Emerging Project Management Trends in 2021

5 Emerging Trends in Project Management

By Christa Balingit
Marketing Communications Manager
Apr 8 2021 read

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges for companies around the world, affecting the way project management worked at a fundamental level. As remote work became the norm, many project management teams had to reinvent their collaboration methods. 

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the lessons learned in 2020 will impact the way project management teams work for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at five trends we're seeing

Data Analytics Will Fuel Decision-Making

Data analytics allows project management teams to leverage complex project data into actionable insights. Data-driven analytics can uncover patterns and trends and help project managers to make better decisions. 

At high levels, data analytics helps teams determine how well different processes are working across multiple projects, informing their overarching approach. Data insights can also help managers with staffing needs by identifying weak links, examining workload across teams, and identifying which skill sets they should look for in new hires. 

Data-Driven Project Management Tools 

According to PWC, 73% of businesses consider reliability, ease of use, and ease of integration the top three requirements for digital project management software. Many tools available in 2021 reflect these priorities, though they aren’t all created equal. Those that integrate data analytics into their project management solutions will stand out from the crowd.

Modern tools can serve as the central hub for project managers, a portal that allows project managers and support staff to:

  • Communicate and collaborate from anywhere
  • Make budget and schedule decisions based on data analytics
  • Utilize resources more efficiently
  • Create robust reports focused on team performance, success rates, and more


The Remote Work Trend Will Continue Growing

In 2020, the business world faced an abrupt challenge when millions of workers were confined to home as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. These events had companies scrambling to come up with solutions that kept business rolling and business teams intact. This was especially true for project managers. 

As we move into 2021, it has become clear that remote work is here to stay. McKinsey surveyed 278 executives in the last quarter of 2020 and found that, on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30% to account for increases in remote work. Digital and remote teams are more common in 2021 than ever before.

Project management is especially well-suited for remote setups. Communication tools like video conferencing and cloud-based project management tools allow teams to get the job done no matter where team members are located.

Soft Skills Will Matter More

Companies are placing more emphasis on skills like leadership and social skills. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2020 “Future of Jobs” report shows that skills like critical thinking, problem solving, self-management, and working with people are among the top qualities employers look for in new hires.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) identifies seven skills project managers should hone:

  • Time management
  • Communication skills
  • Negotiating skills
  • Coaching
  • Motivating
  • Decision making 
  • Leading teams

Given the recent trends in project management related to remote work, we can expect new soft skills to emerge as priorities in the coming years. Being able to communicate well within a remote team will become critical. It will also be important to be flexible to deal with technology blips, mismatched team schedules, and other situations unique to remote teams.

Project Complexity Will Increase

Data analytics will help project management teams refine and improve their processes. The flip side is that having access to so much new data insight will inevitably lead to more complex, nuanced project needs. Project managers will need to become more agile than ever.

In the past, project managers tended to select a project methodology at the outset of a project and apply it. Methods like Waterfall and Scrum have been ideal for well-defined projects, but teams have tended to fall off track when projects become unwieldy.

The approach calls for project managers who can shift methods midstream. This may mean that project managers will need to get up to speed on several management methodologies instead of always applying the same approaches. PMI estimates that about a third of executive leaders believe that learning relevant skills is crucial to business success. 

Project Management Teams Will Become More Diverse

Global connectivity, shifting demographics, and new technologies are changing the way companies staff teams across the board. Project management teams are no exception. 

At this point, more than half of the US workforce is made up of Generation Y (Millennial) workers, but because workers are retiring later, companies will need to manage a large range of ages, each with unique needs and wants. Multi-generational workforces will dominate many industries. 

We’ll also see a shift in diversity as it relates to gender, for one because of a changing societal norms. More men and women are sharing responsibilities like childcare. 

Finally, the shift toward remote work will have an influence on ethnic and racial diversity as companies will be able to recruit talent from virtually anywhere in the world. 

Is Your Project Management Team Ready for 2021 and Beyond?

Accelo can help your teams thrive in the modern project management environment. Accelo uses smart tools and automation to keep team members focused on the most important goals and priorities. Remote teams love Accelo’s collaboration skills too. 

Find out why Accelo is a project manager’s best friend and set up a demo today.  

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