What's New in Project Management?

While not that much changes in project management from year to year, that doesn’t mean there is no change at all. In one of my favorite shows – the “Big Bang Theory” – there’s a quote early in the series when Leonard and Penny are out to dinner… 

Penny: So, what’s new in the world of physics?

Leonard: Nothing.

Penny: Really, nothing?

Leonard: Well, with the exception of string theory, not much has happened since the 1930’s, and you can’t prove string theory, at best you can say “hey, look, my idea has an internal logical consistency.”

Penny: Ah. Well I’m sure things will pick up.

This sort of reminds me of project management. Not much has changed or really can change. The change is in the projects, not the project management really. However, I do feel like we have some changes that can be discussed, and these five are a discussion starter:

The use of artificial intelligence 

Consider – artificial intelligence. It is developing and evolving fast, and I believe it will be a huge factor in successfully managing projects in the close future. It’s already being used to save lives – listening in on 911 dispatch calls to recognize signs of cardiac arrest in potential call-in victims. Amazing, yes, and if it can do that for saving lives, then certainly it can be trained to listen in on project status calls and detect confident and concerned tones in both the customer team and the project delivery team, catch key points and notable schedule and status changes during status meetings, and greatly help the project manager keep everyone on the same page post-meeting and beyond. 

More PM tools available 

When I started managing a very large government project/program almost 30 years ago I was using a product called Project Workbench. Within a couple of years, I moved to Microsoft Project. But for many years, those were really the only two obvious choices for tools to help manage projects – and they still left a lot to be desired. Fast forward to today and there are literally hundreds of project management tools all with slightly different features and price tags…some are even free, making it a no-brainer for even the smallest bootstrap startup to manage projects well.

Most things are looked at as a project first 

As opposed to a few years back, most work is looked at as part of or the basis for a project. Planning is then put in place, resources and budget are added, and someone is appointed to lead the effort. This allows for better tracking, more accountability, and allows an organization to improve on these efforts along the way rather than to continually rely on luck to realize successes. 

Improvements and visibility of reporting 

I was pretty good at creating customized reports in MS Project, but with the evolvement of PM tools came the evolvement of much better reports, dashboard reports for individual projects and across all projects in an organizations pool of projects often using a project portfolio management (PPM) tool. All the PM tool options available now come with some level of built-in reporting and most come with some level of customizable reporting. Your customer wants to see ‘x’ every week? There’s a tool that can do that. 

Top level management involvement 

Managing projects earlier on was hit or miss and it certainly wasn’t how all work was handled. Now, project management is a well-accepted practice and considered prominently in an organization’s structure, budget and initiative planning and execution. That’s a good thing… it is forcing more planning to be done, more risk analysis to be performed, and better management of financials and resource usage on individual initiatives thus helping to avoid resource conflicts and budget overruns through careless execution. The bottom line – senior management cares more and recognizes PM as a vital role in the success of the organization – at least that’s my opinion – though I realize that still varies a lot from company to company. 

Summary / call for input 

Project management is a fairly static profession overall. But the tools we use to manage the projects we lead are evolving – many of them quickly. New releases, minor and major improvements, the addition of AI utilization, and how projects are looked at and prioritized across an entire organization has brought PM out of the shadows and into the forefront of the success of an organization. 

Readers – what are your thoughts about what’s new in project management? Do you agree with this starter list? What would you add? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, ebooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

Online 12/1/2021
Brad Egeland
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