As the old adage goes, “The only constant is change.” And, nowhere does that sentiment seem to hold more truth than in the field of project management.
Just think of what the industry looked like only a couple of decades ago. There were no tools or online dashboards to help you oversee timelines and objectives. Words like “Agile” and “Scrum” would’ve made people go cross-eyed with confusion. Hey, you likely would’ve been hard-pressed to even find project managers in half the industries they work in now.
But, today? Project management is a constantly growing and evolving area of business. While those changes are exciting, they can also be a little intimidating. It can be tough to gain your footing when you’re walking up a hill of sand. How can you stay on top of all of those trends and advancements?
Well, we’re here to help you get some traction. We connected with some industry experts (including one of our own GoSkills instructors) to get the lowdown on what their predictions are for the field of project management in 2021.
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From the experts: project management trends for 2021
Approaches will be more tailored to specific project environments.
“For decades, executives believed that the best way to control project management from the top floor of the building was to create a single project management methodology that could be applied all projects,” explains Harold Kerzner, Ph.D., Senior Executive Director of Project Management, IIL in an article for the IIL Blog.
But, with an increasing demand for flexibility to adapt and roll with the punches, that move away from pre-set and rigid approaches will continue to change.
“Project managers should have always been making the best methodology choices for their projects, but some environments didn’t lend themselves to that,” explains Elizabeth Harrin, author and blogger at GirlsGuidetoPM.com, “Now, those project environments may be embracing tailoring in a way that forces project managers to make more choices about how to best run their project.”
Harrin says that this shift means that project managers will have to lean on their own critical thinking skills and professional judgment more than ever before. But, many businesses are witnessing the positive impact of giving project managers some room to customize their own methodologies.
Mentoring, coaching, and support will gain even more importance.
Because project management will have the option to move away from those “paint by numbers” approaches, newer project managers will need to rely on mentors and coaches to gain the confidence and skills they need to lead projects effectively and independently.
“Less experienced project managers are going to be leaning more heavily on their PMO (Project Management Office) and experienced colleagues because they simply won’t have the experience to make tailoring decisions for themselves,” Harrin explains.
Harrin’s mention of PMOs is no accident, as that’s another area of project management that will be on the rise in order to give newer project managers that necessary expertise and confidence.
According to the Project Management Institute's 2017 Pulse of the Profession Survey, PMOs are continuing to gain more traction. “One of the reasons for a PMO is that it can bridge the gap between the high-level strategic vision of an organization and the project’s implementation,” explains Stephanie Ray in a post for Project Manager.
PMI’s survey backs that up. In fact, 38% more projects met those strategic business goals when project managers could lean on the support of a PMO. Even further, 33% less projects were recognized as failures.
There will be a growing emphasis on people.
Tied in with that shift away from rigid and formal methodologies, the field of project management will also witness higher prioritization placed on the people that actually produce the projects.
“As a profession, we are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that projects aren’t just about tasks and schedules, but also very much about people,” says Project Leadership Coach, Susanne Madsen, “Everybody would like to be part of a high-performing team, but too few people put in the effort to create one.”
Because of this, Madsen predicts that project managers will become more acutely aware that high performance begins with themselves and the effort that they are or aren’t putting in.
“It’s about being more present when they are interacting with others and being more mindful when they form a new project team,” she adds.
Other experts echo this hypothesis. As Kevin Lonergan eloquently explains in his post for Project Management Informed Solutions, “Methodologies never have and never will deliver projects; people do.”
Skills will begin to outrank certifications.
Overall, it seems as if there’s a palpable change happening in the profession—a movement away from the inflexible, black-and-white requirements of the past, toward something that’s far more malleable.
This change applies toward the qualifications of project managers themselves as well. “Companies are shifting their hiring practices to closer examine professionals that demonstrate skills in project management, rather than certification,” says a post for AcceptSoftware.
While certifications will still hold some importance—especially for more traditional employers—they may no longer act as the be-all and end-all for landing project management roles.
A credential like the PMP certification is a valuable asset to boost your pay packet and demonstrate your expertise, but experience and skills—particularly “softer” skills like emotional intelligence (EQ)—will carry far more weight with employers than they did in the past.
“The project manager increasingly needs to channel emotions for solving problems and for thinking to develop positive and constructive ways to address issues as they arise,” explains Nigel Kirkman in an article for Inside Big Data.
“The reason why EQ as an attribute is gaining emphasis is that these capabilities drive better engagement, reduce turnover, and improve productivity and loyalty which directly translates into better profitability for businesses,” he adds.
