In this milestone 50th year for the Project Management Institute it’s natural to want to look back at the significant trends have shaped the project management profession over the last five decades, namely globalization of the discipline, and the explosion of methods, techniques and practices being applied to projects. Looking ahead, new trends continue to emerge, however many of these are already having a dramatic impact on the way that project managers go about their work.
1) Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Of all the new technologies being adopted by project management teams it is the application of AI within projects that will completely reshape project delivery. “I can envisage in the next three to five years that project team members will call up Siri or Alexa on their mobile phones and verbally log their daily progress reports,” says Stephen Townsend, director, network programs at the Project Management Institute (PMI). “And while project team members are back at home, an AI engine will analyze all of their reports and provide real-time status updates on progress.”
Even more amazing is that those status reports will include recommendations to the team on how to improve performance, threats that could impact project success and lessons learned by other teams that may be applicable to the current project.
2) Organizational project management
Within organizations today there are growing efforts to remove the gap between strategy development and strategic results, and organizational project management, encompassing portfolio, program and project management, is the key capability for bridging that gap.
“Whether you look at PMI’s model or agile models like the Scaled Agile Framework, strategy only becomes real when it is linked to the work that people in the organization are doing,” says Stephen Townsend. “So at the portfolio level, there are mechanisms that link organizational investments with business results. At the program and project levels, teams drive specific outcomes that deliver satisfied customers and strategic business objectives.”
3) Virtual project teams
Within many organizations core internal project teams are getting smaller while the reliance on remote project professionals is increasing. Thanks to digital technology these workers do not need to be in the same physical location. In fact they can be based anywhere in the world, working in virtual teams. This brings many benefits, not least an end to the traveling, logistic and other administrative costs. To be successful, these virtual teams need good communication channels, such as Slack and Google Hangouts, and good project management software.
“Project management software that helps with task management is totally indispensable to my role,” says Ali Newton, a remote working project management team leader at digital marketing firm Exposure Ninja, “I can track the projects I‘m working on and where each of our tasks are at. Without it, it would be impossible to manage as many successful projects at one time.”
As a result of becoming more widely dispersed and working remotely, project managers will rely on new processes to help them adapt to a less traditional workflow. As they acclimatize to more flexible ways of working they’ll need to be able to follow processes that are less rigid and more orientated.
Agile is a set of principles that helps developers adapt to change quickly and embrace a more flexible approach than the traditional waterfall rigid structure. Agile is gaining in popularity and becoming the standard for many companies across a range of industry sectors.
Kanban is a more visual and workflow-based project management methodology – the name is a Japanese term that translates to billboard in English – that prioritizes small daily deliveries and makes progress more measurable. It works well when used in projects that are more likely to involve many changes and provides an efficient way of limiting work in progress and avoiding project stagnation.
5) Emotional intelligence
With technology playing an increasingly central role in project management, demand for project managers with high levels of emotional intelligence is growing. These are people who are known for getting the best out of themselves and members of their team. They have strong social skills, an ability to show empathy, and they can motivate others to achieve a more successful final product. It is an attribute that organizations and project management recruiters value highly.
“By focusing on emotional intelligence, which is often considered a soft skill, we can increase both productivity and the quality of our teams’ work,” says Aleksandra Swiatkowska, digital project manager at Savings United. “In the long run this leads to better outcomes for clients, a better product and ultimately increases the company’s bottom line.”
6) Lifelong learning
Every profession and discipline in today’s world is challenged to keep pace with change. In the quickly changing world of project delivery, there is one key to staying at the cutting edge, a mindset of life-long learning. An important part of life-long learning involves training, but learning is much broader than that. “Development assignments that help people practice and build skills are critical,” says Stephen Townsend. “Access to mentors and coaches who can transfer their knowledge and experience enable formal and informal ways of learning. Giving teams time to evaluate and improve their performance in real-time supports continuous learning and improvement.”
7) Project managers in demand
Organizations are under increasing pressure to innovate, adapt to change and achieve strategic growth so it’s hardly surprising that project managers are needed now more than ever to help drive change, deliver innovation and implement strategic initiatives. According to PMI’s job growth and talent gap report, by 2027 an estimated 87.7 million professionals will be working in project-centric roles, managing data, time, scope, costs, and people. Much of this growth will be seen in places like India and China. Just as project management has evolved over the last 5 decades, as projects continue to span the global market, the discipline of project management will continue to change and innovate with business.