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John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of project management. Over the years, the project management landscape has seen drastic changes that led organizations from sticky notes to enterprise SaaS solutions. With the advent of newer technologies and management paradigms, project management continues to undergo significant evolution. Organizations need to keep up with these changes or risk failure.
This has been particularly noticeable recently due to the incredibly volatile year of 2020. The implications of the massive shutdowns and global lockdowns seen last year are sure to be felt in 2021 and beyond. Those disruptions have certainly shaped project management trends as organizations scrambled to embrace newer ways to manage their projects.
With that in mind, we compiled our top 10 project management trends for 2021 and beyond with input from a few experts who shared their advice on what’s shaping and shaking the world of project management.
1. Artificial Intelligence And Automation
Project Management Institute notes that 81 percent of professionals say that AI is impacting their organizations. That number is likely to increase further in the coming years. Thilo Huellmann, Chief Technology Officer at Levity.ai, believes automation holds immense promise. “By automating low-value-add tasks, project managers may focus their efforts and energy on tasks that will most dramatically benefit their business, allowing them to affect greater change and increasing the possibility of each project reaching its strategic goals.”
In 2020, larger-scale AI adoption was embraced by organizations to ensure successful project completion in several ways, such as:
- Generating performance insights
- Supporting the decision-making processes
- Making estimates and predictions
- Optimizing resource scheduling
- Enabling data visualization
- Performing risk analysis
2. Advanced Resource and Project Management Software
A 2020 report from Wellingtone notes that 54 percent of organizations lack access to real-time KPIs for their projects and over a third of them spend over one day to collect data. This is just one of the areas that project management tools can streamline. Combined with AI-based automation capabilities, project management software can bring about many positive changes in the way organizations go about managing their projects, no matter how complex they are.
Here are some ways that the right software can make a massive difference.
- Leverage historical project and resource data to make better bids and plans for future projects.
- View resource availability, skills, and other details to simplify allocation.
- Automatically track all time spent on tasks and projects with AI.
- Quickly allocate and track budgets to stay on top of financials.
- Capture all expenses with invoices for all projects in real time.
- Track all projects through customizable dashboards and make informed decisions on the fly.
- Keep all stakeholders and team members informed of project status, progress, and changes in real time.
3. Rise in Remote Working
Remote working was already increasing before 2020, but the pandemic boosted its adoption to unprecedented levels. While organizations were forced to let employees telecommute due to safety concerns, it is likely that remote working will continue for the foreseeable future. This brings up some interesting challenges for project managers. A Gartner survey revealed that 74 percent of CFOs plan to shift a part of their workforces permanently to remote working.
Cloud-based project management software can be a major benefit in these circumstances. These tools can be easily deployed globally for hybrid or remote workforces, allowing them to stay on top of their tasks and projects seamlessly. The software can capture all relevant data to be tracked, verified, and used by project managers to make informed decisions in real time, irrespective of shift timings and locations.
4. Demand for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
While organizational and analytical skills are necessary for project managers, there has been a rising demand for emotional intelligence in recent years. The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum notes how employers, across industries, are increasingly seeking out candidates with emotional intelligence and other social skills. This is relevant for project managers since, in essence, their work involves having an understanding of people. To lead projects to success, they must manage their people effectively, and to do so, they must understand those people first. The ability to connect and empathize with others has become a lot more important due to one of the other project management trends: the rise in remote working.
An excellent example of leveraging emotional intelligence for the greater good comes from Dave Birdsall, senior manager at The Parker Avery Group. He has noticed the interesting project management trend of scheduling daily touchpoint meetings for more than just work. “…the agendas for these daily stand-ups are no longer just about work. These meetings not only serve as means to keep tabs on work items but also gives people an outlet to socialize. I have found by doing this, I am able to stay on top of what people are working on and ensure that their work-life balance is not suffering.”
5. Increasing Focus on Data Analytics
Organizations of all sizes generate copious amounts of data every day. Therefore, it is only intelligent to leverage that data to drive decisions. Data analytics and reporting can help project managers identify early signs of scope creep, measure project progress rates, and more.
