Project Management 2021


How Project Management will Change in 2021


Setting the Scene

Resource Planning

Probably the key to running a project delivery function is resource. Good people are hard to come by and even more difficult to keep if they are associated with a technology stack that is the ‘flavour of the day’ and in demand. If you speak to any manager of a project delivery team, they will tell you that dovetailing good people from one project to another is an art form that requires immense skill and planning.The demands of IR35 (a uk law coming into effect in April 2021 designed to combat tax avoidance by workers, and the firms hiring them) will make contiguous resourcing difficult and fraught with tax avoidance issues that most companies have already decided to avoid, by having fully employed teams providing project delivery instead of contracted 3rd party resource.So, where before organisations could keep valuable contracted resource across projects to provide heightened service delivery capabilities, bringing with them experience of the firm that the contracted resources would have acquired via the previous projects they may have worked upon, this will now be scrutinised and made even more difficult to achieve due to the pressure to hire, for literally just the particular piece of work they (the contracted resource) is actually delivering.To counter this there are now companies offering ‘resource bench’ type approaches and thus absorbing the risks associated with hiring consultants that would normally fit within the new IR35 architecture. “Resource benches’ offer the best of both worlds so project delivery functions can now ‘call off’ resources as and when they need it. This type of virtual bench is nothing new but will become more popular as the grip of IR35 kicks in.Business as Usual functions will also have to step up to provide the capabilities needed to deliver technology to the business. Often BAU resource is called upon for ‘rollout’ purposes, but in 2021 a lot of the project delivery capability will fall to them primarily due to cost constraints. They (BAU) are normally the nearest function an organisation has that relate to providing an SME (subject matter expert) to help with any technical shortfall within a project.To make matters worse, new demands for projects and fields of expertise appear at increasingly shorter intervals. Greater flexibility in strategic capacity planning is required and ensuring that organisations have a holistic view of what they are trying to achieve and with whom will become even more prevalent, especially where working from home practices remain or are enforced due to office space restrictions.

Information Transparency

As mentioned above remote working is tough, not only for the individual and the mental challenges that WFH (working from home) brings, but primarily because of the lack of team ethos and belonging that comes from sitting next to and in the same room as your team members.This remoteness also brings some significant issues that will need to be addressed in 2021.Information exchange is vital for business. It allows organisations to grow and develop new and insightful customer relationships by leveraging all sorts of experience that employees bring to the table. If they are working remotely this collective view on things and subsequent lack of provocation to develop new ideas and be challenged as individuals, affects the organisations client engagement and personal development of its employees significantly.It is widely acknowledged that having employee enablement functionality within an organisation increases profits by up to 43% and lowers the churn of employees leaving the company by 62%.Employees want to contribute and want to be asked to contribute to the organisation’s overall delivery to its clients. When engaged, employees feel empowered and often drive new initiatives that generate more value add to the organisation. To do this they have to be privy to the right information at the right time, and this is no mean feat to accomplish.In 2021 the onboarding of employees will need to be addressed significantly due to the lack of ability to sit next to someone for three weeks who will show them the ropes. This maybe because of Covid 19 restrictions but more often than not will be because those organisations do not have the spare staff onboard anymore to be able to take time out to help new starters. Having an information exchange solution or heightened intranet within the organisation will help but making onboarding digitalised and available on a pull basis will go a long way to addressing this.Videos and interactive pull-based learning are the way to go in this area because very few people read manuals from cover to cover but lots and lots of people will watch You Tube to find out how to fix their broken fridge.Imagery is everything and most importantly it is available whenever they want to consume it.There is a reason iTunes, Spotify and Netflix are so popular and that is because you the end user decide when you want to consume what they are offering and what parts of it are useful to you.