Analytics and metrics will continue to play an important role.
Today, we have more insights, information, and data at our fingertips than ever before—and, that’s all important for project managers to ensure the success of their projects.
In years past, it seemed that the focus of project management was to simply produce a deliverable or an end result. However, now there’s growing focus on how that deliverable actually contributes value to the overall business.
Moving forward, we’ll see project managers continue to leverage the analytics that they have to make informed decisions and lead projects that present a huge value add.
“The automatic transmission of a vast amount of data—keyword: Big Data—makes things automatically measurable and analyzable. This increases the efficiency of processes as project managers can make decisions more quickly. The decisions will also be more accurate because they are based on empirical data,” shares Linh Tran in a post for the InLoox Blog.
In short, data continues to play a large role across all business areas—and that will only increase for project management in the coming years.
GoSkills project management predictions for 2021
Here at GoSkills, we like to think we’re able to keep our own finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the field of project management—thanks to insightful instructors like Ray Sheen.
We connected with Sheen to get the inside scoop on a few of his own project management predictions for the coming year. Here’s what he sees coming down the pipeline.
Project management software will become easier to use and more integrated.
First and foremost, Sheen predicts that we’ll see project management software continue to become simpler to use and more seamlessly integrated with other tools, such as personal time management apps.
“All software applications, and that includes project management software, are putting a major emphasis on user experience,” Sheen explains, “leading to simplification in the user interface. This will make project management software more widely accepted and used as it transitions from an enterprise application requiring specialized skills to a mobile application that interfaces with other mobile apps.”
“Seamless workflow management is possible because software can easily be integrated nowadays so that everything works together,” echoes Michelle Symonds in a post for Parallel Project Training, “When everything happens in real time and speaks the same language, you have a game changer in terms of how teams collaborate.”
Technology has already been a driving force in the industry, and we’ll only see that increase as more tweaks and advancements are made.
Agile and Scrum methodologies will continue to grow in popularity.
We’ve already talked about the fact that you’ll see less prioritization of uncompromising, one-size-fits-all methodologies. But, surely, something is bound to swoop in and take that place.
“Agile and Scrum will continue to grow in popularity because of their iterative nature in quickly adapting the scope requirements to reflect the changing business and market environment,” Sheen says.
“The speed of business is accelerating. While time to market and return on investment have always been important, the speed of change in business is shrinking the benefit stream for many projects,” Sheen continues, “This means the project must be completed as quickly as possible to take advantage of the smaller window of benefits.”
Fortunately, this is where Agile and Scrum methodologies really shine. As Ekaterina Novoseltseva highlights in an article for Apiumhub, there are numerous benefits to these approaches, including:
Increased project control
For those reasons (among many others), Agile and Scrum will experience increasing popularity in the coming years.
Systems thinking and systems integration will become a greater part of scope management.
“Everything being created or developed today has elements of connectivity thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT),” explains Sheen. “This is adding to the complexity of scope—to both design the connectivity and test it. The uncertainty in this area is the risk driver. Digital transformation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) rely on systems thinking.”
Because things like an increased capability of cloud computing and big data are here to stay, Sheen predicts that this will make a large impact on the field of project management.
“Within the next few years, virtually every new product, service, or process will have some form of automation or augmentation that requires a systems knowledge and understanding,” Sheen continues, “Everything will be operating in an ecosystem, and it is system thinking and systems integration that will make that ecosystem perform well.”
Sheen isn’t alone in this prediction, as many other industry experts affirm his hypothesis.
“The growth of IoT and AI in union are going to change how project management is effectuated,” shares Rachel Burger in an article for Capterra.
And, this change is bound to be positive, as AI can have numerous benefits in the field of project management. As Elizabeth Harrin explains in her own post about project management predictions, AI can help with:
Identifying potential risks through natural language search
Improving risk assessments
Testing risk response
Allocating resources and resource levelling
Automating mundane and repetitive tasks
Improving consistency in process and decision making
So, needless to say, the field of project management won’t be immune to the impacts of AI or IoT—and, for good reason.
Project management: an eye toward the future
There’s no denying it—the field of project management is constantly evolving, and it can be a struggle for professionals and even organizations to keep up (hence why the PMP exam is currently going through numerous updates!).
Hopefully, these trends and predictions from industry experts help you to stay on top of all the shifts and changes that are coming down the pipeline in the course of this next year. As always, knowledge is power!
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