Top 6 Project Management Trends in 2021

Joydeep Das

Joydeep Das

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: March 1, 2021

The discipline of Project Management has evolved greatly recently, thanks to technology and innovation. Today, there is a much greater visibility, transparency, and control over projects, even as teams work remotely from different time zones. Humans have made task management digital and made it easier to streamline them and assign subtasks that can be updated and monitored in real-time.

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There are also features like comment tagging, team-chat, and Kanban boards to ensure that announcements don’t get missed out and every team member is on the same page. The past decade has witnessed a steep rise in the number of specialized project management tools created for different industries.

Today, 56% of organizations use project management software to get their tasks done, and 66% of them have managed to get their projects completed on time. Through this blog, we will uncover the top project management trends to watch out for in 2021 and beyond.

Top Trends in Project Management

Here are the key trends that will rule the roost in the realm of project management in the years to come

1. Remote digital collaboration and tracking:

Project management today is no longer bound to the confines of an office. Corporate values and perceptions have significantly changed, especially given the pandemic. To safeguard their workforce and reduce the spread of the virus, companies worldwide have adapted to work-from-home policies that favor digital dialogue over in-person interactions.

Almost 50% of US workers today are working from the comfort of their homes, and the trend is likely to continue even post-pandemic. With most of the world following suit, project managers have a unique set of challenges. Team-building, task allotment, collaboration, project alignment, and several other project management tasks are now carried out remotely.

However, remote work has several advantages like improved flexibility, reduced costs, and higher productivity that organizations realize today. With the use of software, many businesses are streamlining their tasks and also improving collaboration among team workers. Such tools let project managers distribute work and gauge progress in real-time, enabling them to mitigate friction or inefficiencies. The reliance on digital mediums is likely to increase as time progresses but how traditional organizations deal with such disruptions remains to be seen.

2. Emphasis on soft skills:

While organizational and analytical skills remain the most sought-after qualities in project managers, they also have to communicate with a distributed workforce. There is also client communication, project, and delivery that they have to take care of. Managers also need to understand their team’s skills and qualities and manage them efficiently to yield the best outcomes. Thus, in addition to core management skills, they also require an array of language or soft skills.

Several management programs globally have understood the above need and have introduced language and communication into their curricula. Since managers also have to lead their teams, motivate them and remove project roadblocks, there is also a growing emphasis on leadership skills in addition to technical skills. The World Economic Forum’s latest report on the future of jobs also lists social skills as one of the top skill sets that employers look for in their new hires.

3. Merging strategy with project management:

Typically, collaborative project management involves working towards achieving discrete goals or outcomes for an organization. Managers are supposed to shepherd the project from start to finish and ensure successful completion. However, the scope of project management has expanded and now encompasses strategy making and initiatives. Modern project management, therefore, includes formulating strategies and making them actionable. 

In the future, managing projects would become much organized with clear planning and protocols laid out well beforehand. The scope and objectives too shall be defined clearly, and managers can manage projects, programs, and portfolios. Thus, apart from micromanaging projects, managers will ensure that the right work moves between the right projects at the right time.

They also need to verify if projects are aligned properly to the business strategy being followed and make modifications in case of a change in company strategy. To use their strategic skills in projects, managers need to understand the relationship between program, project, and portfolio management. This would allow them to know how individual projects are related to each other and the organization’s strategic goals, creating smarter project management plans in the future. 

4. Including change management: 

Organizational processes go through hundreds of changes every year. Changes can range from small adjustments to major overhauls related to a company’s structure, strategy, services, or products. For instance, the onslaught of COVID-19 made several organizations make substantial process changes while delivering their projects. If not registered, monitored, or implemented, these changes can cause significant problems for the company. Moreover, if not well documented, changes will be challenging to administer and quickly forgotten, resulting in more organizational problem.

According to reports, 63% of companies conduct projects with some form of change management. Thus project managers have to take care of the organization’s change initiatives and manage their individual projects. They need to formulate a change management plan that outlines the steps and protocols required to be followed and approved by the senior manager before the project commences. Some managers also adopt hybrid project management methodologies to add flexibility to change management, discussed in detail below.

5. Hybrid project management approach

Not so long ago, project managers and organizations typically pursued their projects according to a single management methodology. However, modern firms use a combination of frameworks for project management and delivery. This adaptable approach has helped industries take on diverse projects from various domains, and the combination of such methodologies has provided more depth and flexibility to such projects.

A growing number of organizations today are embracing hybrid project management methodologies and with great results. Several alternative methodologies like Agile, Kanban, Lean, and Scrum have encouraged a shift in corporate values and offered greater flexibility to firms. Thus, managers today need to be familiar with such frameworks and should be able to combine them effectively to benefit the project concerned.

6. Integrating Data analytics and AI

Like all other verticals, project managers can be hugely impacted by the use of artificial intelligence and analytics. Today data helps managers assess project feasibility and forecast likely outcomes. This helps them make informed decisions and handle projects in a way that improves business growth.

Another major shift seen in this realm is the rise of automation. Today, a growing number of managers rely on automation to perform tasks like project resource allocation, scheduling, budget upgrades, and project balancing.

Though the automation level used in every project and industry differs vastly, it has enabled managers to concentrate their efforts on tasks that are most crucial for the organization. Through the automation of menial or repetitive tasks, organizations also reduce their workload and avoid manual errors. AI also provides managers with a proper estimation of a project’s cost, duration, and progress, enabling project managers to make accurate estimates.

Perhaps the best part about analytics or AI is that they use very few resources. Also, one doesn’t necessarily need to be an expert in these disciplines to derive insights from them. There are also several complex tasks such as data visualization and scheduling that project managers can do through AI. 

The above trends are here to stay and will continue to impact projects in the next decade too. Thus project managers need to be on their feet and learn a lot to improve their work’s efficacy. Since adapting to the above trends overnight isn’t possible, many organizations resort to project management and collaboration tools to enhance communication and synergy among project teams. 

Though the future of project management is still unknown, it is definitely moving towards a more organized, self-aware, and automated stage. And who knows, in a few more decades, companies might not need a human project manager anymore!

Joydeep Das
The newest addition to SoftwareSuggest's writing armada, Joydeep Das has extensive experience with both technical and non-technical content. However, marketing and promotional topics have remained his true love since over a decade.

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