Agile Development

Agile development is a talking point that can create the most friction during an after-work drinks get together. Developers love it, project managers often loathe it, and portfolio management struggles to roll up agile developments and communicate the findings to key stakeholders.Agile in itself is great, its quick start-up and speed to pilot is something that cannot be argued, but reporting is often clumsy and complicated due to both documentation and process clarity.The average end user struggles with Agile because of a lack of definitive visibility of the deliverable. The speed to pilot is a great advantage but how it is communicated to users is often poor and technically weighted. A common problem with Agile is that stakeholders who stay close to the development sprints are usually technically interested in the first place and the non-technical stakeholders tend to drift away and thus are more in danger of not getting the desired outcome at the finish of an initiative.Not all projects are conducive to Agile, and it is important to select the methodology best suited for the project at hand.To address this, it is vitally important is to adopt Agile Portfolio Management to promote better organisational agility and clarity in the project reporting process thus ensuring your portfolio of projects is aligned to the goals of the organisation in question.Agile Portfolio Management centralises all projects regardless of their methodology and means that even projects managed with more traditional methodologies, such as waterfall, can reside in an Agile portfolio. This in turn provides the capability to manage the entire programme of work from a single source and apply the correct project methodology to each deliverable.Having the visibility, data, and reporting required across the programme enables a project management office to see what issues are on the horizon, which resource allocation issues need to be addressed, the time spent, the progress, and the results about present and future project initiatives.Agile Portfolio Management enables the creation of a portfolio backlog because the project management office can centralise projects and see progress and results in real time.This also enables them to be able to begin making strategic decisions about future projects and creating an effective pipeline of vetted work that is ready to execute as soon as space opens up.

Revenue Generation

In 2021 it is obvious that money and funding is going to be difficult to obtain. What is needed is for IT resources within organisations to be more commercial and able to create a revenue stream from the deliverables they have invested so heavily within.It is not acceptable to not include a commercial element for multi-million-pound initiatives that deliver functionality to employees within the organisation, but that have no external client capability. This is a massive oversight and incredibly naïve when it comes to understanding how clients interact with most companies.Most organisations pride themselves on service. It could be a myriad of things but in general, great service to the client brings in profits that allow everything else to be funded accordingly and the organisation to develop and grow. So why do financial institutions spend millions of pounds on email and file capability, virtual desktops, clever information exchanges and settlement systems, but never offer this functionality to their clients via a commercial business model. It doesn’t make any sense.How many big banks have amazing standard virtual desktops that most of the bank’s customers would dream to own and pay for on a monthly basis, but keep those environments locked down for only their own employees to use.It’s not security, as ring fencing systems like this is too easy for any self-respecting CSO, and it’s not resource, as any white labelling of systems like these can incorporate the staff costs in any billing and pricing models.Mentalities need to change for CIO’s so that they can start to create P+L’s for services they offer and begin to offset the cost that most CEO’s think IT actually is.Cost neutrality of IT divisions should be the target for CIO’s and how to do this is to begin to commercialise what you have in your product and service portfolio.Digital Revenue Generation will enhance the value proposition, providing the business benefit and transformational change internal users and external customers demand. This will allow organisations to align portfolios from both a technical and employee engagement perspective, whilst moving products and services to a new level of engagement and business benefit realisation, by improving processes and commercialising service delivery.2021 should see IT departments looking very closely at how to generate revenue from what they currently have in production to offset future investment opportunities.


In times when developer efficiency and speed to market is everything it’s only natural for organisations to turn to technology to find the solution.One of the most effective solutions is through building and running scalable applications in public, private and hybrid clouds. This allows for systems to be resilient, manageable and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil. This is known as being cloud native.A factor of most cloud initiatives within organisations is ‘quality of deployed solution’. When re-platforming and making such a significant organisational decision as to which cloud option to re-platform to, the quality of solution is key to benefits realisation. Standardisation is next in line as the more standardised an organisation is the more cost effective it is to operate. How a cloud function is operated within the organisation is also significant and underpinned by implementing agile techniques and leveraging technologies such as containers and Kubernetes for management purposes.In 2021 it will be imperative to try to create a culture of learning through experimentation. Understanding where you are failing is fine as long as you learn from it as early as possible. Empowering teams to make their own decisions where possible will be a significant tick in the box when it comes to extending an organisations cloud environment capabilities.How organisation obtain feedback from end users and the subsequent research will also be incredibly important to help cloud teams understand what matters to the end user. This understanding of an end users’ needs will uncover a multitude of data sources within your organisation that will help you improve the service to employees whilst creating new and performance tuned products and services with defined, qualified research data.As mentioned previously in this document using agile methodologies to empower your teams through iterative change and design thinking approaches, will simplify the problem further by re-framing the problem in human-centric way and create many new ideas. Coupled with brainstorming sessions, adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and experimenting with quick to implement and quick to fail approaches will make the cloud environment for organisations the most valuable resource it possesses.Project management functions will have to address these changes by putting processes in place to make changes as seamless as possible, enabling iterative change to be top of the agenda for cloud initiatives.

