Learn how adaptive project management can increase your organization’s resilience and drive business value, even in periods of uncertainty and volatility.

The only constant you can expect is change. And that change is happening more swiftly than ever. In this fast-paced, modern professional landscape where technology is constantly evolving, many organizations play catch up to stay competitive.

Your organization’s resilience depends on being able to adapt to those changes. One way they can do that is with the help of adaptive project management. This approach allows you to respond to changes, so your organization is better equipped to keep up with customer demands, shifting priorities, and evolving technology.

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Planview Named A Leader in 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Adaptive Project Management and Reporting

Planview placed highest for ability to execute and furthest for completeness of vision

Read the report • Planview Named A Leader in 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Adaptive Project Management and Reporting
Adaptive project management solutions offer visibility into portfolios and project financials, health, and status for informed decision-making.
Adaptive project management solutions offer visibility into portfolios and project financials, health, and status for informed decision-making.

In this article, we’ll show you how to use adaptive project management to stay up to date with customer needs and industry demands in the face of disruptive technology and other uncertainties.

What Is Adaptive Project Management?

Adaptive project management is an approach that prioritizes learning from previous outcomes and decisions to improve future practices. It’s an alternative to traditional project management, which usually relies on inflexible governance, strictly waterfall outcome delivery, and annual planning and funding.

Adaptive project management takes some cues from the Agile philosophy to react to changes as they happen. Some of these cues include:

  • Iterative work
  • Quarterly planning and funding
  • Regularly collecting customer and stakeholder feedback throughout the project lifecycle

The decision-making process in adaptive project management is data-driven, meaning project and program leaders need tools to gather and process information. Ideally, these features are automated and provide continuous delivery of data to facilitate decisions with maximum efficiency and accuracy.

Investing in the right tools for adaptive project management is a priority in 2022.

According to a 2022 PwC Pulse survey, 54% of executives say technology transformation for efficiency is a top priority for their companies this year.

Adaptive project management positions itself as a partner to strategic portfolio management (SPM), and both make up a submarket of PPM.

Both processes are essential to driving value within your organization. Adaptive project management enables the strong execution of projects and delivery of work; meanwhile, strategic portfolio management ensures that those projects align with the overall company strategy. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Companies must invest in tools that make up the ecosystem of APMR and SPM solutions.

According to a 2020 Gartner report, “by 2024, 50% of all program and portfolio management leaders will integrate complementary technologies to enable portfolio decision making and adaptive work management for digital business transformation.”

Gartner further highlights the importance of reporting in the 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Adaptive Project Management and Reporting, forecasting that 80% of digital businesses will integrate reporting functions between adaptive project management and strategic portfolio management.

Adaptive project management is the future-facing answer for businesses looking to maximize success.

Learn why Planview was named a leader in Adaptive Project Management and Reporting by accessing a free copy of the 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Adaptive Project Management and Reporting

Differences Between Adaptive and Traditional Project Management

It might sound like adaptive project management isn’t far from its traditional counterpart, but there are some key differences.

For work delivered in a traditional project management cycle, there’s often a clear, immutable strategy to fulfill. The project is laid out, resources are planned and allocated at the beginning, and work is reviewed once the project ends.

Adaptive project management is better suited for today’s fast-paced business environments where demands and needs rapidly change.

An adaptive approach requires managers to shift their thinking slightly, but it’s worth the potential gains.

Below are some essential elements of adaptive project management.

Continuous planning

Traditional project management undertakes planning as a one-off event at the beginning of a project, or plans projects annually. Adaptive project management sets aside time and resources for planning at the end of every increment – or, if it’s pinned to a more regulated cycle, quarterly planning. This allows forecasting and ideation to happen on an ongoing basis.

Flexibel resursfördelning

Like planning, resource allocation happens on a more frequent cadence in adaptive project management. Resources are scheduled at the beginning of every iteration, instead of being scheduled only once at the beginning of the project. Resource allocation can change throughout the project based on internal and external factors.

Using adaptive project management solutions for capacity planning enables forecasting of bottlenecks and can improve resource-based decision-making.
Using adaptive project management solutions for capacity planning enables forecasting of bottlenecks and can improve resource-based decision-making.

Teams can be cross-functional with a wide range of skill sets. They can also be fixed, rather than working on once-off projects, as seen in traditional project management.

Work is assigned to teams, so the capacity of the whole team is considered – not the capacity of individual members. Shared resources with specific skill sets may be allocated to work with teams as needed.

Multiple rounds of customer feedback

In traditional project management, customer feedback is typically gathered at the very end of the process. With adaptive project management, customers give iterative input after each sprint. This helps teams make necessary changes before sinking resources into a flawed product.

What Is an Adaptive Project Management Approach?

Adaptive project management is often associated with the adaptive project framework. This framework sets guidelines for making rapid adjustments in response to change, as well as prioritizing customer feedback.

A few core characteristics make up the adaptive project management approach, such as:

  • Thriving on change: Business needs change constantly, and adaptive project management is prepared to respond to an uncertain future. Customer needs, industry demands, and corporate strategy can all shift without derailing the project, because being an adaptive project leader means assuming change and disruption will happen.
  • Increased flexibility: Because it’s amenable to quick changes, adaptive project management is highly flexible in its response. One of the hallmarks of this is supporting teams to deliver work in whatever way best suits them, whether that’s working as a traditional waterfall team, an agile team, or a hybrid team.
  • Customer-driven iterations: Adaptive project management teams prioritize the needs of the customer. This requires them to be in frequent contact with customers and implement ways to transform their feedback into actionable steps.
  • Access to data: It’s imperative that your PMO and project leaders have access to continuous data and reporting at the project and portfolio level. After all, it’s impossible to measure change or customer feedback without data points.

