In the light of new technologies and leadership paradigms, the project management discipline, like virtually every other industry, is undergoing significant change and evolution.
The emerging trends in Project Management are:
An Emphasis on Soft Skills
Project managers need a certain level of analytical and organizational skills in order to be effective in their roles, but a project manager’s job does not end with the completion of project scope and budget documents. At the core of their work lies an understanding of people and how to manage them in a way that will yield the best results. For this reason, possessing an effective array of “soft skills” can be equally as important as possessing the hard skills that are typically associated with the discipline.
Effective project managers must be able to anticipate the needs of their team, understand their hopes and motivations, and identify and remove roadblocks before they impact the progress of a project.
The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) “Pulse of the Profession” report found that most organizations are now putting a nearly equal emphasis on leadership skills as they do technical skills. Data from the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” report supports the need for these abilities, showing that social skills are ranked as one of the top skill-sets employers look for in new hires and that this is likely to increase over time.
A Closer Connection Between Projects and Strategy
Traditionally, project management is an organizational tool used to work toward and achieve discrete goals, which might include the launching of a single product or service or the pursuit of a particular outcome. In this sense, a project is a temporary endeavor with a finite start and end, and the role of the project manager is to shepherd the project through to successful completion.
In recent years, however, the role of project management in many organizations has begun to expand. Project management is more than just a tool for carrying out discrete goals; the framework is now also being applied to broader strategy and initiatives.
For project managers who wish to put their skills to better strategic use within their organization, it is essential to understand the relationship between project, program, and portfolio management. Doing so will allow you to see how individual projects relate to each other and to overarching strategic goals, which can help you make smarter decisions for your organization moving forward.
Greater Reliance on Digital and Remote Teams
Project management, like other industries, is no longer strictly bound to the confines of a typical office. Due to a number of factors, including greater connectivity, changing corporate values, and globalization, digital and remote teams are more common today than ever before.
While the prevalence of remote work was already on the climb, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced an unprecedented shift. In an effort to protect workers and slow the spread of the virus, organizations across the globe have adopted new work-from-home policies that favor digital communication over face-to-face interaction. It is estimated that up to half of workers are now telecommuting and that this trend will likely continue even after the pandemic subsides, which will present unique challenges for project managers.
For instance, some business functions are more easily carried out when all members of a project team are co-located. Spontaneous collaboration, team-building, project alignment, and other project management tasks are simply more manageable when all members of the team are in proximity to each other.
However, this challenge does not mean that digital or remote teams are inherently counterproductive. Remote work offers many benefits including increased flexibility, which can help an organization attract and retain top talent from all over the world.
Since the surge in remote work is likely to continue even after the global health crisis subsides, project managers must find ways to reduce friction or inefficiencies that might arise. Clear and open communication has always been a key strategy for effective project management, but it will become even more relevant as this trend continues to evolve.
The Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics
As with virtually every other industry, project management will be impacted by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and proliferation of data collection and analysis that has characterized much of the 21st century.
Exactly what this impact will look like is difficult to predict with certainty. However, most experts agree that some degree of disruption is unavoidable, a fact which the Association for Project Management discusses at length in their “Projecting the Future” report.
One impact of artificial intelligence, for example, will likely be the automation of many administration-focused tasks that currently fall to project managers, including resource allocation, project balancing, and schedule and budget updates, among others. Another example might include the automation of resource allocation, a task that has long included varying amounts of automation.
While some may be concerned about the impacts automation will have on the profession, these changes also bear great potential. By automating low value-add tasks, project managers can focus their efforts and energy on completing tasks that most greatly benefit their organization, allowing them to effect greater change and increase the likelihood of achieving the strategic goals of each project.
Project management professionals do not need to become experts in AI or data analytics in order to prepare for these changes, but they should aim to understand their organization’s plans for AI in order to anticipate changes in their roles and daily work.
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