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As the world slowly moves away from recession, businesses need to leverage opportunities while still running a tight ship. The importance of human resources as a key source of competitive advantage remains, but organizations, not yet fully out of the recession mode and facing the risk of possible economic shocks owing to the debt crisis, cannot yet afford to spend lavishly on wages and employee benefits. Opportunities exist, but project managers need to remain prepared for possible changes or even abandonment mid-way as the economic outlook remains more fluid than before. Side by side, technology grows at a rapid pace, and the project managers need to remain abreast and incorporate the same, or become obsolete.
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The fourth edition of the PMBOK provides greater stress on collecting requirements. The trend is to rely less on cases and movement and more on user stories and scenario-based requirements. Modeling, prototypes, and diagrams takes center stage, and written requirements specifications become only an adjunct of the total requirements gathering. More and more organizations also use traceability matrices to control and mage product scope
Agile techniques continue to increase in popularity, and the industry now moves from the varied and inconsistent use of agile techniques to standard and commonly accepted practices. One emerging concept is “Scrum of Scrums”, to coordinate Agile teams.
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Technological advancements, especially the internet make the work of the project team much easier than before. Innovative web services and technologies makes planning, execution, tracking, and integration of key functional areas such as project planning, WBS, work force planning, payroll, accounting, financial management, customer relationship management, marketing, and other processes easy.
Technology also allows for a level playing field among various players. The growth of the internet has thrown open many opportunities for web-based projects, where small firms with expertise and talent take on giant conglomerates. With access to technology becoming a common denominator, key factors of competitive advantage become the skills and competence of human resources, and the flexibility and agility of the firm in accommodating and delighting the customer.
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Of late, there is a growing awareness among CEOs, CFOs, departmental heads, and others in the top echelons of power about the ill effects of micro-management, and as such, project managers now have considerable leeway in managing the project. The focus of performance measure has shifted from the "how" or performance to the "what" or the results. Senior executives now confine themselves to defining the project scope, and ensuring that the project has adequate resources and support, and talented professionals to execute the nitty-gritty.
The dismantling of controls and restrictions permeate down to the rank and file, and floor level employees find their work enriched. More and more project managers adopt a facultative approach, and a collaborative or transformational leadership style rather than a command and control or autocratic leadership style. The empowerment also comes with depth of duties, and very often the role of business analyst and project manager become one. Such job enlargement and enrichment permeate down the rank and file. Hierarchies and fixed job descriptions disappear, and a flat organization with multi-tasking and contract employees become the new norm.
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Both the hunt for talent pool and the scale of operations have become global for many companies. Project managers need to develop the art of managing remotely located team members. People tend to become more involved, and establish a better rapport when working physically close to one another, and extracting the same level of commitment and rapport from remote workers and telecommuting workers remains a challenge for project managers.
The spread of globalization also brings collaborative tools to the center stage. The successful execution of projects now depends on the availability of the state of the art and seamless communication tools than ever before.
Successful management of a global team also requires resolving and integrating cultural differences. Very often divergent attitudes towards work and differences in interpretation of concepts and issues can wreak havoc with project execution. Project managers need to make proactive intervention to sort out such issues.
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The underlying requirement to face the above challenges heads-on is flexibility and collaboration. Project managers need to leverage the advancements in collaborative tools and systems to ensure that all stakeholders, especially the customer involves in project execution more. They also need to leverage flexibility as a means to retain talented staff, and incorporate stakeholder demands.