Trends for 2014

Future KidBrett Arends of MarketWatch recently reported his study of stock market analyst ratings for 2013:  while the ten highest-rated stocks in the Fortune 500 out-performed the market average, the ten lowest-rated stocks did even better. So, while I freely acknowledge that prognostication is a performance by frauds for the entertainment of fools, I believe the following trends will present important opportunities and challenges for IT project managers in 2014 and beyond.

Everything as a Service (XaaS) and the Internet of Things (M2M)

Delivering technology on demand via the Internet is well past the tipping point. I can watch episodes of my favorite television show on any of the devices I own, any time I want to, and I now expect similar service from my business technology. End users are cutting non-responsive IT departments out of the loop, entering into Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) contracts and taking control of their own destiny (or at least putting it into different hands). A CIO can move network management, Email, and any number of other previously core competencies into the Cloud with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) contracts. Software development teams have embraced Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) to let them quickly ramp up, from development to testing to deployment. Add in machine-to-machine technology, known as “the internet of things,” and you have a completely new technology universe. Ramifications for the project manager: Vendor management and contract negotiation skills will be the key to your success. Ramifications for the program manager: Integrating all of these services from different providers to the stuff that’s still inside your firewall will be a huge contributor to your overall risk profile. Ramifications for the portfolio manager: Your capital investment and maintenance expense budgets will shrink, as more of your portfolio becomes operating expenses. You’re going to have less funding for pilot programs and other innovation experiments, as the organization transfers more delivery risk to external providers. Update your strategy accordingly.

Geographical Dispersion

A key trend is companies that are now being “born global.” Rather than growing from a specific bricks-and-mortar operating location outward, they are formed using employees located anywhere in the world, who collaborate using technology. See Scott Berkun’s book on managing a team of software developers at Automattic, “The Year Without Pants.” Of course, existing companies are trying to capture the same start-up spirit and culture. They are adapting their administrative support systems, governance models, and cube farms to act as “hotels” for members of dispersed groups. Ramifications for the project manager: It’s not just about facilitating collaboration. Acting as a servant leader for a distributed team with widely varying logistical support conditions, operating schedules, cultures, and relationships with line managers is going to take up more of your bandwidth. Ramifications for the program manager: Re-balancing staff across your projects is going to take up more of your political bandwidth.

Intrapreneurship

As noted above, large organizations want to get the same results they see small, successful organizations achieve. Note that there are far more unsuccessful small organizations than successful ones, but no matter: they want to foster entrepreneurial spirit, within the confines of their organization. And they want to retain the sort of folks who would normally leave to start their own company. This notion of intrapreneurship isn’t new, but the methods used to institutionalize it are evolving. See Dan Schawbel’s article in Fortune to get the gist. Ramifications for the project manager: Your ability to help creative folks refine their ideas, pitch them to decision makers, and make them viable (read: profitable) in the real world will distinguish you from your peers who simply execute on a project charter. Ramifications for the portfolio manager: You’re going to find yourself competing for funds with these folks, if you don’t embrace what they’re doing.

One of the first lessons you learn when hunting ducks is: don’t aim at where the ducks are. You have aim at where they will be. The technical term is “leading.” I’ve targeted three ducks for you, but there are many more opportunities to lead waiting for you. You just need to suss them out, and be ready to take your shot. Have a prosperous and satisfying New Year!