Project Management Predictions for 2023

Tis the season to take a step back to look forward. As another year wraps up, it’s time to peer ahead at this dynamic career of project management and what may change in 2023 and beyond. Here are my predictions!

Reimagining Stakeholder Engagement. Stakeholders are a big deal on any project. I learned that years ago to the tune of a $2M project failure due to not properly identifying key stakeholders. You need to properly identify and engage with them from start to finish! But, I see the relationship with them changing. First, stakeholders have too many demands on their time, leading to short attention spans and even shorter memories. Also, due to employee turnover, stakeholders change frequently and/or they’re immersed in their “day jobs” due to staffing shortages. I used to make it a point to get to know and spend time with key stakeholders. That’s extremely tough now.

I’ve had to reimagine a lot of my approaches to stakeholder engagement. For starters, finding time to first meeting stakeholders and have informal conversations to get to know them is rare. Instead, we have a quick introduction and then jump right into business. I focus on how best to keep them informed and frequently ask about how they can delegate responsibilities and decisions to their teams instead of me trying to track them down. I find emails are less and less effective, and instead more stakeholders respond to instant message or text faster. Personally, I think stakeholder engagement will continue to be reimagine for some time.

F is for Flexibility; P is for Priority. “The only thing I can guarantee on this project is that it will change.” This is a quote from a senior leader on a project that kicked off in 2022. With the speed of change only increasing, we are required to be more and more flexible. And with that flexibility comes to the need to constantly look at priorities.

There was a time when once a project started, we wanted it to finish. If it didn’t finish, it was considered a failure. Now, however, I don’t see it that way. With things getting more complex in our global economy and consumers continually shifting, our projects will be constantly reviewed and scrutinized to ensure they stay valid If not, they will be quickly shelved so a higher priority can be executed on. We must remain flexible and understand this going to be the norm.

Building and Keeping Project Team Members. Though I haven’t had it as bad as some, I know project leaders who have experienced massive turnover. One peer said he went through three lead architects in the past 12 months. Each architect had to come on board, learn the company architecture, then the project’s, then justify why it all had to change. This took place while the company sold its physical property and went 100% remote.

Managing project teams is hard enough. Layer in the remote or hybrid work arrangements, multi-generational members, different time zones, offshore personnel, and varying education levels, and it can be damn near impossible! People have options today to quickly switch jobs, despite the doom and gloom you hear on the news. One tactic I’ve used with teams is to keep them focused on the project goal(s) and how their contributions to that, and each other, benefit them and the organization. Maintain a psychologically safe environment where team members feel safe to voice opinions and concerns without ridicule. It’s not easy and can be time consuming, but once you’ve gone through the work of building a team, go through the work of trying to keep them!

Making Connections Between Projects and Strategy. The #1 question every project manager should ask when assigned to lead a project is how does it align with organizational strategy. Project managers are continually asked to expand the scale and strategies in growing organizations.

As a PMO leader, I have seen this happening more frequently. Rather than a PMO or portfolio manager focusing on projects in isolation, they need to look at relationships between the projects and how they work together to advance organizational strategy. They can also see roadblocks or “tripping hazards” and take mitigation steps to avoid them. If you’re a PMO or portfolio leader, make sure you’re in the “outcomes” business and not focused solely on scope delivery. Be strategic!

Advances in Project Management Tools. “Hey Alexa, add two days to the current task and adjust all other days.” “OK, do you also want me to let you know how this impacts the project’s float and then email out a status to your Active Directory group?” Maybe Alexa can’t do that today, but it’s coming.

AI and automation. Maybe your company will not be on the leading edge of this functionality, but at some point, as this technology becomes more commoditized, companies will see the benefit. Will your job be replaced? Maybe. But instead of fighting AI, embrace it! I for one would rather spend my time leading than updating a project schedule. Some of the data analytics could also help you identify pain points and ideas to resolve them. I look forward to seeing what AI can bring to the table.

Leadership and Personal Skills Still Rule. I will never let this one leave the list, and personally feel it’s the most important one on here. In our stressed out, crazy working world, your ability to lead and get work done through others requires solid people skills and high EQ. Continually hone your leadership skills and be a “good human” to your team members and stakeholders.

So, there you have it. My predictions for 2023 (and beyond). What are your predictions? What do you see changing? Happy 2023!!

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