AI-powered analytics provide a complete picture of the entire organization and all projects. They deliver granular-level visibility into the activities and generate custom reports to help visualize the data in the exact way needed by the managers. With these tools, project managers can make informed decisions in real-time instead of waiting around for reports to be manually compiled or make gut-based decisions.
6. Hybrid Project Management
In recent years, there have been renewed efforts to find a reliable and efficient methodology for project success. To that end, organizations have begun to experiment with a hybrid approach in which different elements from two or more methodologies are brought together. It is no longer about agile, scrum, or lean only, but rather about bringing specific attributes together for increased flexibility in delivering project success. This has enabled organizations to find unique approaches to suit specific industries and projects.
The hybrid concept extends to the development of project team structures as well. Olivia Montgomery, Project Management Expert at Capterra, recently wrote an article on the subject of hybrid project management. She mentions how their survey “found that 37 percent of teams are cross-functional led by a dedicated PM. In addition to leveraging untapped skills from new team members, cross-functional teams can share their department’s best practices for the project team to then decide whether or not they want to incorporate into their own processes.”
7. Increasing Emphasis on Soft Skills
Traditionally, the value of project managers depended on their certifications and their skills in implementing different methodologies. However, more and more organizations are shifting their focus to soft skills. This project management trend is understandable as AI-powered solutions have become capable enough to handle the trickier technical parts of project management. Managers are free to focus on other responsibilities and that is where soft skills become necessary.
Project managers now need to focus and strengthen their soft skills such as conflict resolution, stakeholder engagement, negotiation, mentoring and training, decision-making, and team building. Developing these skills will help project managers deliver more value to their organization.
8. Projects and Organizational Strategy Coming Together
Projects and organizational strategy have traditionally been separate domains. The role of a project manager was only to execute projects to successful conclusions. However, recent project management trends show that this role is now being expanded upon. Project managers are taking on a more hands-on role in executing the broader organizational strategy.
This is understandable since organizations have had a difficult time executing their strategy and acting upon them. That is why project managers are increasingly being asked to focus on understanding the relationship that exists between program, portfolio, and project management. This allows the organization to see how individual projects are related to each other and how they connect with the overall strategic goals of the organization.
9. The Decline of the Traditional PMO
As noted by the Project Management Institute, one of the most significant project management trends has been the steady decline in the popularity of project management offices (PMO). Traditionally, they have been a part of hierarchical organizational structures. However, the demand for agility has made those hierarchies less useful, giving organizations one less reason to have a PMO. PMOs tend to lack the flexibility needed for adapting to change quickly. Moreover, the lack of executive involvement makes it harder for the PMO to understand and execute strategic goals.
It is, therefore, time for the PMO to evolve urgently to remain relevant. PMOs need to become increasingly agile so that they can provide the necessary support for modern-day projects. It is also essential for them to become more involved in the strategy and help in strategy implementation. There is hope for PMOs yet, but it falls upon the organizations to invest in their success.
10. Project Management Driving Change Management
The pandemic brought change management processes to the forefront as organizations struggled to embrace extensive change initiatives in a matter of days or weeks. A report by the International Project Management Association highlighted that only 30 percent of organizations feel that their capabilities in managing organizational change are effective.
To solve this, many organizations are looking towards their project managers to drive change initiatives, such as digital transformation. Project managers can take on the responsibility of developing change management strategies as a part of a broader project plan.
The project management trends outlined above are just a few of the biggest trends that organizations will notice in the coming years. The world of project management is constantly changing and evolving. Project managers and organizations need to be proactive and evolve alongside to ensure continued improvement and growth.
These project management trends should also help project managers understand the steps they must take to drive operational efficiency in the coming years. This is particularly important in the professional services industry, where projects are the lifeblood of the organizations. Failure to manage projects successfully and efficiently can be detrimental to the organization’s growth and may even cause it to be left behind by the competition. Check out our ebook to learn more.