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Trends in project management – how it feels to be a ScrumMaster

The holidays are over, the kids are back at school, and 2015 is well and truly under way, but before we get too far into the year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the successes of 2014 and wonder what challenges 2015 could bring.

This got me thinking as to how things have changed over the years and what the up-and-coming trends in project management might be. I recently stumbled across Mattias Hällström’s 2013 article on the ‘Five new trends in project management that enterprises simply can’t ignore’ which offered some insights that are interesting and relevant to explore today:

1. Rolling-wave planning

“Rolling-wave planning is the process of planning a project in phases of differing levels of detail, rather than completing a fully detailed plan for the entire project.” Those activities planned for the short term, over the immediate months are planned in much more detail than those that take a project through to completion in 1 or 2 years’ time. This has always made sense to me, why spend days planning the detail of activities that you think might be required in 6 months’ time? The speed at which we operate projects results in the plan being out of date before it is even finished.

2. Lean and Agile management

This seems to be the buzz word in software development, but I can definitely see some of the key principles creeping in to the device development arena. The theories are all based around increasing empowerment and engagement through three key roles;

  1. the Product Owner (our client) who sets goals and handles trade-offs
  2. the ‘ScrumMaster’ (our project manager) who guides the team to prioritise their tasks
  3. the Team Members who are responsible for the day to day planning and operating of their assigned tasks

The term ‘ScrumMaster’ never fails to bring a smile to may face, and is a pretty good description of how it can feel trying to balance everyone’s priorities and needs. Here’s a bit more about the term: scrummethodology.com

3. Customer-centric

“Research shows that if you invite stakeholders into your project it will be more successful.” We have always encouraged our clients to be activity involved in our projects, and over the last few years I have noticed the knock-on effect of this being that they are now more proactive in engaging their own ‘clients’ or senior management at key stages in the project.

Typically this engagement has been done behind closed doors, but more frequently we are being asked to speak directly with them. This is something that we very much encourage. It offers many advantages, including; more open and free flowing communication, a better understanding of the technical challenges and trade-offs with commercial decisions, as well as encouraging a greater feeling that we are all in it together!

4. Activity streams

There is a definite shift towards more open information sharing across multiple sites and companies. New technology and improved security are opening the way to central vaults of information where all project documentation can be stored and shared by all parties. While there is still a way to go in establishing how to accommodate different companies’ quality procedures, this is a big step forward in streamlining those time consuming documentation activities.

5. Social

“In the past 10 years we have learned more about the human brain and the human species than in the previous 1,000 years.” And it is this that interests me most about project management. What motivates people? How do you get the best out of an individual? And how do you get a group of individuals to work together as a team?

For me this is the most important part of project management, you can produce as many project plans and hold as many meetings are you like but if you can’t motivate and inspire people to work together towards a shared outcome the project will never succeed. This is about those softer project management skills that no course can teach – understanding personalities, being able to influence people, and providing focus on a clear end goal.

While none of these are new theories it is interesting (but not surprising) to see a continuing shift towards finding faster ways of working. New techniques and technology will continue to offer more streamlined approaches, however for me the key will always be a highly efficient and motivated project team. The right people in the right roles. Greater shared vision, responsibility and empowerment, backed up with the right level of support.

That old saying remains true, there’s definitely no ‘i’ in Team.

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