organizations will begin to develop a higher degree of project manager and PMO competency, allowing the enterprise to deliver key initiatives in a timely manner.

Key to modern project manager success will be tools that are highly analytical and predictive in nature, to ensure that the project avoids surprises. These tools will proactively monitor the health of projects with dashboards that bring exceptions and action items to a single location, allowing for the project manager to identify and resolve exceptions. This real-time performance monitoring will boost productivity and simultaneously focus resources on meeting strategic business needs.

2016 promises to be an exciting year for project managers and the project management discipline. 

Colleen Baumbach leads the product management and strategy teams responsible for applications that enable project-centric companies to align their corporate objectives with operational delivery. She brings more than 25 years of experience in the software industry to Oracle’s strategy organization, and joined Oracle in 2000. For the last ten years Baumbach has been responsible for driving strategic direction for Oracle’s project portfolio management solutions. Prior to that, she spent 5 years in Oracle’s consulting practice, working closely with global customers to align their business applications strategies.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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