Collaboration is a common theme throughout many of the 2012 top 10 trends for project management, which were determined by a global panel of ESI International senior executives and subject matter experts. Those trends include: 

1. Program management will gain momentum, but resources remain in short supply. Increasingly, large initiatives undertaken by corporations and government agencies are being recognized for what they are and aren’t—namely programs, not projects, which require a highly advanced set of skills supported by appropriate tools and methods to execute.

Yet many organizations struggle to find the right people and lack the management practices necessary to ensure success. In 2012 the industry will see more investment in competency models, training, methodology development, tool use and career-path training to ensure that program managers are real professionals.

2. Collaboration software solutions will become  an essential business tool for project teams. The proliferation of collaborative software in the project environment (such as SharePoint) will intensify in 2012. Fueled by increasingly complex and virtual projects as well as tighter budgets, today’s environment demands a more efficient way to manage communication and workflow.

Collaboration is central to project management, and productivity is greatly enhanced by having a site that allows project artifacts to be created, shared and distributed within a repository. It also provides web-based access and critical functions such as automatic distribution and notification, version control and user authentication.

3. “Learning transfer” will become the new mantra but with little structured application. The ability to apply training back to the jobsite (learning transfer) will continue to be on the minds of project management leaders and learning and development (L&D) professionals. They want their project managers to return from training ready to immediately apply what they learned.

While L&D and business heads agree that sustained learning is a sound idea, very few organizations will invest in a formal process to make it happen. In 2012 we will see many organizations discussing the importance of learning transfer without really putting in place a structured approach to ensure that it happens. 

4. Agile blends create a new hybrid approach. Having moved from “manifesto to mainstream,” Agile has confronted project teams with the difficulty of implementing the experimental and hyper-collaborative approach. To transition an organization into fully adopting certain aspects of Agile, project teams are combining traditional and Agile elements to create their own hybrids. In areas such as planning, requirements and team communication, organizations are designing custom-made methodologies that work for them. 

5. Smarter project investments will require a stronger marriage between project management and business process management (BPM). In the financial services industry, and specifically in the insurance sector, there will be a continued laser-like focus on performing business processes as efficiently as possible to drive down operating costs. The philosophy of BPM is fast becoming a key factor in project selection. When new projects are proposed, their value will be judged to a large extent on the impact they will have on the organization’s business processes.

The more impact the project has on reducing internal costs, the higher it will be ranked. The smart money will be spent on driving costs out of the business. Given the high premium being placed on efficient processes, project managers will need to be intimately familiar with BPM.