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,” and 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, and 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 then are still being felt in 2023. Those disruptions have certainly shaped new project management trends in 2023 as organizations scramble to embrace newer ways to manage their projects.
With that in mind, we asked experts for their advice on what’s shaping and shaking the world of project management in 2023 and compiled our top 12 project management predictions.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Automation
Project Management Institute notes that 81% 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, notes that 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 businesses, allowing them to affect greater change, increasing the possibility of each project reaching its strategic goals.”
Recent years have seen AI adoption on a larger scale 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% of organizations lack access to real-time KPIs for their projects and over a third of them spend over 1 day to collect data. This underlines how project management tools can no longer be ignored. Combined with AI-based automation capabilities, project management software can bring about 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 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 through 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 more informed decisions on the fly
- Keep all stakeholders and team members informed of project status, progress and changes made in real time.
3. Rise in Remote Working
Remote working was already on the rise but recent years have seen its adoption boosted to unprecedented levels. While the global pandemic forced organizations 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. According to Forbes, up to 97% of employees are not interested in going back to their offices full-time.
Cloud-based project management software can play a crucial role 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 the relevant data that needs to be tracked, verified and used by project managers to make more 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 an increasing demand for emotional intelligence in recent years. The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum supports the increasing demand by employers for emotional intelligence and other social skills. This is relevant for project managers since, in essence, their work involves having a deep understanding of people. To lead projects to success, they must manage their people resources more 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 touch point 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 for Data-Driven Project Management
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 project managers. With these tools, project managers can make informed decisions in real time instead of making gut-based decisions based on reports that are compiled manually.
6. Hybrid Project Management
In the post-pandemic era, there have been renewed efforts to find a more 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 driving 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% 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 now 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. Essentially, the role of a project manager was only to execute projects to successful conclusions. However, current trends in project management 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 in 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 an organization to see how individual projects are related to each other and how they connect with the overall strategic goals of an organization.
9. Cloud-first Approach Becoming The Standard
The demand for cloud computing solutions is increasing rapidly with more and more organizations shifting to the cloud to keep up with the changes in how they operate. To increase their operations, organizations are looking for cost-effective measures that do not sacrifice functionality or performance. That makes cloud computing the ideal solution.
The rise in hybrid and remote working environments have also increased focus on cloud solutions as they enable resources to work from anywhere without losing access to critical business applications. Cloud solutions, additionally, have become more accessible and flexible, making them easier to adopt. With all these changes, it is quite likely that a cloud-first approach is going to become the new standard to manage projects intelligently for organizations everywhere.
10. Growing Attention to Mental Health
There has been a growing focus on mental health in recent years. With organizations beginning to reopen offices or shift to hybrid or remote working, there is bound to be elevated levels of stress among employees who have to acclimatize to these changes. To keep their employees motivated and productive, organizations must seek ways to help them manage stress and mental health effectively.
There are several steps that organizations can take to prioritize their employees’ mental health. To start, organizations can implement flexible hours to give their employees more freedom with “how” they work. Fitness programs also make for a good option. From a project management perspective, managers should set clear expectations on project deadlines and goals while trying to offer more praise than criticism. These are just a few steps that organizations can start implementing for improved mental health of their employees.
11. Focus on Change Management
The increased flexibility offered by remote and hybrid working, while offering some major benefits, has also created several challenges in collaboration and communication. Left unchecked, these challenges can easily derail a well-laid project plan. To avoid such a disruptive scenario, proper change management is necessary. This is particularly relevant given the ongoing global macroeconomic challenges affecting organizations everywhere.
By developing the skills required for effective change management, project managers can rapidly modify strategies in the face of distraction or disruption to deliver projects successfully. It is vital to review and assess the change management performance regularly to determine areas of improvement. Feedback from team members is an essential component of refining change management processes. Managers also need real-time data for faster and more effective decisions. With time and proper skill development, project managers can become capable of initiating major change programs without hurting the performance or productivity of their teams.
12. Implementing Strong Cybersecurity Measures
According to Statista, the cost of cybercrime globally is projected to increase at an alarming rate from $8.44 trillion in 2022 to a shocking $23.84 trillion by the year 2027. With organizations moving towards digitizing their ecosystems and embracing remote and hybrid work models, cybersecurity is more critical than ever.
Protecting the organization from all forms of cyberattacks requires proactive planning and training. Project managers can support cybersecurity initiatives by developing a culture of awareness and shared responsibility. They can work together with IT, HR and cybersecurity teams to implement best practices and training sessions for project teams. Even seemingly simple measures such as leveraging role-based permissions for project management and other tools can go a long way in safeguarding the organization and its data.
These project management trends should also help project managers understand the steps they must take to drive operational efficiency. This is particularly important for organizations in the professional services industry.