Over the years, we have witnessed massive growth and advancement in the technological realm. The same holds true for the project management landscape, which has evolved tremendously since its inception.
Transitioning from a traditional waterfall approach to agile and other known methodologies, from spreadsheets to advanced software, etc., project management has come a long way.
The pertinent question is, what’s next to look forward to?
This journey is taking a new course, and myriad emerging project management trends are here to transform the business landscape. This blog covers all these trends and elucidates how they will shape the future of the project management space.
But before that, let’s first get a glimpse of the journey so far.
1. The project management journey (1900s-present)
Project management has been in practice for centuries and dates back to the Egyptian era when the Pyramids of Giza were built. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that it evolved further to attain the modern form we see today.
Following are the four stages of the evolution of project management.
A. Stage – 1 (Before 1958)
The first breakthrough in the project management industry was the creation of the Gantt chart by Henry Gantt in 1910. It is still used extensively to visualize a project’s schedule and task dependencies. The other path-breaking factors were:
- Precedence diagramming method – It displays the connection between tasks in a pictorial form and helps prioritize them.
- Critical Path Method (CPM) – It is a network analysis technique that involves identifying critical tasks necessary for project completion and estimating the longest duration to complete them. The method is implemented even today to manage interdependencies.
- Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) – It is a scheduling technique used to schedule, organize, and initiate tasks within a project.
The prominent successful projects that employed these techniques are Manhattan Project, Polaris Project by NASA, and Interstate Highway System in the US.
B. Stage 2 (1958 – 1979)
The next stage saw the emergence of the infamous Work Breakdown Structure and other practices. Let’s see,
The major groundbreaking advancements were:
- Work Breakdown Structure – It is a quintessential element of project management that helps break down the project into manageable tasks and is still used by project managers.
- Conflict Management – Businesses realized the importance of following a scientific approach to handle discrepancies, and thus introduced conflict management as a valuable element of project management.
- Iterative Project Planning – Traditional methodology didn’t provide any room for changes or improvements. Thus, the iterative project planning method was developed to monitor and reevaluate the project’s progress and results at each phase. It involved taking course-corrective actions in advance, before the project derailed.
C. Stage 3 (1980 – 1994)
The formal term “agile” was yet to be coined. However, the Scrum methodology, one of its earliest types, was introduced in 1986 and became so popular that many industries use it even today.
The other major developments were:
- Certification programs – PMI held the first certification test in 1984, followed by the other certification programs introduced by various institutes.
- Risk management – The PMBOK® Guide of 1987 introduced risk management as a minor component relative to the triple constraints – scope, time, and cost.
English-France Channel Tunnel and Challenger Investigation implemented the scrum and risk management methods to succeed.
D. Stage 4 (1995 to present)
Not only enterprise-level businesses but even medium and small-size companies started adopting project management and leveraged it to attain the strategic goals.
The key advancements were:
- Agile methodologies, initially restricted to IT, were implemented by various other industries. Remote work gained prominence and paved the way for sourcing global talent.
- Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a project management methodology that factors in the resources required to execute the projects. The aim is to create a roadmap one can follow to complete projects on time and within budget.
Y2K, Panama Canal Expansion, Large Hadron Collider, etc., are a few projects that succeeded by implementing these techniques.
The following section enlists the project management trends of 2022 and beyond.
2. Emerging project management trends
Mark Zuckerberg rightly says, “Figuring out what’s the next big trend is tells us what we should focus on.”
Rightly said. So, it’s time to pay attention to the trends in the project management space. Here are the most prominent ones that firms must brace themselves for.
A. Implementation of AI-based project management tools
Gartner’s study reveals that 80% of the project management work will be taken over by artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030.
This stat implies that artificial intelligence is no longer confined to gadgets but is also being implemented in building tools and software. AI-enabled tools can help automate administrative functions like scheduling, reporting, setting reminders, etc.
The scope of AI in project management software can range from providing actionable insights into KPIs to automating and optimizing project schedules or plans.
B. Emphasis on emotional intelligence (EI) of team members
Earlier, only technical skills were given importance while recruiting talent. However, in the employee-led culture, soft skills – especially emotional intelligence, have become a benchmark. The recent COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of employer-employee relations, team connectivity, diverse culture, etc., which has enhanced the need for EI in employees.
