There are trends in all industries and professions. Project management is no different: we see trends come and go, or stay with us and develop over time.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on what the shifts are and where that is taking us as project managers. I’ve done a lot of reading and research, and honestly, most of what people are predicting is a gentle evolution.

It might happen at pace, and it might feel uncomfortable some of the time, but it’s not truly a sea change in how we run projects.

Mostly. There are some things that are coming that will have a fundamental impact on project management, if I am right. I’ll get to those later.

So where are we going as a profession? Here are the top project management trends for 2020/21 I think you should be watching out for.

Soft Skills over Credentials

Long-time readers will know that I believe certification schemes to be useful, but not the only thing that a successful project manager needs.

As in the past, we’ll see soft skills valued more highly – perhaps valued more highly that credentials. As the demand for project management work grows, certification schemes are a simple way to differentiate candidates.

But knowing a methodology isn’t the pinnacle of achievement, as Kevin Longergan points out in this article .

If soft skills are essential, how do we get them if not through certification training courses? That leads me to the next trend…

Mentoring to Support Tailoring

With the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition and the PRINCE2 manuals both discussing tailoring more thoroughly than ever before, project managers have more flexibility to adapt project approaches to their environment.

But do they have the skills to do this?

Tailoring requires professional judgement. It requires being able to differentiate between the benefits of Agile, waterfall and blended approaches, understanding the pros and cons of each. You don’t get that from reading a book.

Having spoken to a lot of project managers over the last year, formal training seems harder and harder to come by, and more and people are having to take responsibility for their own career development. And this is a global project management trend.

Mentoring is one way to take control of your own development needs, and I think the complexities of your project management environment will encourage more managers to seek out mentors and coaches for themselves and their teams.

Oh, and that is something I can help with, if you are looking for a professional mentorship scheme .

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Increase of Video in Project Communications

I feel like I talk about video in project communications on a regular basis, and that’s because I think it is important.

I don’t even like doing video much, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant.

Cisco predict that 82% of consumer internet traffic will be video by 2021. If that’s what your stakeholders are doing on the internet outside of work, how do you think they are going to want to get status updates and briefings at work?

Research by Vidyard and Demand Metric reports that video converts better than any other content type. In other words, it shifts behavior. It gets people to buy or sign up or whatever.

And my research during winter 2017 shows that getting people involved in projects is still the most challenging part of getting work done. Stakeholder relationships are a huge area of concern for project managers.

Video shifts behavior? I’ll have some of that please.

Yes: video is coming to employee communications.

To a certain extent, it already is. Some companies are already using video as part of staff onboarding and training.

Perceived Customization

Perceived customization (or real customization) is something I feel is such a big deal for us, particularly in change management and transformation roles, that I am preparing a presentation/webinar on it.

It’s another consumer trend. When I first wrote Social Media for Project Managers I was reporting on consumer trends that were making their way into the business environment.

When the book was updated and reissued as Collaboration Tools for Project Managers, we saw that a lot of the consumer uses of social media were firmly embedded in collaboration tools: think chat, file sharing, liking and gamification etc.

Perceived customization is another example of a growing consumer marketing and tech trend that will find its way into how we manage change.

What is it? It’s where you can tailor your messages effectively to the audience to the point that they think they are getting a more personalized service, but without too much work behind the scenes.

In other words, it a different take on tailoring your approach and communications to suit the audience.

More Bots and AI

This won’t be news to you: everyone and their dog are talking about AI being a powerful trend for the coming years. There are lots of applications for this in project management including:

  • Identifying potential risks through natural language search
  • Improving risk assessments
  • Testing risk response
  • Allocating resources and resource levelling
  • Intelligent scheduling
  • Automating mundane and repetitive tasks as Andy Crowe explains in this article
  • Improving consistency in process and decision making.

However, AI is more likely to be suggestive rather than active, as Dennis Kayser points out in this podcast on the DPM website .

Remember the paperclip in Microsoft Office?

Clippy was early suggestive AI, bringing you “helpful” suggestions. It was so helpful that Time declared Clippy one of the 50 worst inventions of all time .

AI is coming to the tools you use, but let’s hope that the developers have learned the lesson of the doomed paperclip.

Bots are another aspect of this: if you’ve had auto-responses through Facebook Messenger or used a Slackbot then you’ll have seen them in practice. I think there are some good uses for this such as opting in to receive status updates, sending team member reminders and so on.

That’s where I think we are going, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the technology evolves to support our work — that’s the most interesting area for me.

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