Cultural Changes

The dictionaries description of cultural change highlights one specific point. The amount of time it takes to invoke cultural change. PMO functions struggle to reflect change because they are often seen as the gatekeeper to environments and thus confrontational in their subsequent operation. This has to change and 2021 is the perfect time to begin this change journey.When you call your bank or a shop or any organisation providing a service at the moment, you invariably get a message saying that due to Covid restrictions your call may take longer than usual to be answered etc … You’re expecting that message and even though you might not accept it as being completely true, you know that there is probably some semblance of truth in the statement. Our bar for the service we are expecting as a whole has been lowered… and we are reluctantly accepting it on a daily basis.This is why 2021 is the perfect time to begin a change programme that can destroy the preconceptions of PMO being obstructive or something to fear that will inhibit your chances of success or role functionality. Everyone is expecting things to be different and the level of understanding has never been so high as it is at the moment.Change management enables employees to adopt a change so that business objectives are realised, and it is the bridge between solutions and results whilst being fundamental in the delivery of successful outcomes. Having a free run at multiple change initiatives with employee buy in and feedback from being acceptant of the changes being made is a very valuable thing indeed and something to work towards at this very difficult time.Being able to hurdle the first two or three stages of any change cycle, fear, acceptance and engagement, will shorten not only the time taken to adopt that change but also the cost of implementing that change.’Adoption is everything’, it drives benefits, provides engagement, and most importantly generates quality output, but you need feedback and a low threshold of fear or you get very little back at all. Products and services stall, and the busines stagnates. In 2021 users are ready and waiting for change.

Business Model Innovation

A business model is a document or strategy which outlines how a business or organisation delivers value to its customers. In its simplest form, a business model provides information about an organisation’s target market, that market’s need, and the role that the business’s products or services will play in meeting those needs.Business model innovation describes the process in which an organisation adjusts its current business model. Often, this innovation reflects a fundamental change in how a company delivers value to its customers, whether that’s through the development of new revenue streams or distribution channels.As mentioned previously with Digital Revenue Generation and Cloud, project management functions have to address Business Model Innovation as a viable way of creating value within any methodology that it would want to introduce to an organisation.BMI needs to be offered as a value-add service by organisations that not only augments project management and PMO functions in general, but that can drive the generation of business benefits for any programme of work that is being delivered.A great example is Blockbuster, for example. The video rental chain faced a series of challenges, particularly when DVDs started out selling VHS tapes. DVDs took up less shelf space, had higher quality video and audio, and were also durable and thin enough to ship in the mail-which is where Netflix founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph spotted an opportunity.The pair launched Netflix in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail business, enabling customers to rent movies without needing to leave their house. The added bonus was that Netflix could stock its product in distribution centres; it didn’t need to maintain inventory for more than 9,000 stores and pay the same operating costs Blockbuster did.It took seven years for Blockbuster to start its own DVD-by-mail service. In early 2014, all Blockbuster stores had closed, and Netflix were a $5 billion dollar company.Implementing lean innovation is very complimentary to Business Model Innovation. Lean innovation enables teams to develop, prototype, and validate new business models faster and with fewer resources by capturing customer feedback early. Coupled with BMI the two methodologies provide the perfect method to enhance project deliverables by providing better insight and direction whilst being in a far better place to prototype new solutions.As mentioned in the 2021 cultural section, now is a great time to look at things differently and BMI is a perfect toolset to do just that.

