Ever-Evolving Project Management Systems & Changing Roles of the Project Managers

Written by Kainat Abdul Wahab

Kainat Abdul Wahab is the Head of PMO Department at KUWAITNET. She lives by the ideology of "Simple Living, High Thinking."

Today, project managers are more likely to be termed "chief risk officers" rather than "directors." They are thought to be direct managers. Yet, the changing role of the project manager is the change in the focus of the manager's attention from being directly responsible for the team to being the risk-bearer & compliance officer. 

In the old days, the project manager was focused on the "raw material" or the deliverable. He was the person that made the decisions up until he got into the weeds of the project schedule, scope, and budget. Then he turned the focus to the result-based planning process. The result-based planning was a high-level and involved process that took the project manager outside the daily work of the project and required him to make decisions based upon the requirements of the businesses.

But now, the whole face of project management has changed, and different management systems have evolved with time. Let’s discuss them one by one:

  1. Waterfall Project Management

When we talk about waterfall project management, we refer to an effective method of managing any project, irrespective of its size and complexity. It can get to be said that this method is ideal for any project that requires controlling several variables simultaneously. Waterfall project management involves the use of an agile or waterfall approach to project execution. As far as possible, this method is concerned with bringing about the most beneficial results in terms of the resources available. Once implemented properly, it can prove to be one of the most effective project management techniques.

Simply put, waterfall project management is simply a sequential unidirectional process of project management, where everything is done in order. It consists of several discrete stages. Each stage is completely independent of all the others. The main benefit of using waterfall project management techniques is that it enables project managers to simultaneously deal with several changes and developments. As such, it greatly reduces the risk involved in project execution and reduces the costs and time involved in its execution. 

  1. Agile Project Management

Agile project management is a set of software development methods, which emerged from the requirements of a wide array of business requirements across different industries, starting with Software Development for enterprise applications and culminating in the development of Lean manufacturing principles for sustainable and quality systems. Agile allows managing changes better than conventional management styles, and hence it is highly adaptable to all forms of business requirements. Agile project management methodologies include the following key features: user empowerment, rapid feedback, and systematic scheduling. In addition to these basic features, Agile project management also includes many design strategies to make decisions more efficient and minimize wastes.

Agile project management follows the principles of Agile technology development, and hence it is based on the idea of continuous improvement. Following the sequence of the Agile Manifesto for Agile Software Development, Agile practices began to spread across various other fields of activity, including management and manufacturing. These practices were greatly applauded by developers, entrepreneurs, and consumers because they removed the need for constant review and supervision from a centralized planning perspective. It helps control the costs and other risks associated with software development. The most common use of Agile technologies is in the software market, where there are continuous software delivery cycles.

  1. Scrum Approach to Project Management

The scrum approach to project management is a common approach used in various projects, which is to provide a coordinated, cost-effective process for acquiring, managing, and stabilizing a project from start to finish. It aims to build quality assurance into the overall system. This approach has gotten to be highly effective for projects of all types and sizes. The basic model underlying this process is to identify the most important activities to be completed for a project, followed by those most critical activities, then all those tasks that need to be performed in sequence, then the deliverables, and finally, the status of the project. In addition, the scrum model also includes a formal verification process to ensure the deliverables are in line with the original business plan.

It is evident from the above description of the key benefits of the agile scrum approach to project management that it takes into account the entire lifecycle of a project and systematically deals with all the activities necessary to deliver the final product to the customer. Scrum's core concept of change control is designed to minimize the potential for large disrupting impacts to the production environment by building and sustaining a robust adaptive system for change. The scrum approach to project management is based on the Agile principle, which emphasizes developing a process and documentation for a process. 

  1. Kanban Project Management

Kanban project management is among the most popular PM methodology. The Kanban methodology suits just about every organization and purpose. It helps you better manage the flow of work as your staff works towards achieving common goals. This PM method also provides you with a straightforward and uncomplicated way of tracking all work done, from the smallest task to the largest one, in a comprehensive manner.