Now that we’ve touched on the basics, here’s how you can infuse the adaptive project management approach into your own work.

Ensure work is aligned with company goals

Because each business has a unique portfolio of goals and objectives, someone needs to balance the work and ensure that priorities are arranged correctly. Thus, the PMO should use adaptive project management principles to prioritize projects, resources, and funding based on the strategic gains that each project brings to the business.

In this role, the PMO acts as the organization’s value driver by ensuring the portfolio stays aligned with the enterprise’s strategy and objectives.

What if a project doesn’t align with a company’s strategic goals? In that case, it falls to the PMO to approach stakeholders and decision-makers with data-backed information, empowering them to adapt and change quickly – or in some cases, deprioritize the project altogether.

Focus on the value delivered

From an adaptive project management perspective, the PMO should ask one overarching question: What is the value this project (or projects) bring to the organization?

Instead of looking solely at a project’s output and measuring success by numbers (e.g., number of projects completed on time and on budget), an adaptive-oriented PMO would look instead at more nuanced measures of success, such as growth, revenue, or customer loyalty.

Become an adaptive PMO

Whether you manage one team or a hundred, you can transition to an adaptive project management PMO by offering more flexibility.

Different project teams function better with different processes. Once they know what works best for them, support them in their decision.

Give teams the autonomy to choose how they want to deliver work, whether by adhering to a waterfall, agile, or hybrid process.

Additionally, the needs of individual projects within teams might differ depending on the nature of the project. Don’t get stuck on one methodology.

Be flexible. Advocate for teams to use adaptive project management to tailor their processes to their specific needs, and watch them flourish with increased flexibility.

Set up dashboards to show method-specific reports like traditional, hybrid, and Agile using an adaptive project management and reporting solution.
Set up dashboards to show method-specific reports like traditional, hybrid, and Agile using an adaptive project management and reporting solution.

Benefits of Adaptive Project Management

Any organization can benefit from adaptive project management principles.

But to reap the benefits of this approach, teams must invest time in:

  • Evaluating their needs
  • Gathering feedback
  • Making iterative changes

What benefits justify the time and effort required to do this?

In an overall sense, adaptive project management enables organizations to efficiently manage and track work aligned with their strategic objectives.

But on a more granular level, it empowers teams to make the changes they need without running into unnecessary delays along the way.

To track and respond to feedback, teams need an effective adaptive project management and reporting solution. This will help ensure they stay agile and capable of quickly adapting to changes as they arise.

Here are some key features to look for when searching for an adaptive project management and reporting solution:

  • Collaboration tools that help teams work efficiently and deliver work in the way that’s best for them depending on the team and type of project.
  • Centralizing all project information in one place, ensuring data is up-to-date, accurate, and easy to track.
  • Reporting metrics of projects at the portfolio level so the PMO and project leaders can accurately assess the health of projects and make informed, data-driven decisions about prioritizing work and funding projects based on need and value delivered.
  • Providing project and work management tools to support different work delivery methods (particularly work breakdown structures such as Gantt charts and Kanban boards), as well as roadmapping tools.
Collaboration between portfolio users and teams is enhanced by using an adaptive project management solution.
Collaboration between portfolio users and teams is enhanced by using an adaptive project management solution.

In response to the global pandemic, many organizations relied more on remote and distributed teams. And some leaders struggled with tracking work when employees weren’t physically present.

That’s why project leaders must use an effective adaptive project management and reporting solution to successfully manage work, resources, and capacity in a new world of work. That way, teams stay connected and project leaders have a top-down view of the work being delivered – and whether that work aligns with the company’s goals and objectives.

Transform your work into results that matter

You can leverage adaptive project management and reporting to gain more insight into your project portfolio, accelerate value, and drive innovation.

Important project metrics can be gathered and analyzed in one central location, and easily translated into actionable insights. And continuous, up-to-date reporting empowers decision-makers and stakeholders to make informed decisions that align with the company’s overall strategy. Project leaders, the PMO, and Stakeholders can easily visualize portfolio-level reporting to understand what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change.

Planning and resource allocation unfold on an iterative basis, instead of at the beginning of a project. This helps ensure the enterprise is making the absolute most of what it has available.

Is Adaptive Project Management Right for Me?

Adaptive project management is critical for helping organizations keep up with the speed of business. It prepares teams and project leaders for unexpected challenges, and empowers them to respond to those challenges and adapt accordingly.

At some point, every company will encounter the unknown – whether that’s on a small or massive scale. Adaptive project management offers a guideline that doesn’t only accommodate uncertainty, but leverages it as an occasion to put the company in a stronger position in the long run.

Any enterprise that wants to make the most efficient and effective use of resources could benefit from some degree of adaptive project management – especially if those resources are scarce. Businesses that implement an adaptive project management and reporting solution can gain greater insight and responsiveness to their project and resource management practices, so they can make greater use of what they have.

Change never stops. But the ability to respond to it with speed, confidence, and flexibility is within reach. Adaptive project management can help you set a steady course, no matter what happens next.

See how you can drive the right outcomes for your organization and empower your teams, all while adapting to change. Get “The Insider’s Guide to Modern PPM” eBook to learn more.