Creating a project plan and executing it is challenging enough. This has led to the rise of a number of tools to make the job easier. The project management toolkit is always evolving as is the job itself. At the same time, manufacturing processes, market demands, industry regulations, and every other aspect of the job changes regularly. This means that what you were doing last year may not cut it when you start your next project. Here are five trends that are reshaping the future of project management.
The Growing Demand for Project Managers
The biggest employers of project managers a few decades ago were major manufacturers and construction firms. They might have designed an automobile before determining how to manufacture it. Or they’d oversee the production plant, keeping all of the parts humming so the final product could roll off the assembly line. Project management was the only way to cope with the complex interdependencies to get things done.
The world has grown more complicated since then. Demand for project managers is growing because they are being hired to supervise projects in software development to healthcare system reorganizations, publishing, and education. At the same time, project management is becoming a recognized profession worldwide, and the number of project managers is growing worldwide. This explains why the number of project managers employed in 2027 will approach ninety million. The increasing appreciation of project managers has led to project or program management offices as a distinct department in many organizations.
We’re also seeing program management offices establish centers of excellence, creating shared business models and processes that flow down to every project in the organization. This allows businesses to quickly implement process improvements or make changes that the organization sees as necessary.
The Expansion of Kanban
What is Kanban? Kanban is an old system originally used to improve inventory management. The Kanban or inventory card system relied on people drawing from two bins of parts. When they finish with one bin, they’d raise the Kanban or colored card to tell inventory control that they needed more parts. Parts were only delivered to those who needed them when they needed them, while the system ensured no one ran out.
But what is Kanban today? While it rests on the same principles, it has evolved into a full-fledged visual management method, allowing teams to see what metrics they are supposed to measure their performance by. It shows them the status of all tasks to be done and what is available to be worked on. Tools like Kanbanize allow you to replace the traditional, cluttered Kanban board with a digital dashboard with the same functionality. Tools like these can also be accessed from anywhere, not just the shop floor, which can boost the productivity and functionality of agile work environments.
Kanban systems in the modern workplace, whether digital or on a traditional Kanban board, continue to help organizations minimize storage areas and more efficiently use space. It reduces labor costs for supply chain management and those doing the work.
For example, Kanban minimizes work in progress unless the item is about to be finished to fulfill customer needs. It provides accurate data regarding cycle time for each step and the entire process. It allows you to know where bottlenecks are occurring as they start to build-up. Then you can address the problems before it chokes the downstream operations. And you avoid the shortages that cause wasteful idle time.
The Increase in Collaborative Remote Teams
Project managers a generation ago mostly worked with people in the same office. A remote worker was someone at the construction site calling into the main office to report problems. Today, entire teams may work at scattered sites around the globe. They may never meet each other in person.
The growth of remote teams is driven in part by the lower labor costs available in many parts of the world. It is also partially due to the rise in gig work and the outsourcing of entire departments so that companies can focus on their own core competencies. This means a project manager is coordinating gig workers scattered around the world, marketing, and programming teams on opposite sides of the planet. Furthermore, they’re doing so while supervising any other functions that remain in-house.
The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence
The growth of the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence go hand in hand. AI is necessary to mine the massive volume of data generated by the IoT and control the many more smart devices connected together in the modern factory. The data collected includes tracking the location of workers and valuable equipment to monitoring employee’s health. This combination of technology comes into play when a worker is injured or ill; the AI alerts the manager and nearest co-workers of the person’s location so that they can be aided and sent for appropriate medical attention.
More Emphasis on Soft Skills
But while we’re seeing a shift towards more automation and artificial intelligence, the emphasis is increasingly being put on emotional intelligence as well. New PMs while have to be able to navigate both worlds and be as emotionally intelligent as they are skilled in using the technology at their disposal. Remote teams need the kind of supervision needed to both empower them but keep them within objectives. PMs will also have to become coaches and learn how to get the best out of their employees without coddling them.
Social skills like the ability to teach and vulgarize, negotiation, and flexibility are increasingly being viewed as some of the most crucial professional assets. As we learn how to use machine intelligence to solve some of our process issues, it only exacerbates the project manager’s role as a coordinator, empathetic listener, tactful negotiator, and motivational leader.
The role of the project manager is changing, as are the tools they use and the challenges they face. However, project managers who understand the long-term trends affecting their roles will be able to handle what is coming.