Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Five Project Management Trends Managers Should Be On the Lookout For in 2021

Five Project Management Trends Managers Should Be On the Lookout For in 2021

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on a crystal ball to guide us in knowing everything that will happen this year regarding project management trends or the business world in general. Nevertheless, we do have the next best thing: data and projections. Within the last two years, analysts and project management professionals have taken surveys and have even used their experiences to create predictions for the next 365 days.

This information can give you the leg up you need to set yourself and your teams up for success. Read on for a look at the potential trends you will likely see play out in 2021—and beyond.

The Continued Rise of Distributed Work

For the past decade, remote work has been on the rise. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the mass adoption of this work arrangement. Additionally, this development doesn’t seem to be letting up this year. While some remote workers have returned to the office amid fluctuating pandemic numbers, according to Gallup, two-thirds of professionals who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.

This situation means that remote work isn’t going away and that project managers will have to navigate a world of managing team members at a distance. This development will likely lead to an increase in established remote work policies, the adoption of more tools that promote productivity, and remote work leadership training for managers. Again, remote work may decrease as vaccination numbers increase. Still, the popularity of remote work may lead to more companies adopting this work arrangement for the long-term.

An Increase in Contingent Workers

Since 2019, the freelance workforce has seen a 22 percent increase. With a greater emphasis on seeking out flexible work arrangements, and the work limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, freelancing is having its hey-day. This switch-up means that project managers will likely see a more significant rise in working with contingent workers in 2021. They will have to adapt to working with professionals who are not traditionally employed at their companies—and all the processes that come along with that.

The handling of tasks like payroll, time tracking, onboarding, and involving them in project processes in a way that acknowledges their contingent status will have to be different from the norm. Contingent workers require unique leadership and have different needs compared to part-time or full-time workers. These are things that project managers will have to manage as they lead teams this year.

The Importance of Change Management Will Be Front and Center

Considering the economic and strategic planning changes that many companies are recovering from—and still going through—due to the current conditions, it will be paramount for project managers to successfully navigate change management. Whether there are major personnel shake-ups or a significant switch from one mission to another, companies all over the country will have to deal with rapid changes. Consequently, project managers will have to take these upheavals into account as they lead their teams.

Also, change management will likely dictate the types of projects that project managers will handle. In addition to managing projects that align with business goals, project managers may also have to lead change management initiatives. This development will make the organizing of project efforts, tracking progress, and task management even more critical and important.

Raising New Leaders

There will be more of a need for more project managers currently and in the years to come. According to BLS data, management occupations across the board are expected to rise five percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all jobs. More companies are taking on strategic approaches to satisfy and help customers, which will likely bring a need for more specialized projects—and project managers to handle them. This rise in project management jobs will likely continue into 2021.

There are estimates that a lack of talent will lead to over $200 billion in lost revenue for companies in 11 countries (including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.) This statistic will mean that a greater emphasis will need to be put on training and professional development, sharper recruitment strategies, and the use of sensible incentives to find the best candidates. Additionally, there will also be a specific need for more mentorship and leadership development.

The Growing Influence of Big Data

Big data has been a critical part of organizations for the last decade. Ever-changing consumer preferences and a need for greater personalization have made it necessary for businesses to collect as much data on consumers as appropriate, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. According to WEF, 85 percent of project manager respondents to a recent survey are expecting to use big data and analytics in the future.

Again, consumer preference is continuing to evolve—especially in response to many of the significant world events that have occurred. As a result, project managers must utilize this data to inform how they and their team members move through projects. Additionally, this will likely cause an uptick in the adoption of automation and data analytics to handle this information correctly.

2021 Will Be a Year of Dynamic Change for Project Managers

Every year is one that could be a time of change and evolution. This reason is why it’s essential to stay up on trends that could impact your year. Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact beyond 2020, and 2021 will likely see an additional fallout from this situation in various industries.

Nevertheless, you and your teams can still succeed if you can prepare for and even capitalize on the changes that can come your way. Project management is likely to see an increase in things like the distributed workforce, contingent workers, and continued disruptions due to internal and external factors. Planning won’t solve everything, but it will put you in the position to handle these changes and thrive this year.


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