For instance, a Google representative demonstrated how Google Glass could
help Telus field technicians map cables, connections and manholes in a neighborhood and pinpoint where to install new connections. The wearable technology can replace the need for carrying tablet computers and other mobile devices
technicians currently use.
However, Ms. Kanani knew the proposition was risky, given that Google
announced in January that it plans to retool the technology. So when she
brought the idea to the leader who manages the portfolio, she also identified
three other companies—Optinvent, Meta Pro and Vuzix—working on wearable
glass technology that can serve the same purpose. Telus might still include the
idea in its five-year project roadmap, she says.
“The risk was evaluated after an initial ROI case study,” Ms. Kanani says.
It’s easier to build organizational support for integrating a trend if project
managers can showcase the potential benefits, Ms. Vikstrom says. Say, for
instance, a project manager was touting a new software implementation. While
team members might appreciate seeing how a slick new interface operates,
executives would be more impressed with evidence that the software would
reduce a client’s processing times, Ms. Vikstrom says.
“The ultimate purpose is to achieve a goal,” she says.
Describing how a competitor has seen success with a trend also can be a
strong motivator, Dr. Pollack says. “Stories are much more effective than going
into statistics and graphs.”
RETHINKING THE ROUTINE
Valuable trends aren’t limited to technologies or specific sectors. Sometimes,
new approaches and processes can help an organization do more to reach its
For example, when Dr. Pollack was managing an IT project in the public
health sector, he saw an opportunity to incorporate the soft systems methodology, a seven-step process for clarifying the goals of a project before entering the
execution phase. He anticipated that team members might resist the change, so
he and a colleague incorporated the methodology without declaring to the team
that it was a process change. At one point, he asked the team to draw sketches
to show a conceptual model of the project.
“Technically-focused project management types aren’t necessarily used to
doing doodles as a way of exploring their expectations and goals,” he says. “But
once we asked people to suspend disbelief, then it worked.”
After moving through the seven steps, participants were able to communicate
their goals more effectively and the project was implemented more smoothly,
Dr. Pollack says. Doing the research, understanding the strategy of the organi-
zation and finding creative ways to get others to commit can help practitioners
realize when a trend can become part of—or inspire—a winning project.
“Companies usually don’t do something because they want to be trendy or
because some trend is in right now,” Ms. Vikstrom says. “Ultimately, it’s about
the business case.” PM
Keep a Steady Course
Before launching a project to leverage a
trend, consider its strategic value.
When looking to leverage a hot new
trend, project managers should always
keep strategy top of mind. Seventy-one
percent of projects that are highly aligned
to the organization’s strategy are successful, according to PMI’s 2015 Pulse of the
Profession: Capturing the Value of Project
Management, compared to just 46 percent of those not highly aligned.
Here are five questions to help determine
if a trend-based project will propel an
organization forward—or leave it dead in
n Does it address a core weakness in how
the organization does business?
n Does it align with the current strategy?
n Would the project provide a competitive edge?
n Would it exceed the organization’s risk
n If the project changes internal processes, will the benefits align with what the