The last few years, we’ve seen big changes happen in the way organizations manage their projects, and 2015 was no different. As the workplace continues to evolve, and technology makes that evolution possible, the idea of project management is evolving, and with that, the need for flexible software tools to facilitate it is too — and it’s all good.
As we embark on the year ahead, here are six trends to keep in mind that will further shape the way we work together and manage projects in 2016:
1. Agile is increasingly the way to work — for non-development teams
Increasingly, teams are turning to agile project development because of the flexibility it offers. Work begins more quickly, troubleshooting and revisions happen in real-time, products make it to market faster, risk is lower, customer satisfaction increases, and the list of benefits go on and on.
In order to compete and remain nimble, project management teams are increasingly adopting an agile approach, even if not fully recognizing it. Research shows that agile projects have a lower failure rate than traditional waterfall projects do. However, you don't need to go all-in and adopt Scrum to realize the benefits of Agile. Slicing down work into manageable, prioritized parts that are incrementally tackled, and focusing on capacity, not speed, to deliver work product are a couple of ways that agile has extended to project management beyond software teams.
2. Virtual teamwork is here to stay
Perhaps to Marissa Mayers’ dismay, telecommuting is still on the rise. “Working from home” is no longer a perk offered by some companies to only a few people. Many organizations are purposefully adopting telecommuting as a way to retain valuable employees, expand their talent pools, and cut costs. In fact, in the U.S. alone, 37 percent of employees are allowed to telecommute at least some, says a recent Gallup survey.
With SaaS and cloud-based project management solutions on the market, that number is expected to climb. Quite simply, such technology has made it easy for many workers to do their jobs anytime, anywhere, with nothing more than a smartphone and some business-critical apps.
Still, with the rise in virtual workspaces and remote employees, companies of all shapes and sizes will be looking for tools that allow people to stay connected and offer them the ability to monitor far-flung employees.
3. Team structures will focus less on hierarchies and more on teams
We’re beginning to see a shift in the way teams are structured, with teams being built based not on an arbitrary organizational chart but on projects’ complexity and even the ability of team members to work together.
Leadership roles will change as more teams adopt a “flat” approach with fewer layers of management. Employees will be more empowered to make decisions — including which tools they will adopt — drive the direction of a project, and finalize plans. Non-managers will receive more opportunities to lead specific projects.
Additionally, rather than a project manager doling out assignments and deadlines, team members — the people actually completing the work — will take a more collaborative approach to assigning work, setting deadlines, modifying plans, and the like.
Self-organization and self-management can boost productivity and efficiency as employees take ownership of projects. They’ll feel trusted by management, freer to do the job in a way that is best for them and more valued as important contributors to the team.
That said, without a true manager to drive work efforts, team members might end up confused about who is responsible for what facets of a particular project need attention and completion. The fact that team members might be dispersed globally could make it even more difficult to ensure that every aspect of a project is covered.
As a result, organizations will turn to solutions that increase accountability and keep everyone on the same page.
4. Mobility and BYOD will continue to increase
2015 saw a rise in project management application usage, and that trend will continue in 2016 as organizations satiate employees’ needs for increased flexibility.
With IT decisions no longer coming solely from the top, teams will have a big say in the types of tools the organization adopts, and they are going to choose tools that they can take anywhere. The traditional nine-to-five workday — with employees chained to desktop PCs — is fading, and employees aren’t going to adopt solutions unless they offer mobility.
Moreover, they’ll want to use their personal devices to access work-related software and applications. While that can save companies money in terms of hardware, it does pose problems, specifically when it comes to offering employees IT support on a variety of devices. Organizations will have to figure out efficient means of adapting to these needs.
5. Customers want real-time visibility
Your clients aren’t going to be content sitting around waiting for you to send them a weekly report on the status of their project. They want the ability to track progress and receive instant updates. They want to offer input, and they want to make changes mid-stream so that the final project meets all their needs.
Project management teams will need to “open the books,” so to speak, to clients. With the proper tools, you can plan out the entire project and easily share it with stakeholders, including customers, so that everyone knows the status of the project at any given time.
6. Big data will continue to play a big-time role
While project management in the past has focused on tangible factors to ensure that projects come in on time and under budget, data analytics is poised to play a more prominent role in providing more accurate forecasts.
Teams will turn to data from previous projects to make future projects run more efficiently and smoothly, allowing them to improve everything from budgeting to resource and capacity planning.
Empowerment is key
Team and employee empowerment are at the heart of some of the biggest changes happening in the workplace today. By trusting teams to set priorities around team and business goals and manage where they use their work tools, employers are building happier and more productive companies.