Learning & Development

Learning & development is a key component for project management that it so often overlooked, underfunded, or neglected. Generally bringing up the rear of any deliverable programme of work, learning and development has been widely known as the first thing to be cut when organisations try to save costs or when time constraints become difficult and challenging.The more engaged with the supplied deliverables end users are, the more they leverage those artifacts and develop processes to heighten any interactions with other employees or clients.It is proven that better understanding of technology for client facing employees increases sales and general perception of the organisation in question by as much as 35%. This provides an enriched experience and allows for continual change methodologies to be implemented as a key component for transformation within organisations. A significant factor in the success of continual change is the ability to prime end users with tailored, pull based learning that is available to both educate and on-board employees and clients.In 2021 personalising the learning experience to employees with engaging resources aligned to the employee’s interests and skill development needs will become a significant differentiator for organisations. When used in conjunction with vastly improved onboarding capabilities learning and development will make learning a habit, not just an occasional event undertaken yearly.Companies that have invested time and money in providing social communities that share learning across the enterprise see a large downturn in churn of employees and a large upturn in employee satisfaction surveys.88% of employees who resigned from their roles believed “lack of personal development” was a critical factor in their decision.Creating effective learner-driven experiences to accelerate learning adoption and the building of required skills will become so important to companies operating remote working.With 73% of employees complaining of not being able to find the right information to address external queries, how we educate our employees in general will move higher and higher up the ‘to do’ lists of C level executives as the dust settles on the Covid -19 pandemic.Addressing onboarding of new employees will not only save companies significant sums but also open the door to increased levels of flexibility for organisations when it comes to priming new initiatives and business marketing campaigns.

Project management Office Scope

The Project Management Office will see many changes in its remit and general capability during 2021. What it will be asked to do from a scope perspective will also see many subtle changes as the year progresses.Portfolio prioritisation helped organisations decide what was important in 2020 with the onset of home working and the difficulties that brought with it. Priorities change quickly and in 2021 we will probably see more emphasis on the processes involved in delivering a value add PMO, than prioritisation of projects and programmes.Last year everyone went their separate ways and worked in a disperse fashion with virtual working high on most people’s agendas, this year we will consolidate the learnings and improve on how we engage and work with people remotely.Inclusion will be high on the list for most companies when it comes to PMO functionality, primarily to address the mental health issues of working in isolation but also to improve the experience as a whole. Project Management Offices will probably have to change their primary focus to include operational processes that genuinely advise and protect employees whilst trying to ease the burden of not having a team on hand to leverage and receive help from. The extra pressure some people may feel by working in this type of environment will be huge and it will fall on the functions that have the most interaction with teams to provide that help at every opportunity.With all of the diverse methodologies available to a PMO in 2021 such as Agile, Lean, DevOps, and standard Product Management the PMO will be involved in all of it and because of this the education, experience, and training capabilities will be a significant factor in the successful support of all of them.The training of project teams will move from being primarily an HR issue to being more of a PMO function.Technology engagement and enablement strategies need to be owned by the PMO moving forward as they are ‘closer to the action’ when it comes to strategic direction and the subsequent changes required.It will not make sense to look to HR to understand where issues can be addressed and then being expected to gauge the strategic solutions that need to be implemented to fix those issues.


‘If it was easy everyone would be doing it’ but a successful project management function in 2021 and beyond is going to a function that successfully addresses the significant issues that most organisations are confronted with as we start 2021.My advice to companies and organisations looking to make changes to their project and programme architecture is to think about how to re-evaluate where you are at the moment and to factor in realistic objectives that will be achievable over the next 9 months.This year will be a short year by the time most people are back in the office, so 9 months is realistically all we are going to be working with, so re-evaluate, rethink, and reframe PMO and portfolio management practices to prepare for the new normal in the business and organisation.Organisations that build on existing strategy-execution capabilities while balancing the need for governance and discipline, probably in a remote working environment will find themselves in the best shape as 2021 draws to a close.Compliance is going to be a major factor this year and successfully applying the constraints and regulatory functions within project and programme frameworks will be vital to minimising exposure and any fines that surely follow. Soon the difficulties we all face will fade back to a more orderly working practice and the regulators of this world will not look on situations in such an understanding way.The transparency of key data is going to vital, with training, learning and development, regulatory and enablement being at the forefront of what will need to be distributed.The more inclusive organisations can be, the more benefits they will realise from their employee engagement and subsequently better client relationships that will evolve.The bar has been lowered by the pandemic so the organisations that sprint back to normal functionality the quickest, will position themselves for a larger piece of the corporate pie than they may have had before the pandemic started.Covid 19 has not changed the fact that the organisations with the best, most flexible delivery capabilities will capture a larger part of the sector that they operate within.Understanding People, Products, Services and the client was key before the pandemic and it will be even more key after as the level of service that clients expect rises from where it is today.

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