One of the great things about Kanban project management is that it has reduced the number of conflicts that usually crop up when working on a big project. Each team member knows what is expected of him or her, so there is no need for meetings or lengthy explanations about what they should be doing. The entire team can just focus on completing every task at hand instead of wasting time on unimportant ones. This is a huge benefit when trying to improve communication within your organization. Using Kanban as your main PM methodology, you are bound to make much smoother communication with your teams.

  1. Lean Project Management

The lean project management concept revolves around three main components like quality, time, and Lean manufacturing. It is based on the idea that quality alone can be the defining factor that determines the overall success of any organization. Quality should be balanced with speed and flexibility to deliver value as soon as possible to customers. The lean concept considers factors like human resources, inventory, work orders, resources, and waste disposal, which are all interrelated to ensure project delivery. Lean project management also incorporates other tools like risk management, food safety, and manufacturing control to guarantee customers' satisfaction.

The three principles that make up this whole methodology are Problem-solving, Scalability, and Improvement. These concepts enable an organization to successfully address its customers' requirements. Lean project management, therefore, seeks to build customer loyalty by defining it at the root level by understanding the customer needs. At the same time, it does aim at improving organizational performance by improving the quality of products and services while cutting waste.

  1. Six Sigma Project Management

Six Sigma project management is a technique to project control where quality is the main consideration. The main objective is to minimize errors and attain the highest possible business outcome. Six Sigma methodologies focus on delivering only the required results ensuring customer satisfaction. This helps increase the speed of delivery of services and products, cut costs, improve working conditions, and make the business more profitable.

To have an effective Six Sigma methodology, you need to employ the best Six Sigma project management tools available and, of course, employ employees who are trained in Six Sigma techniques. This will then facilitate you to concentrate on improving and refining your Six Sigma project planning and execution. You can use the various Six Sigma tools for statistical analysis, case studies analysis, data mining, problem-solving, problem identification, change management, forecasting, testing, documentation, and training programs.

Evolving Role of Project Managers Throughout All-Different Project Management Processes

When the agile system came into being, the project manager was the one who asked the questions about the scope of the project, the technical debt, the cost, the schedule, the labor, the scope, the testing and integration, the quality, the scope, the impact to the organization's ability to continue or go forward and the business case for the solution. The scrum team and the business analyst then collaborated to develop the requirements, the estimates, the testing, and the analysis that became the deliverable. The project manager would have to review the deliverables and decide based upon the requirements and the business case for the solution.

The short end of the change from waterfall to Agile came with the adoption of Scrum. The Agile team consisted of a small number of people who understood the basics of the waterfall approach. As the project manager realized that the businesses wanted a more responsive, adaptable, stable, and continuous software, the project manager began to alter the scrum team to include more working environment participation. The project manager wanted to increase the team members' input to the product as he understood that the team members were the key to the project's success. The working environment change brought with it several concerns.

  • Firstly, the PM had to recognize the problems and hurdles blocking the team members from collaborating and contributing to the solution. 

  • Secondly, the PM had to define the appropriate methodology for working with the high-level release groups that included the Scrum team. 

  • Finally, the business goals had to be aligned with the sprint goals to be aligned and the necessary adjustments made. 

  • As the PM worked to assemble the teams, they also had to determine the appropriate sprints for the teams as well as the roles and responsibilities of the team in the overall agile methodology.

Managing Changes Through Project Management

The changing roles of project managers in organizations is a gradual process that occurs over time. Projects evolve in a series of different stages, each requiring a project manager to demonstrate certain skills. PMs need to constantly develop and refine themselves to meet the changing needs of their projects.

As the project manager moves through each of the project management stages, their skill set and capabilities will need to change to successfully handle the task at hand. The longer a project goes on, the more likely it is that the project manager will face a change in their skills and abilities. This constant change will require project managers to recognize when to make a career change, adapt to new skills and abilities, or move to a different project within their organization.

After constantly coping with ever-evolving tactics and project management systems, project managers are capable enough to understand their organizational needs and judge what kind of project management systems should be implemented. So, the role of a project manager is supposed to be extremely adaptable, and its extent can only be defined with the course of time.

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