As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to look at some project management trends we can expect to see in 2017. With all the talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and anticipation among future-thinkers and business leaders around Industry 4.0, a lot of industry trends and processes are focused on how to succeed in a new world of technology, market demands, and productivity requirements.
As always, market forces continue to influence how businesses manage their projects. To prepare for what’s ahead, here are five project management industry trends that will gain traction in 2017.
1. IIoT becomes a project foundation
While IoT made our 2016 project management trends list, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is going to hold sway over manufacturing project teams in 2017 and well beyond.
Open source development platforms will make IIoT development possible for even smaller to mid-sized manufacturing firms. Each of those IIoT devices implemented across a manufacturing facility will generate data on the health of the machinery. That data, in turn, will be a foundation for new implementations, maintenance, and just daily operations.
IIoT will bring changes to project management, including:
- New challenges to support a constant availability of systems
- More analysis work on part of project managers and their teams because of the explosion in data that IIoT bring to the company
- The need for an IIoT strategy across the manufacturing floor.
Such a fundamental change in the foundation of projects will drive project managers to adjust their frameworks, strategies and how they deliver projects to their customers.
2. Big data and analytics join the project team
Big data and analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry. I’ve been tracking the influence of big data and analytics in IT project management, but manufacturing project management is going to take these technologies to a whole new level.
With IIoT, project teams will be building out more analytics tools and dashboards to give executive management insights into the manufacturing systems under their control.
Analytics will also have some profound changes over project management because of the unprecedented access to analytics including:
- Descriptive Analytics using data aggregation and data mining to provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?”
- Predictive Analytics using statistical modeling to understand the future and answer: “What could happen?”
- Prescriptive Analytics using optimization and simulation algorithms. The output can offer possible outcomes to operations and maintenance scenarios and answer: “What should we do?”
While prescriptive analytics might seem a bit Star Trek, think of how simulation algorithms could improve how you plan projects and even staff scheduling!
3. Flexible knowledge management
The changing workforce in manufacturing is going to require project managers to keep knowledge management (KM) flexible to meet the learning needs of a transitional workforce on the manufacturing floor. You can expect to see more KM in the cloud, as more companies retire legacy KM solutions that have been cobbled together over the years. Don’t expect to see any new KM platforms entering the market; with the volume of data and documentation that manufacturing project teams produce, cloud collaboration platforms (with full-featured mobile clients) will effectively handle the growth in KM.
2017 will also mark more decentralization of KM because of the growth of the cloud inside the manufacturing enterprise. Project teams will add KM to their already growing list of tasks.
4. Project management platform by API
Project management tools started on paper, moved to the desktop PC, then evolved into the cloud and mobile. You can expect to see what I call project management by application programming interface (API) as a future trend. It’s where project management extends beyond your cloud project management platform of choice through integration with other backend business platforms–whether it’s your enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, customer relationship management (CRM) platform or some legacy applications your internal development team has already migrated to the cloud.
Digital transformation and the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will start pushing this trend in 2017 and over the next few years.
5. Mobile project management tools and strategies
The primary interface to project management applications in a manufacturing environment is going to be mobile first. Project managers walking the floor, going to meetings, and working with machinery will need real-time access to project management data anytime, anywhere–and not just from their desk.
Mesh networks and next-generation WiFi will help push this trend forward. Not to mention, project management tool vendors must continue improving user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) to push this trend fully to its potential.
Look for service engineers to get their assignments and report on their activities directly from their mobile or handheld devices. Some are saying that mobility faces an uphill battle in manufacturing. I see project management as the best on-ramp for firms to go mobile. I see shadow IT and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) igniting this trend inside mid- to large-sized companies until budgets and the IT department align.
To a successful 2017!
It will be interesting to see how this year takes us further into Industry 4.0. However the markets unfold and affect businesses, the way teams manage projects is changing to keep up with shifting productivity demands. The organizations that can harness these trends will find themselves as leaders in their industries.
In our latest eBook, Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?, we take a look at what it means to thrive in Industry 4.0, and what tools are necessary to keep up with new world market demands. We’re going there right along with you!