Published here November 2008.


Musings Index

Top Ten Trends in Project Management for 2008

Diane Johnson recently wrote me on behalf of ESI International as follows.

Dear Max,

Whether it's building new IT infrastructure, coordinating remote employee teams or delivering a new product line, companies are understanding that project management is mission critical to their success.

Below we offer you the 2008 Top 10 Trends in Project Management, developed by senior management and practitioners at ESI International, the global professional development company specializing in project management, business analysis and contract management to drive performance improvement. They've served over 950,000 professionals in the commercial and public sectors in their 27-year history.

The list is available for reprint as a thumbnail reference, or should you be interested in delving more deeply into any of the trends, I'd be delighted to provide additional information and interview access to an ESI expert. Please let me know how I can assist you.

Kind regards,

Diane Johnson
On behalf of ESI International
Four Leaf Public Relations LLC

I found these top ten trends most interesting, but from my own experience, I am not sure that my impressions are quite what ESI intended. So, I have repeated these trends below followed by my own observations. But of course, you dear reader, are at liberty not just to agree or disagree with either the trends or my response, but to do so as vehemently as you can muster.

ESI's Ten Trends for 2008 are as follows.

ESI 1. Investment in Project Management Training To Counter Effects of Troubled Economy. Squeezed profits, smaller budgets, looming layoffs - this is no time to panic. Keeping projects on track and on budget can counter ill effects of the down economy. Smart, strategic organizations will realize that the down economy is the time to invest in project management training and development to optimize performance.

MW. Not sure whether the organizations that I know are smart or strategic, but the first thing to go when trouble looms is the project management department. Certainly don't panic, but do be ready for a spell "on the benches". In short, keep your resumé up to date!

ESI 2. Better, Faster Project Decision-making. The pressures for Project Managers to "get it done yesterday" are ever increasing, particularly with tightening budgets in the downward spiraling economy. Project managers need to be up to speed deploying best practices in their project selection. Know when to say no to projects that won't deliver solid ROI and which to green light.

MW. Just how many project managers, I wonder, actually have the authority to say "No" to a project?

ESI 3. Critical Thinking As A Key Project Management Competency. Technical competence alone doesn't create success. Project management has evolved into a robust discipline, and critical thinking is a key "soft skill" for Project Managers that makes the difference between success and failure.

MW. This is very true and good advice. Of course, it all depends on what you were thinking about when you were being "critical".

ESI 4. Emerging Relevance of the Project Management Office. Imagine the Space Shuttle without its command center. Project management offices ensure a higher chance for organizations to 'reach the stars' and their end goals. PMO's streamline processes, coordinate projects and allow for more efficiency in day-to-day project management. As more companies see the relevance for PMO's, this trend will become increasingly important to overall project management design.

MW. Are we still talking about a "A troubled economy" (Trend #1)? If so, the PMO, as a clear overhead difficult to justify in dollars and cents, tends to go even faster, especially if there is a "change at the top" with consequent political fallout.

ESI 5. Co-dependency between Project Management and Enterprise Analysis. In active knowledge management transfer, project managers with greater experience levels and an interest in functions like risk management are taking on traditional BA responsibilities, including enterprise analysis (EA).

MW. Yes, indeed, this is a very interesting development. Be ready any time now for BAs and PMs to be duking it out. The more interesting point is that now we are talking about project portfolio management, which is a different discipline altogether, with quite different skill requirements.

ESI 6. Project Managers Taking Leadership Roles in Organizational Change. In the face of unrelenting organizational change, project/program managers need to take a leadership role. However, leadership qualities are not program deliverables, so project managers occasionally need direction in fulfilling organizational change leadership obligations. They need to understand the business implications and what that means for projects, and how they can drive organizational change through effective project/project-portfolio management.

MW. As I said, now we are talking about project portfolio management which is quite a different discipline. Of course, that is no good reason why either a PM or BA should not aspire to such heights, but the transition is far from a natural progression.

ESI 7. Communication Challenges of Remote Team Management. As projects are increasingly conducted remotely through outsourcing and global expansion, project communication is often based on the written (email) and spoken (conference call) word. Unfortunately, a small percentage of what one wants to communicate is received through these channels. Project managers need best practices in communications for managing virtual teams.

MW. When someone actually comes along with a well-argued and documented set of "Best Practices" in this area, I shall be delighted.

ESI 8. Earning PgMP® Certification. Certified Program Management Professionals (PgMP®) will be infiltrating the landscape in 2008. This new certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI®) has project/program management professionals asking what are the inherent differences between their disciplines.

MW. Indeed, they may well ask. They may also ask whether this new designation has been targeted at the appropriate level, or is it just a new moneymaker for the project management industry?

ESI 9. Navigating the Overlap Between PM and BA Tasks. Project Managers and business analysts are recognizing the symbiotic nature of their relationships, where to paint the line on their responsibilities and how to work together on areas of overlap.

MW. As I understand it, the differences are fairly well mapped out. But of course, there will always be people who are intent upon transgressing into other people's territory.

ESI 10. Talent Management Impact on Business ROI. With the pending exodus of thousands of baby boomers over the next several years compounded by millennials entering the workforce, today's workers are motivated by a different set of incentives than their tenured colleagues. Organizations need to develop a talent management strategy incorporating recruiting and retaining talent to improve business performance.

MW. If I really understood what that was all about, I might be a lot wiser. For starters, where are all those "baby boomers" supposed to be going, and why? Might not a large proportion of them decide to stay and continue working - especially if they need to "counter the effects of a Troubled Economy"? And who (or what) are "millennials"? If we are speaking of youngsters entering the work force, what makes them any different from the steady stream of those who regularly enter the workforce each year?

If you disagree with me, by all means tell me. But if you disagree with ESI, please tell them!

About ESI International
ESI, a subsidiary of Informa plc (LSE:INF), helps people around the world improve the way they manage projects, contracts, requirements and vendors. In addition to ESI's more than 100 courses delivered in 18 languages at more than 75 locations worldwide, ESI offers eight certificate programs through their educational partner, The George Washington University in Washington. Founded in 1981, ESI's worldwide headquarters are in Arlington, Va, USA. To date, ESI's programs have benefited more than 950,000 professionals worldwide. For more information visit

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