The future of (Microsoft) Project and Portfolio Management

Let’s start with a little disclaimer, the following article is a brainstorm experiment by my hand. There’s no real crystal ball involved. This article is an exploration on where the world of Project and Portfolio management is heading.

Obviously, any prediction of the future will change that future because we are preparing differently for it. This was excellently described in the first chapters of Homo Deus a book I’m currently reading (and yes the inspiration for writing this article).

But, because it won’t happen exactly like I describe it doesn’t mean at all that we should not dream about the future. Or write these kinds of articles. There might even be a smart Microsoft employee that reads the article and picks it up and makes it reality.

Just a warning: I couldn’t find/use a lot of pictures for this article. Just chew through the text please :-).

Setting the scene

This article is written half way through 2019. I just turned 37, I became a MVP last year and work at one of the bigger Project and Portfolio consultancy organizations in Europe (and beyond). Microsoft just released a couple of articles (sources here, here and here) that describe the “short term” roadmap for the applications involved with Project and Portfolio Management.

Beyond that, Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality and cloud computing are on the rise. More people are shifting from a “oh I’m scared about what will happen” mentality towards one more in the lines of “oh this could actually help me in my daily work/life”.

The world is getting ready for autonomous vehicles, moon bases and there’s a company that creates robot’s capable of doing back flips way better than I will ever be able to.

There’s a big problem with global warming (yes I do believe that), there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish pretty soon if Boyan Slat with the Ocean Clean up or some other great team doesn’t change that. And we are moving away from traditional fuel solutions towards “something else” that we are not quite sure of yet.

This is basically the world we live in today. There is a lot more complexity obviously. And a lot more can be said about it, but you should just watch the news for that. This article will focus on the future that could possibly happen for Project and Portfolio managers and everyone else involved in projects.

Looking into the future of Project and Portfolio Management.
Source: Flickr.com

It’s 2025, happy new year!

Even though 5 years isn’t a lot, I do think there will be a couple of big changes. But there will also be dinosaurs stuck in that old 2019 mindset.

Back in 2016 Microsoft released a future vision of Project Management. Apart from the acting there’s a couple of things I would like to pick out of the video that are already getting common in 2019:

  • Speaking to devices (Alexa, Cortana, Assistant)
  • Wearables (mainly health and mail/Whatsapp orientated)
  • Fast reporting metrics (Power BI and AI integration)
  • Real time translations (PowerPoint just came out with this, and I used it too much delight/laughs from the audiences in 3 recent presentations)

But there is at least one thing I don’t see happening in the five years from now. Or at least way less:

People won’t walk around with tablets

In a world where AR or MR have taken root in normal day life, a tablet would almost become obsolete. This isn’t so strange if you look at the flight technology is taking. I still remember the firs laptop my dad brought into the house, and the “big butt” TV’s. But currently I see more tablets in the office and TV’s that are thinner than my arms (and I don’t work out a lot). Instead of tablets, I believe it will start to become mainstream to have smart glasses with you at all time. The current issue for people that have to wear glasses to actually see things will be a thing of the past, I hope.

Subscription based computing everywhere

I think there won’t be a lot of companies in 2025 that aren’t on a subscription base with Microsoft (and other) tech. With the Microsoft 365 and related solutions maturing at a rapped pace in 2019 and the adoption of a single point of interaction with Microsoft software, as well as third parties, called Microsoft Teams.

The workforce get’s great tech faster and there is less friction when it comes to not being able to perform certain tasks because you don’t have the correct version of the software.

Projects, both Waterfall and Agile

There will be the option to work both Traditional AND Agile. In 2019 there’s a lot of buzz going about working more agile and creating a different, faster way of performing projects. But, what we also experience is that there are still types of projects that actually benefit from the traditional waterfall method of working.

With the creation of Roadmap, Microsoft creates a future where it doesn’t really matter any more if you want to work one way or the other. If one part of the workforce wants to create projects using Microsoft Project and the other part wants to use Jira, that will be a possibility. And there will be great documentation that describes how to combine both worlds through visionary writers such as Peter Kestenholz. I translated his article on the PMO identity crisis recently, which tackles this exact topic.

