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The Top 10 Project Management Trends for 2011

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Project managers seeking to distinguish themselves in 2011 should hone their leadership skills, and strive to learn more about project management through experience and various informal approaches. Somewhat surprisingly, that’s the advice of J. LeRoy Ward, executive vice president, ESI International, a leading project management learning company.

Leadership and learning were the main themes unearthed by ESI in its Top 10 Global Project Management Trends for 2011 , a paper crafted by Ward with input from a global panel of consultants and senior executives.

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Ward et al. identified the following trends:

Leadership skills will be PMs critical success factor – “As projects get more complex, virtual and global, finishing a project on time and on budget requires PMs to demonstrate leadership skills such as critical thinking and organizational change management,” he said. “The challenge for organizations in 2011 will be to clearly define what ‘leadership’ means in the project and program management context.”

No industry will be spared from the war for PM talent – Savvy talent management and retention strategies will be essential to ward off poaching in 2011, Ward noted.

Opportunities for experienced PMs should be plentiful in India and China, countries plagued by a dearth of competent and experienced people who can manage large and complex infrastructure and IT projects. The Middle East will probably be another popular destination for PMs, he predicted. Mega-projects at the King Abdullah Economic City north of Jidda and King Abdullah Financial District on the outskirts of Riyadh are kicking into high gear.

Agile will be seen for what it is … and isn’t – “We expect to see more Agile implementations in 2011 and a greater emphasis on demonstrating ROI through Agile adoption,” he said. Ward added that organizations will need to convince project stakeholders and executives that Agile is not the next silver bullet despite what the media and vendors might claim.

Still, organizations that do Agile right, including selecting the right projects, will reap significant rewards, he said.

Competency models will be core to managing professional development and promotions for PMs – “Globally, we see a stronger need for companies to use company-specific competency models to improve the hiring, assigning, promotion and professional development of PMs,” he said. The HR, business unit heads and the enterprise project management office (EPMO) need to work shoulder-to-shoulder to identify and codify organization-specific competencies.

Experiential learning will be more the norm than the exception – ESI expects to see more reality-based learning and on-the-job training of PMs. “Learning providers will be required to send PMs back to the job from such sessions with the ability to immediately apply what they learned to their current projects,” he said. Ward noted the lecture mode is becoming dead and any training provider or university who ignores it does so at its peril.

Informal learning for PMs will gain momentum – ESI foresees more use of such learning approaches as communities of practice, various forms of social media, as well as coaching and mentoring. With millennials joining the workforce in greater numbers, organizations will witness more effective use of wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts and other methods of communication, Ward said.

Project sponsorship will become an area of focus in south Asia – Ward said the project sponsor model will be deployed more intensively in south Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh, as organizations try to accelerate their structured approach to project management.

Outsourcing will remain a risky business – Outsourcing will continue to grow in 2011 but organizations will pay more heed to its risks, he said. ESI expects that organizations will strengthen their risk management cultures and focus on adopting best practices in contract management.

PMs will team with “change partners” and use structured methods to facilitate adoption – “In 2011, we will see more organizations developing and assigning change partners (aka, change management experts) to projects to assist in the adoption of products and services created by projects,” Ward predicted. In some cases, project teams will increase their use of packaged change management methods.

The PMP will continue its “World Domination,” but it will no longer be enough
– The PMP will continue to be the most popular project management credential in the world but change is slowly coming. “The value of proven experience and demonstrated competency will take on even more relevance beyond having the certification itself,” said Ward.

Herman Mehling has written about IT for more than 25 years. He has worked for many leading computer publications and websites, including Computer Reseller News, eWeek, and InformationWeek. Currently, he contributes regularly to and Enterprisestorageforum.comas well as

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