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27 December 2022

6 Project Management Trends in 2021

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Current-day business can be described by one simple adage: «The only constant is change». Nowhere does that sentiment seem to hold more truth than in the field of project management. This field didn’t have tools or online dashboards to help you oversee timelines and objectives only twenty years ago. Words like “Agile” and “Scrum” would have made managers go cross-eyed with at least confusion and at most rejection, which the human consciousness instinctively generates in the face of the unknown. Nowadays, project management is a constantly growing and evolving area, forcing those, who want to become successful in this field, to learn it and predict future changes. So, it is also important to know about project management trends in 2020.


It’s pretty difficult, expensive, and unnecessary to predict all the trends because the most important step is setting general directions to operate in. It wouldn’t be hard to develop small branches of these directions, so there’s no point in working them through for years to come.

Approaches will be tailored to a specific project environment

For a long time, it was believed that the best way to control project management from the top level of hierarchy was to create a single project management methodology that could be applied to all projects. 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. It should seem that it’s enough to define the best methodology for your project, but as a result, this step isn’t winning for many projects. A focus on one specific aspect is passing, giving way to flexibility, adaptation, and the choice of the best tactics and strategy to manage the project. This shift means that project managers will have to lean on their own critical thinking skills and professional judgment more than ever before. However, many businesses are witnessing the positive impact of giving project managers some room to customize their own methodologies.

The increasing importance of coaching, mentoring, and support in the field of project management

Because project management will have the option to move away from stiff 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. Experts predict that in the near future managers are going to be leaning more heavily on their Project Management Offices and more competent and experienced colleagues because they simply won’t have the experience.

PMI’s 2017 Pulse on the Profession Survey showed that the development of Project Management Offices is 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. PMI’s survey backs that up and it shows that 38% more projects met those strategic business goals when project managers could lean on the support of a PMO. Even further, 33% fewer projects were recognized as failures.

More attention to 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. Project managers come to a realization that high performance like any initiative or problem starts with them and the effort they invest. This is why the value of agile minds in the project is increasing – artificial intelligence can’t bring anything new, distinctive, and unique to the project, as an objective and art reality shows. It does only what the developer has programmed into it, and therefore methodologies never have and never will deliver projects without people. One would think that the idea is obvious, but far from all project managers have learnt it yet. As a result, they will be forced to be more careful when forming the project teams, learn to select the most appropriate and effective ways of communication with the team members. Leading specialists in the field of project management, including Project Leadership Coach, Susanne Madsen, and one of the best research managers of today, Kevin Lonergan, share this opinion.

Skills outrank certifications

It seems as if there’s a palpable change happening in the profession of a project manager — a movement away from the inflexible, black-and-white requirements of the past, toward something that’s more malleable. This change applies to the qualifications of project managers themselves as well. Companies are shifting their hiring practices to examine professionals that demonstrate skills in project management, rather than certification. While certifications will still hold some importance — especially for more traditional employers — they may no longer act as crucial for landing project management roles.

Nevertheless, the PMP certification is a valuable asset to boost your pay packet and demonstrate your expertise in the field of project management. Experience and skills—particularly “softer” skills like emotional intelligence (EQ) — will carry far more weight with employers.

Nigel Kirkman has expressed his opinion, which the project manager should listen to, in his article for Inside Big Data. The quote: «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 <...> 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».

Systems thinking and systems integration will become a greater part of project management

Everything being created or developed today has elements of connectivity thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). 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 rely solely on systems thinking.

Such factors as an increased capability of cloud computing and big data will probably make a large impact on the field of project management over the long run.

It is no exaggeration to state that within the next few years, virtually every new product, process, or service will have some form of automation or augmentation that requires a systems knowledge and understanding. This is because the current trend is a trend toward the globalization of everything that can be adapted to this format. This means that everything will be operating in an ecosystem soon and it is system thinking and systems integration that will make that ecosystem perform well. Many experts including Rachel Burger and Ray Sheen are absolutely positive that it is the growth of artificial intelligence and IoT that is going to change how project management is effectuated; moreover, this change is bound to be positive, as artificial intelligence can have numerous benefits in the field of project management. There is a categorical opinion of experts; in particular, Elizabeth Harrin, on the problems that artificial intelligence might help with:

The impact of these aspects on the field of project management cannot be called definitely positive; nevertheless, this field can’t be immune to the impacts of artificial intelligence or IoT.

Popularity growth of Agile and Scrum methodologies

Less prioritization of uncompromising, one-size-fits-all methodologies is the reason why something is bound to swoop in and take that place. Due to their iterative nature in quickly adapting the scope requirements to reflect the changing business and market environment, Agile and Scrum will continue to grow in popularity. A record pace of business development boosted it. While time to market and return on investment have always been important, the speed of change in business is shrinking the benefit stream, which the implementation of certain projects could generate. That suggests that quick completion of the project has become crucial, so its creator could take advantage of its results to the full extent.

The significance of Scrum and Agile methodologies in this regard cannot be minimized. There are numerous benefits to these approaches. The first one is an increased project control. The second is a reduced possibility of risk situations. The third thing that is worth mentioning is a faster ROI. For those reasons (among many others), Agile and Scrum will experience an increase in the nearest time.

Experts’ forecasts

By all means, it’s extremely difficult to forecast something that is tied to the human factor so much as project management, but experts continue their attempts. One of the best experts is Ray Sheen. His view on the future of project management can be quite optimistic. First of all, software for project management will become far more integrated and easy to manage and use.

The expert believes that project management software will 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. 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.
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