The Big 3: Project Management Trends in 2020

John F. Gravel

The world is evolving at a hectic pace, and project management isn’t immune. Deep technological advancements are changing how business is done in all industries. Driverless cars and drone deliveries are but a few examples. Adaptability and flexibility are the name of the game. Those keeping abreast of trends and achieving efficiencies through digitization are separating themselves from the pack and becoming industry leaders.

Don’t be left in their dust.

Here are what we consider the top 3, can’t be missed trends of 2020, and likely, beyond.

1.   Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data

Industry 4.0 is in full swing. But AI, big data, analytics, and blockchain aren’t just revolutionizing the manufacturing floor, they’re making their way into every industry and bringing improvements to every level of business.

Many of these terms are buzzwords, but what exactly do they mean for project management?

Predictive analytics, for example, allows learning from the past to make better, insights-driven decisions for the future. Bedrock-Service’s Cornerstone cost management software is already utilizing predictive analytics to estimate detailed cash flows.  Other new project management tools are streamlining communications between owners, contractors, and sub-contractors, reducing error rates and memorializing critical events like never before. New solutions like drone technology are bringing efficiencies in progress tracking. When these tools are strategically integrated effectively, we are seeing positive effects on project management  relative to time and budget.

2.   Adaptability

Gone are the days of “one size fits all” processes as project managers deploy flexible software solutions that can be tailored to each project. Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are being uniquely designed. The Agile methodology, originally used for software development, became popular with the release of the Agile Manifesto. The manifesto declares four guiding values and twelve principles to assist in decision making. It’s a flexible approach to project management that breaks large projects into smaller tasks managed in short iterations or sprints. It affords ultimate flexibility so teams can adapt to change quickly. Although not applicable to all projects and jobs, many “Agile” teachings are versatile, as adaptability is the key message.

Project managers have no shortage of tools. However, choosing the right ones takes a thorough knowledge of the inner workings of each methodology. Choose wisely, and it could be a competitive advantage.

3.   Soft Skills

As projects become more complex, and AI and big data are deployed for project management, employers are seemingly shifting their focus away from a need for technical certifications to seeking soft skills.  We were recently contacted by a law firm to recommend a BIM (Building Information Management) expert. This area of design and project management is so new and the software developers so varied, that their search was much like finding a VR (Virtual Reality) expert. These people just don’t exist yet.

Although there is still value in technical certifications, interpersonal skills, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ not IQ) are becoming highly valued as project managers, and project management related positions, call for collaboration with a wider group of stakeholders. Powers of influence, problem-solving, communication, and leadership are all essential skills required for effective project management.

Diversity made significant progress in 2019 and will continue to be on the rise. An aging workforce, remote education, globalization and more progressive attitudes are all progressively delivering even more diverse project teams. Diversification in the workforce adds strength to any project and also brings more complexities. As companies broaden their resources to contractors, gig-workers, remote, part-time and full-time workers, team dynamics and daily communication becomes more challenging.

These days, changes and trends in job markets occur quickly, The Internet is a great resource for keeping an eye on trends, specifically through industry-related pages on LinkedIn and industry-specific websites. Newsletter subscriptions are another way to receive information about relevant topics, and as a bonus they come straight to email inboxes so there is no external searching required. Remaining informed is part of staying relevant, effective, and progressing as project professionals.