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Step Up or Step Out of the Way in 2013

ward FeaturearticleFeb20Money’s tight. Resources are constrained. And clients’ expectations continue to rise. Yet, there’s more work than ever and the right projects need to get done faster. Welcome to 2013 and the world of project management—a world dominated by the need for better project leaders, faster development cycles, and project management offices (PMOs) that are adding value not cost! As we look at the year ahead, here are the trends shaping our industry. 

  1. Organizations will need stronger soft skills but will focus on investments in hard skills. The training focus will remain on hard skills, even though many executives and managers complain that their project managers lack leadership skills. Why the cognitive dissonance? Because most companies prefer to train their project managers in the specifics of “project” leadership rather than generic leadership training that is so commonplace. Organizations will seek out alternatives to develop leadership skills because waiting for the ideal program will only result in perpetuating the existing unsatisfactory situation.
  2. Agile implementation will be viewed in some organizations as a failure, but for the wrong reasons. Studies show that Agile methods can reduce costs, speed time to market, and improve quality; however, in 2013, many organizations will continue to fall short in realizing the promise of Agile. Why? Because their project professionals aren’t trained in Agile methods and their organizations are not culturally ready to embrace its principles. It’s not sufficient to train just a handful of Scrum masters. The Scrum “team” needs to know how to apply Agile practices. Providing training to only those who lead these efforts will undermine Agile adoption, resulting in failed implementations.
  3. Project management is not just for project managers anymore. For decades “project manager” was a role, not a title. Not anymore. We have project manager career paths and more than half a million became certified. While the professionalism of project management will continue, organizations need more project managers, and those will come from the rank and file in such units as HR, sales, and marketing. They have projects too, and they will require individuals outside of those who carry the PM title to perform the role of project manager. There are not enough project managers to go around and these groups have projects that need to get done.
  4. Large projects pose challenges that are tough to overcome. Size does matter, and when it comes to large projects, the impact and interplay of downsizing, complexity, and outsourcing are creating a level of difficulty many find hard to manage. Many of these projects require substantive components to be outsourced, yet many organizations struggle because they have lost the in-house expertise to monitor the level of quality being delivered. Contractors are calling the shots because they both design and develop/construct their own work. As a result, in 2013 we will see more organizations build up their in-house expertise to ensure their contractors are doing the job right.
  5. PMOs will focus on proving their worth. Gone are the days when just implementing a methodology and creating a project dashboard convinced corporate executives that the PMO was pulling its weight. More organizations are conducting PMO “audits” to identify areas where the PMO can provide greater value to the organization. PMO directors who understand that their roles involve not just delivering projects, but also contributing to the overall business performance, will identify key business metrics and measure themselves against those metrics to prove their worth.
  6. The U.S. government will upgrade its PM certification in the face of rising criticism. Having a certified project manager is mandatory for civilian agencies in order to fund major IT projects. However, existing policy that sets the minimum training hours to earn a PM certification has been interpreted by some as guidance only. Many note deteriorating quality in the PM training, causing some to question the quality of a U.S. government “certified” project manager. In 2013 we will see the feds bolster the quality of their PM certification.
  7. Project managers will become better at vendor management. Many organizations that outsource their projects complain they have “vendor management” problems. First, many of their issues have to do with how their contract requirements were written. Mandating that a contractor deliver against a set of confusing requirements is asking for trouble. Second, organizations often select the wrong contract type based on these requirements. And third, they assign people with the wrong skills to work with contractors. In 2013 smart organizations will assign more highly qualified professionals to write requirements and manage relationships.
  8. Continued poor project performance will result in more PMOs being terminated. ESI research shows that the average life span of the PMO is four years. That number is likely to drop if project performance continues to underwhelm executives. Poor project performance has its root causes in many areas. Blaming the PMO for poor project management is an easy way out, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The PMO is in the crosshairs; if project performance doesn’t improve PMO directors may be looking elsewhere for employment.
  9. Portfolio management will take on a greater role. Portfolio management turns strategy into reality. More companies are investing in IT and process improvement to get a better handle on all of the project-based investments. And, they are tweaking or overhauling their portfolio management approach to make sure it is the best it can be. This will require expertise in portfolio management. Will PMI develop a certification in Portfolio Management? We shall see.
  10. Organizations will adopt Agile to accelerate time to market but what they achieve may be a different story. Agile methods have the potential to boost performance in a variety of ways. However, the top benefit derived from adopting Agile (i.e., ability to manage changing priorities) is not the same top reason organizations adopt Agile in the first place; they do so to accelerate time to market. Should this cause an organization to rethink its use of Agile? Not at all. There’s still plenty of evidence Agile can do what its proponents claim it does.

Prove your worth, speed things up, and become a better leader. That’s what organizations are looking for in their PMs in 2013. The expectations are high. The work is challenging. And there’s plenty of opportunity to get ahead. Step up, or step out of the way. 2013 is waiting for you! 

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