Update: This article was the #1 viewed article on BA Times and the #3 viewed article on Project Times for 2015.

Each year we like to reflect on what’s happened in the business analysis, project management, and Agile professions and make our predictions for the upcoming year. To summarize the trends we saw in 2014:

  • Continued excitement about Agile projects with more informal communications and documentation and use of modeling tools to get from high-level user stories to detail needed to estimate and build them
  • Focus on Design
  • Cloud computing
  • Greater interest in business analysis by project managers.

Below are the seven new trends we see in the Project Management and Business Analysis fields for 2015.

1. Making Agile work for organizations.

As the Agile bandwagon continues to grow, some organizations, previously reluctant to jump aboard, are running to catch up. Sometimes, though, Agile is implemented without much thought to unintended consequences of not having enough organizational commitment when adopting Agile. Although such things as not having dedicated teams, a dedicated business product owner, or extending time boxes to fit more work into an iteration sometimes works, there are often related issues, such as:

a. Team burnout
b. Less work being implemented
c. Unmet customer expectations

We predict that organizations will find a way to make Agile work for them by becoming more purposeful in how they choose to adopt it. As a related trend, we think that some of the Agile purists will become more flexible, softening the “my way or the highway” approach in favor of one that is more collaborative. It means that organizations will have to articulate the business problem they are trying to solve by adopting Agile. In addition, those coaches who are accustomed to dictating what must be done will need to seek more organizational input.

2. Distributed leadership

Leadership will become more distributed and will be increasingly as much about tapping into the leadership of those around us as it is about a single visionary, decision-maker, and communicator. This idea isn’t new, but as organizations and project teams struggle with the adoption of Agile, coming to terms with what it means to be a self-organizing team will highlight the value of everyone stepping up to the role of leader.

In addition, the idea of leading for the purpose of developing relationships is going to be the focus of team building. Leadership is more than getting people to perform for the benefit of the bottom line. It’s about the people and connecting with them. Leaders are selected, recognized, and evaluated for their ability to sincerely tap into the human experiences their people represent. The intrinsic value of understanding others in order to establish meaningful relationships among team members, particularly those who are often  physically distant, will be emphasized.

3. Innovation and entrepreneurship on the rise, and morphing.

One can’t help but see books, articles, and blog posts about innovation these days. Not only our own industry outlets, but other media seem to have discovered the innovation “bug.” Many organizations will innovate through process improvement, and in some cases there is not much difference.

To go beyond mere process improvement, organizations will need to become more entrepreneurial. Innovation centers and hubs are on the increase, and companies are investing in their own incubators away from their main operations to help spur the creative process. Smaller, more isolated teams of “intrapreneurs” will provide the kind of “disruptive” break-throughs needed for true innovation and market leadership to take place. Savvy business analysts and project managers will step up to take on these entrepreneurial roles in organizations.

4. Business analysis as design work.

As we mentioned in last year’s trends, the upcoming release of the BABOK Guide version 3.0 will awaken the “inner designer” in people doing business analysis work. There has long existed a gap between requirements and physical design.

Organizations who start providing “logical design” outputs as part of building apps and business processes will shrink that gap and create better products faster. They will realize less rework by using standard models such as business process maps, use case models, prototypes and wireframes, state-transition, and sequence diagrams to name a few.We have been promoting “logical modeling” for years and have been surprised that many organizations have not supported the design capabilities of business analysis.

We see hope in the new BABOK and predict that organizations will at least consider changing their development processes to encompass more logical design. Smart companies will actually embrace the new design paradigm.

5. Struggle between centralized and distributed project governance.

Organizations will continue to struggle to find balance between the extremes of project chaos and centralized project governance. We predict that in the near future organizations will continue to adopt an “all or none” approach to project governance. We see the era of centralized project governance, such as PMOs and Centers of Excellence, giving way to a more distributed governance, with some organizations letting individual project teams decide how much governance to employ.

However, we know that when organizations move to one extreme to solve their problems, others are created. We predict that in the future organizations will take a more balanced approach and apply more governance for certain types of projects and less for others.

6. Schizophrenic approach to BA and PM credentials.

We predict that both the trend to become certified and the trend to reject certifications will play out in 2015. With the increased popularity in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), some from prestigious universities like Harvard and University of Michigan, learning about new topics and acquiring new skills at a low or no cost will appeal to many BAs, PMs and their organizations.

To the extent that these new learning channels provide “just-in-time training,” they will reinforce the notion among some BAs and PMs that certifications and professional designations like PMP and CBAP are not an indication of competency and therefore not worth having.At the same time, however, many PMs, BAs, and their organizations around the globe recognize that these credentials show knowledge gained and are an example of the initiative and hard work needed to get certified. We have seen large numbers of BAs eagerly awaiting the release of IIBA’s BABOK v.3, and many others are racing to be certified under the current release before the exam changes.

In the PM space, we have seen a rise in the number of PMs interested in business analysis. PMI’s PBA as well as their ACP certifications are generating lots of interest that we think will continue to grow. Finally, there seems to be no slowing of interest in Agile certifications such as the CSM.

7. Team-based Agile training.

Agile training will be geared toward entire teams rather than individuals. Agile is going to drive organizations to seek more effective ways to generate a change in project practice. The notion of sending an individual to training to become the internal evangelist is too much for a single person to do when it comes to the far-reaching culture changes required to implement Agile. Plugging into existing processes, tools, and infrastructure after traditional PM training is entirely different than expecting someone to come back from training and single-handedly explain and implement the why, what, and how of Agile.

Expect more interest in generating internal momentum for change by sending teams to training who learn the why and how of self-organization. Training for entire intact teams is how organizations will get out of the gate and it’s more likely to be augmented by coaching and a follow-up with on-site presence to help as organizations figure out how to make Agile work for them.

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