Projects and project environment are becoming more complex, thereby causing an exponential increase in project risk. In order to successfully manage the complexities of projects, organizations are beginning to review and change their strategies in order to improve operations, develop new product or even develop an outsourcing model that ensures that they are on top of the situation. While some organizations have succeeded in developing a working strategy that has kept them competitive, others have not been successful and some have failed woefully.

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Today, we will identify and analyze the current trends that project managers apply to high performing projects. We will also analyze trends in successful project organizations by studying the project management processes, organizational management, use of project management information system, etc., employed by the organizations.

The Project Manager

The following are trends common among successful project managers in project organizations.

  1. Project marketing –Project marketing and project management are often discussed and seen as independent fields. A 2005 study by Cova and Salle shows that less than 2% of project management research in project management journals has identified project marketing as a related field. This is because project managers often relegate the role of marketing to the marketing team, who oftentimes have little idea what is going on with the project. However, over the past years, there has been a gradual increase in project marketing among successful project managers. This is because buying organizations are more favorably disposed to giving a project to an organization that they have developed an off project relationship with. Latest research in project marketing has shown that project managers who participate in project marketing record higher rate of project success than their counterparts who do not. This explains why organizations that get involved with a project at the bidding stage are more likely to lose a project bid.

    Successful project managers are beginning to see the need to identify potential customers, develop a relationship with them independent of project, help them realize their need to setup the a project, and sometimes develop the project objectives with the client. Once this is done, the project organization, through the help of the project manager, stands a higher chance in winning a project. Aside from this, the project manager and the project organization will have a clearer understanding of the project, as they were part of the board that developed the project objectives.

    Although project marketing has proven successful in helping project managers, the successful implementation of project marketing is expensive. It requires additional project resources (human and financial) as well as increasing the job role of the project manager. It is also difficult to measure the effectiveness of project marketing until it ends in a contract between your organization and the organizations you have been marketing to.

  2. Pre-tendering risk management—All project managers today understand the importance of risk identification and management in determining the success of a project. The more the risks identified by the project manager and his/her team, the easier it is to develop risk management strategies, thus a higher probability of success of the project. The important question is: “At what point in the project do we start risk identification?”

    According to the PMBOK (PMI, 2012), project bidding and supplier selection are project management activities that occur in the early phases of a project known as the tendering and pre-tendering phases. Due to the high rate of estimations and assumptions needed in the tendering and pre-tendering phase, project risks are highest at these phases. The project manager should therefore begin risk identification and analysis at the project pre-tendering phase.

    A risk that cannot be identified cannot be analyzed and is therefore impossible to manage. A research conducted by Fayak et al. shows that at the tendering stage, over 50% of project managers do not bother using any risk assessment techniques and those who do have adopted a quantitative approach rather than a qualitative approach to risk assessment as risk are often expressed as a fraction/percentage of the forecast.

    In a research by Elkington and Smallman, they came to the conclusion that project managers who identify risk at an early stage in the project are more likely to record a higher level of success than their counterparts who do not. Risk identification is, however, difficult at this stage, as the project manager relies on a lot of historical data, experience and statistical tools. No two projects are similar; hence it might be difficult to accurately forecast the project.

  3. Industry benchmarking becomes important—Another trend on the rise among successful project managers is the need for organizations to benchmark using industry standards rather than the organization’s past success. Competition is becoming global and, in order to remain competitive in the industry, project managers are benchmarking their success against generally accepted industry standards. Benchmarking against industry giants and standards also draws an organization closer to the generally accepted level of perfection. Benchmarking with industry best practices, however, does come with some challenges. While the project output and deliverables of the benchmarked organizations are always known, the activities and processes used in achieving success by the organizations remain unknown. Factors such as advanced technology, economies of scales, patents, and inimitable resources might make it difficult to produce like the organization benchmarked.
  4. Leaders and not managers—One of the most researched topics you will find on the Internet and other management texts is the difference between leaders and managers. An emerging trend in project management is that organizations and project team members are demanding more leadership skills from their project managers. Since the responsibility of the project manager is to ensure that a project is completed fulfilling all the objectives within the set project constraints, the project manager is often concerned with the project success. Leadership skill, however, requires considering the human element of the project (project team members) and ensuring their satisfaction at all points during the project. While not all managers are leaders, the rare leadership skills are becoming more important in day-to-day management and organizations are expecting managers to show more leadership characters. Managers with good leadership characteristics often have better support from their project team members.
  5. Cooperation and collaboration—Another common trend among successful project managers is the understanding of the need for cooperation and collaboration. The days of project managers working independently to achieve success in their department is gradually fading away. Existing research has shown that project managers who cooperate with other professionals within the organization during project planning and implementation phase will record higher success in identifying and managing risks in their project than their colleagues who work independently. The probability of the project’s success is also higher. Cooperating and collaborating with other functional managers or project managers, as the case might be, will give the project manager a holistic understanding of the project. It also helps in reducing the effect of mistakes and negative risks on the project and organization as a whole, since there is cooperation among the project managers in the organization.
  6. Increased documentation—An organization can increase its competitive advantage in two ways. The first is by maintaining the value of its product while reducing cost, while the second is increasing value while maintaining cost. The cost of sourcing for relevant information can be expensive if not properly planned. A project manager can reduce the cost and time spent on searching for information by ensuring proper documentation. This will, in the long run, increase the competitive advantage of the organization. As discussed in one of our previous articles (http://resources.intenseschool.com/seven-main-reasons-why-projects-fail/), improper documentation is one of the major causes of scope change project failure. According to PMI, project managers who engage in proper documentation are more likely to avoid scope creep, leading to additional costs, than project managers who do not.

    Towards the end of a project, especially when the product of the project is complete, most project team members tend to be released to take part in other projects. It is not uncommon to find a lot of loopholes in project documentations at this phase. The “lesson learnt” is one of the most important project closure documents. A well-documented lesson learnt becomes a relevant reference document for other similar projects, especially at the initial phase. Proper and effective documentation is not just a trend but compulsory for project manager who wants to save time and record a higher rate of success in upcoming projects. Proper documentation does not come cheap, as it requires project managers and organizations developing a report and documentation format and also dedication from the project manager in getting the work completed.

Conclusion

In our article today, we set out to explore the current project management trends exhibited by project managers and organizations that guarantees project success. We discovered some common trends among successful project managers, as we can see above. In our next articles, we will be exploring the trends in successful project organizations focusing on their project management processes, organizational management, use of project management information system, etc.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to leave a comment below and we will surely get to you.