Still too close

But, like I stated in the start of this section: five years into the future isn’t that much. Most of the current workforce, with all their pro’s and con’s will still be working. Although much more efficient with a closer relationship with technology. Let’s take a larger jump into the future, and see what could be the future for the time when my two lovely daughters (4 and 2 year old now) are part of the workforce.

In the year 2050

Source: The Time Machine 1960, MGM

Jumping ahead another 25 years changes everything. Any future prediction would hold little sway on the reality of that time. Remember Marty McFly jumping on a hover board in 2015 with self lacing shoes? That wasn’t part of the real 2015 at all. Even though Nike did “release” those shoes a year later.

Current climate and political struggles will probably have faded to the history books. There might not even be a Microsoft, Facebook or Amazon anymore by that time. But there is a future constant that we can use in this exploration: tech will be around, and it will be way more advanced than today. So let’s extrapolate the current tech:

Human/Tech hydrates

Yes, something like the Borg, but less nasty looking. With the internet today, people have access to the (almost complete) human knowledge with the restriction that it is only accessible through external media (tablets, watches, glasses). In 2050 we would see (more) humans walking around with technology embedded into their person.

Just think about the option to tap your arm or just think about it and get a display presented in front of you the size of a wall through optical implants. That “wall” could represent a Kanban board or a VR representation of your construction project. With current experiments (such as this, this and this) that future can happen.

You would also have the ability to step into a room and hold completely virtual meetings with your team from across the world. Thereby completely eliminating the direct need for a lot of travel (and traffic delays). What a lovely future for shy people, or will this see the rise of the “VR shy” people?

Machine assistance

Taking the current robotic improvements into account it’s very likely that manual labor will in a large part be done with robotic assistance. Either by autonomously operating robots or exoskeletons.

In construction projects this could be a huge benefit due to lower risks of injuries/fatalities and it is probably even vital for “of-world projects” which are in their infancy at the moment (Moon base plans, going to Mars etc).

There’s a big benefit with robots, they have the ability to work 24/7. Thereby speeding up (project)progress even further.

Concluding on this: construction projects will complete faster, with less incidents and in-corrections. More construction can be done, making affordable housing (for instance) an option for the whole human race. With clean water and electricity and all modern comforts.

I don’t expect machines to be a big part of the office work space though. That role would be left to AI.

The AI workforce or, the end of work as we know it

Source: The Futures Agency

Either we get a full human uprising or we should settle for the inevitability of another intelligence in the office. By 2050 it is very likely that there will be a large contribution coming from Artificial Intelligence. While currently this is limited to just a few sectors, it will most likely reach maturity (or singularity if you like) before 2050.

There’s a big problem in any prediction about a future after AI reaches singularity proportions though. As we can not fathom a world where we aren’t the ones behind the steering wheel anymore (pun here: we will probably not even have steering wheels anymore by then).

We will probably have to live with the situation where we are co-workers or subordinates of “the AI”. Due to it’s capability to predict or push us toward the best beneficial solution much faster than we would ourselves.

With this AI it would for instance be possible to predict the most likely project execution based on all previously run projects in similar cases. Currently this isn’t possible due to all the factors that need to be calculated. But with quantum computing speed and a mind far superior to ours it isn’t that strange. There would even be a better way to coordinate across projects into programs and selection of the best projects to actually start up or to stop.

Whats next for Project and Portfolio Management? (Final notes)

I love putting these final notes at the end of a blog post. It gives me an option to point you to other articles and further reading. There’s also the chance to ask you if you agree or not.

That’s what I would like to do today, ask you to comment on this article. What do you think will be our future as Project and Portfolio specialists? Will we still have a job in 2050 (I hope for most that won’t be the case as we will likely/hopefully be retired)?

That’s it for now. Hope you liked this brainstorming piece. Next time it’s going to be more down to earth and practical I promise.

Kind regards,

Erik van Hurck