Turn chaos into order: Five trends businesses can’t afford to miss in 2017

While many of our gym memberships have already lapsed and candy is sneaking back into our diets, sticking to the resolutions of the new year is more crucial than ever for businesses. It starts with a hard look at what they did well in 2016 and an even harder look at missed opportunities. The fact is, it’s a jungle out there. Investors, press and analysts gleefully crown their kings of the jungle while simultaneously hunting and pouncing on companies that didn’t rise to the occasion. Disruption is the new normal and markets and industries are relentlessly redefined. Buzzwords and initiatives like “cloud” and “big data” are left in the dust and digital transformation remains a dream for most as businesses focus on their top priority–survival.

Finding the right level of business agility relies on the ability to identify, evaluate and eliminate inefficiencies in real-time, while maintaining core systems, technologies and initiatives. As the pace of innovation accelerates at breakneck speed, the goal for 2017 is deceptively simple: Bring order to chaos.

In the coming year, these five trends have the potential to shape how hardware, software and services are designed, built, tested and delivered. They will impact your organisation at every level, but especially in the project and portfolio management office, where strategy meets action.

Here’s what we expect in the coming year:

  • Successful businesses will be employee-obsessed: By 2020, millennials will make up half the global labour force. By 2030, they'll account for 75 per cent. Millennials' aversion to hidden agendas, rigid corporate structures and information silos coupled with a willingness to explore new opportunities will either fundamentally change the nature of work or severely cost businesses. Twenty-one per cent of millennials changed jobs in the past year—three times more than non-millennials (Gallup). This costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. The immediate changes will impact resource management and project capacity planning. Both must adapt to shorter employee tenure. However, forward-thinking companies will embrace “employee obsession” with investments in systems that promote transparency and communicate employee value to both employees and stakeholders. Simultaneously, these companies will address the negative impact of churn on productivity, quality and service by investing in capabilities that manage churn without sacrificing project success.
  • IoT is the new IT buzzword: The Internet of Things (IoT) isn't new this year, but it’s picking up speed with the number of connected devices expected to grow from 10 billion in 2015 to 34 billion in 2020 (BI Intelligence). Business will soon be the top IoT solutions adopter, bringing with it a collection of conditions that impact how IT and PMOs manage technology across the business. Extra layers of visibility can enable real-time decisions and boost business agility, yet the influx of data indicates a basic shift in work management and business strategy. Every one of these devices will need to be secured and maintained, bringing change and complexity to the IT department, who will be expected to implement and maintain these interconnected apps and communication systems. Meanwhile, stakeholders will be forced to determine how cross-departmental collaboration should work in an IoT environment.
  • Outcomes will measure project success: The abundance of data has left businesses facing a new challenge: translating it into meaningful action. The opportunity? Deliver successful projects that positively impact data-driven goals like customer satisfaction, retention and profitability. Traditionally, projects are tracked by “inputs” such as resources and budget, to reach the goal of on-time, on-budget completion. However, businesses are discovering this outdated method delivers an incomplete view of project success–project timeliness is irrelevant if business objectives aren’t met. No matter the execution method, outcome-driven measurement systematically evaluates whether a project or program achieved its intended results and can provide proof of value to customers, stakeholders and investors. An outcome-based approach ensures focus on the metrics that matter most.
  • Portfolio managers are the next Chief Strategy Officers: In the past five years, no position or department has had as much of a roller coaster ride as the Project Management Office (PMO). Despite recent predictions of the death of the PMO, 97 per cent of organisations believe project and portfolio management is critical to business success (PwC). However, the head of the PMO must adapt its focus as businesses aim to compete and meet ever-changing market demands. While overarching strategy and budget decisions will still be made by executives, formerly linear planning cycles will be replaced by continuous, iterative processes. To guide smarter decisions, organisations will look to portfolio managers for insights and information that reflects real-time market shifts and ensures project execution is aligned with strategy. Strategic thinkers who successfully evolve to fill this need will ultimately secure a seat at the executive table under a new title: chief strategy officer.
  • Business capabilities will take centre stage: Visionary companies adapt their buying habits to enable critical capabilities and maximise their teams’ impact. The “adapt to thrive” mentality shaping today’s businesses is expected to drive U.S. companies towards mergers and acquisitions that enhance core capabilities such as application rationalisation and social tools. For those navigating M&A activity, the PMO will be expected to convey successful workflow and benefits realisation as organisations rationalise new technologies and mitigate risk. They will also be tasked with executing against these recommendations and analysing initiatives business-wide to identify redundancies and keep the pipeline healthy.

While the future of business is more uncertain than ever, there’s one thing we can predict with certainty–the evolution of technology is not slowing down. Organisations who embrace change and evolution are already considering these trends. While the new year creates fresh urgency, smart leaders don’t do it all at once–they look to do it well and with lasting relevance. The king of the jungle wasn’t crowned overnight.

Eric Bergman, vice president, product management for Changepoint
Image Credit: Alphaspirit / Shutterstock