McKinsey’s survey reveals that the demand for emotional skills will surpass the physical, manual, and basic cognitive skills globally by 2030.
As a result, this culture will only continue to rise, and thus, emotional intelligence will be a trend in the coming years, and companies will look for resources with a high EQ.
C. Increasing need for hybrid project management strategy
Every project is unique, and so are its requirements and objectives. Some industries purely follow Waterfall, while others solely rely on Agile. However, this situation is witnessing a shift. Organizations are leveraging the hybrid approach, a judicious blend of Waterfall and modern Agile methodologies.
The benefit of the hybrid project management approach is that it enables you to achieve the best of both methods. For instance, in IT projects, the traditional Waterfall approach helps create a detailed project plan to give a better idea of the tasks involved. At the execution stage, implementing an Agile method ensures there is enough room and flexibility to accommodate changes and reevaluate the project progress at certain stages. This approach can be beneficial for other industries too, and thus will see a rise in the coming years.
D. Emergence of diverse and cross-generational workforce
A PMI survey reveals that 88% of the project leaders believe culturally and gender-diverse teams increase project value.
Therefore, diversity, equity, and Inclusion (DE, &I) are taking center stage in project management. Organizations are looking for employees from diverse cultures, ethnicities, regions, nationalities, sex orientations, etc., to foster innovation and creativity.
The upside is that it also helps them leverage cost-effective global resources and save resourcing costs. Moreover, companies are also inclined towards creating multi-generational project teams. Such teams help blend the tacit knowledge of seasoned employees and the technical prowess of younger generations. Benefitting from the best of both worlds helps ensure the project’s success. Additionally, the increase in millennial and Gen-Z workforce at Boomer-dominant teams will naturally build cross-generational teams in the coming years.
E. Shift in the attention to environmental sustainability
A study reveals that humans are releasing approximately 11 bn metric tons into the atmosphere each year due to activities like deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, becoming a leading cause of extreme climatic changes.
The aftermath has raised awareness. Hence,
Major companies and MNCs are increasingly adapting to environment-friendly and sustainable initiatives and approaches.
For example, Nike’s 2025 vision is an absolute reduction of GHG emissions in its facilities through 100% renewable electricity and fleet electrification. Similarly, Levi’s Strauss is already leveraging the cutting-edge method to convert consumer waste into renewable fiber that uses 98 percent less water than virgin cotton products.
F. Growth of industry-specific project management methodologies
Until a few years ago, project management methodologies were not so distinct for different industries. Even the hybrid approach discussed above may not suffice every industry’s needs. Thus, each sector is looking to devise its own methodology. For example, lean methodology is being used in the automotive industry as it aims at reducing waste, enhancing operational excellence, and also allows small incremental changes based on the customer value. Well-known automotive companies like TOYOTA, Ford, etc., use it for their manufacturing process.
Similarly, the banking industry follows the PRINCE2 methodology to execute projects. It is a process-based approach that benefits managers by allowing a controlled use of resources and effective risk mitigation.
G. Decentralization of decision-making
Various companies still follow a traditional, hierarchical, and centralized decision-making approach. However, soon firms started noticing the gaps or setbacks of this approach. For instance, it often delayed crucial time-sensitive decisions, caused conflicts of interest, lowered employee engagement, and even incurred extra costs in instances of project delays/cancellations. So, organizations are practicing the art of delegation. It means that experts of different domains or departments hold the veto power in domain-specific matters.
Let’s say a company is headquartered in the US and has its subsidiaries in Canada and Mexico. So, providing the decision-making power to the respective regional managers can help fast-track decisions for projects of regional importance. It will also enable the managers to leverage their acumen of the current market and evolving demands to customize products/services accordingly. This way, they can engage more customers, win more projects, and contribute to overall profitability.
John C. Maxwell, an American author and speaker, says, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
Rightly said. Similarly, project management is set to evolve. Now, the onus is on companies to either adapt and grow or stay behind. So, it’s time managers joined the bandwagon and walked along with the modern trends to stay relevant and sustainable in the long haul.
What do you think will be the most significant project management trends in the coming years?
4. The Glossary
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