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The Future is here: A terminology for new-age Project Management

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As societies move to cyberspace, there seems little choice but to adapt to emerging trends in new-age technologies and social living. Project management plays a critical role in making these developments happen. So it is important that, as a profession, project management remains relevant, fresh and contemporary by adopting a two-pronged (at least) strategy:

1. Continuously upgrade and align the core of knowledge – particularly in relation to time, resources, and work involved – to the ongoing trends.
2. Add new knowledge, terminology, and thoughts to attract and engage the S-Generation (Social Media Generation) and D-Generation (Digital Generation) to adopt project management as a career choice.

Keeping in view a vision for the future and given the above strategy, I present a list of new terms that have the potential of being integrated into project management of 21st Century. It goes without saying that the list is neither exhaustive nor perfect, but it is intended as an effort to provoke new thinking and to build momentum for new-age project management.

1. Floater tools
Floater tools is a term that describes some frequently used tools that will be available on a project management application’s dashboard.

They will enable a user of a project dashboard to quickly check project progress using such measures as Earned Value, Schedule Variance or Cost Variance. Floater tools will also allow a user to look at project progress using different visuals such as graphs, charts, animations, 3-D presentation, tables and combinations of numbers and charts.

The key feature of Floater tools is that their appearance on project dashboard will be dynamically controlled by the system and will vary depending on the frequency and volume of access over, say, the last 3 to 7 days.

For example, if the earned value tool has been used in the last 3-7 days, it will be available on the main page of the project dashboard; but if it has not been used in the last 3-7 days, it will remain in the tool box but not appear as a floater on the main dashboard screen.

The number of users using a tool will also determine whether a tool will appear as a floater on the main dashboard screen. For example, if the earned value tool has been used by 2 users in last 3-7 days as compared to the fishbone analysis tool that has been used by 15 users during the same period, then the fishbone tool will appear on project dashboard screen.

The number of floater tools available on a project dashboard could be set by an administrator – for example between 3 and 5 tools to keep things tight and efficient. The choice would depend on need and project size.

The idea behind floater tools is to highlight the areas of concerns and/or interest, and to provide a snapshot view of trends. A quick view of floater tools could provide an indication of an impending problem, or something that could be of concern. It will help alert project staff to a potential risk and so enhance the quality of project work.

2. Project graffiti
Project graffiti is a term that will be used to represent a collage of free-flowing comments related to project work that can be added by project staff members on a designated webpage (which might be cloud-based). The project graffiti webpage will be compatible with handheld portable and traditional devices and will be used to improve communication and efficiency of project work. It is effectively the same as pinning virtual sticky notes.

Project graffiti will have the flexibility to be categorized as needed into such headings as schedule, costs, risks and scope. They will help project staff communicate faster, and can be expected to improve information flow, quality and lessen risks on projects.

3. Hashtag updates
Hashtag updates is a term that describes the activity of sending out pertinent updates about project work to relevant stakeholders, using social media tools.

The information could be about possible schedule delays, delivery delays – or non-arrival – of procured material or resources, unavailability of staff for particular task(s), or some other emergency situation. This list is just an example, but Hashtag updates could cover a host of assorted information that need to be sent out.

The difference between Project graffiti and Hashtag updates is that the former is user-driven and the latter is management driven.

4. Task tagging
Task tagging describes the activity of tagging a task in relation to some other task, based on some specific interest, problem, commonality or contrast. It is a user oriented knowledge management activity, where users contribute to identifying dependencies between project tasks.

Often, these dependencies reach across various phases in the project. Task tagging can help in understanding which task from one phase is related to a task on another phase. Particularly, for large projects, creating a single Work breakdown structure (WBS) is challenging, if not impossible. Task tagging can help in connecting WBS’s from different phases based on user-oriented inputs.

When it comes to a detailed understanding of work, the people who are performing the work often have some tacit knowledge that is not codified. Task tagging will help in tapping into and leveraging upon the tacit knowledge of the users on the ground. In this way, it can engage them in the design and development process.

If wisely used, task tagging could increase the users’ job satisfaction and motivate them to perform to their full capacity during the actual execution of project tasks. It will also help unpack knowledge embedded in the brains of project staff and increase the knowledge bandwidth of the teams.

5. Schedule trolling
Schedule trolling is a term used to highlight scheduling delays or other events that may cause confusion and which may require someone to clarify the situation.

It could also describe a strategic or tactical activity to raise wider awareness about an ongoing project through social media channels etc.

6. Cost per action
Cost per action is a term that describes cost of trouble-shooting issues that emerge as a consequence of taking a particular action related to project work.

These actions could be related to planning, design, implementation, verification and handover phases of the project.

Cost per action helps in tracking costs that could have been avoided had risks been taken care of properly and efforts had been made to stop risks from becoming actual issues.

7. Front-door project management
Front-door project management describes an activity of information provision to the general public and relevant stakeholders about the project work and its progress on an ongoing basis.

This information provision could be part of mandatory legal disclosure or as a matter of project management transparency.

8. Project Silence
Project silence is a term that describes a period of inactivity due to management change or a key project staff change. A prolonged project silence could entail an impact on scope, time, costs and quality. It could increase risks and impede realization of the benefits of the project.

9. Schedule dump
Schedule dump is a term that describes an early morning quick-fire briefing by a leading member of the project staff about the schedule for the day or next two-days, in order to bring everyone up to speed on the schedule issues and progress of work.

Schedule dump could be part of – or an extension to – agile project management stand-up meetings.

10. Risk-storming
Risk-storming is not necessarily a new term. It describes a series of brainstorming sessions to identify and prioritize project risks.

Risk-storming sessions are a formal affair, and should be held under supervision of an experienced facilitator.

Concluding thoughts:
It is unrealistic to think that project management can avoid the impending trends in technology and social evolution. To keep project management vibrant and an attractive career option, it seems inevitable that the profession will need to integrate new terms and concepts. The above list could provide a start to this process. If you, the reader, feel you would like to share any other terms or concepts, it would be most appreciated if you would please contact me at jiwat.ramb@gmail.com

Note: Even though no particular reference is provided in the article, the author wishes to unreservedly acknowledge that similar terms (or close variants) could already be in use in other contexts.

Acknowledgement:
Special thanks to post-write-up inputs by Roger Tagg.

- Author of this post

Jiwat is a Professor in Project Management. He has considerable experience of working internationally in diverse cultures and business environments such as Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Australia, among others. Over his career, he has provided leadership in establishing, designing, and delivering Executive education / Master’s, Training, and Research programs.

Jiwat is currently serving on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of a Working Paper Series and directs publication of a monthly newsletter, ‘Project Management Voice.’

Jiwat actively contributes to project management community by speaking at various events and writing on emerging issues. His work has been published in top scientific journals and Four of his published papers have remained in Top25 most downloaded papers. More recently, he has published a number of articles on some of the issues confronting project management in various industry based outlets.

In 2016, Jiwat won prestigious Asia Pacific Federation of Project Management (APFPM) Award in research category.

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