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2020 rocked all businesses to its core. The events of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed companies to rethink the way they do business. If 2020’s theme was survival, I believe 2021’s theme is regaining momentum. The majority of businesses have started their efforts to bounce back before 2020 closed. This year, their focus should be on establishing a stable footing that will help them propel themselves to thrive in a post-pandemic era. Here we share the top 5 project management trends that will shape 2021 and help companies regain momentum. 

Trend 1: Increased Reliance on Remote Work and Distributed Teams

Remember how one day you were sitting comfortably in your office then the next day you had to make do with running your business from your living room couch? Yes, that’s probably one of the most vivid recollections of employees and business owners when they look back to 2020. Everyone was pushed to work remotely. And while remote work is not exactly a pandemic-born concept, we will see more companies switching to work remotely or establishing hybrid teams, making this the top project management trend for 2021.

Hybrid teams have the flexibility to work in an office, remote, or both. Companies also see that work can be done efficiently and effectively even when everyone is remote. This has helped more companies gain confidence in going into a fully distributed team. We will also see more companies tapping into the freelancer market to augment their workforce this 2021. This will help balance overhead costs and tap into a highly-skilled talent pool.

Trend 2: Emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

One of the biggest things that 2020 taught us is supporting our local communities and the greater society. The effects of the pandemic were felt at all levels and aspects of society. Consumers will look to support companies who are active contributors in rebuilding their communities. And while CSR programs are not new, this project management trend has a slightly different take for 2021. 

Programs geared towards health and safety, environment, livelihood, and financial stability are focus areas for CSR efforts this year. These efforts will not only help in improving a company’s image. It also helps companies be the driving force of building a sustainable ecosystem for businesses and citizens alike. As project managers, you can take an active role in shaping and pushing your CSR programs forward. 

Trend 3: Increased Focus on Human Skills

Another main thing we learned from 2020 is empathy. While skills, talent, and proficiency are important factors to a team’s success, company leaders should put equal importance on cultivating human skills. It’s also important that managers are armed with the right human skills to lead their teams. Empathy, trust, communication, teamwork, leadership, flexibility, are just some of the key human skills that will be demanded from leaders this year and beyond. 

Some of your employees may have experienced tragic events in the past year. Your business may have come from a tight spot too. It’s in these times that leaders must step up and uplift their teams. This isn’t just another project management trend. It needs to be deeply ingrained in your company’s culture. As project managers, you have the responsibility to create a safe space for your teams to work in.

Trust plays an integral role in organizational growth and success. This year, don’t only focus on keeping employees that are high performing. Look into their human skills as well and how you can cultivate them. You need people who can help you lead and support your business growth in the years to come. And those who can step up should be someone trustworthy that everyone can rally behind.

Trend 4: Leverage Automation, AI, and Data Analytics for Project Management

We also saw more automation efforts and use of AI and Data Analytics in the past year. Partly with a greater push from the effects of the pandemic, but we will see this project management trend dominate 2021 as well. Project managers will look more into automating their tasks including resource planning, scheduling, budget planning, and project monitoring. Project management software embedded with AI and data analytics features will be a staple in most teams. Project managers will look into upskilling in these areas as well.

Trend 5: Use of Hybrid Project Management Approaches

In the past, organizations used traditional and single project management frameworks to handle their projects. But these fast-paced times demand flexibility and agility. We are seeing more companies adopt a hybrid approach for project management. This allows project managers to take advantage of various techniques from different methodologies.

In 2021, we will be seeing more companies adopt hybrid project management approaches. This is one of the project management trends that I predict will stay even for years to come. More companies will use Agile methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, and XP. Some companies even combine Agile methodologies with Lean and Six Sigma. There are also instances where companies mash-up Agile methodologies with traditional project management frameworks. With this, project managers will be pushed to upskill and learn more frameworks to adapt to the unique needs and demands of their projects. 

Kanban for Project Management

In recent years, we have seen companies use Kanban as a project management framework. We’re also seeing companies combine Kanban with other Agile methodologies. We have ScrumBan and Agile Kanban. But Kanban isn’t just another project management trend. It’s an effective method to drive improvement and cultivate transparency within the organization. I predict more companies across various industries will use Kanban as a project management framework this year and in the years to come.

Project Management Trends in 2021

Indeed, 2020 was a challenging year for companies. It demanded agility, flexibility, and resilience from project managers as well. This year, project managers are poised to help their organizations regain momentum and bounce back. By knowing these project management trends, you can assess your current situation and see areas where you need to adapt and adjust. While these trends can serve as a guide, it’s important that you also go back to your company’s core values, business goals and vision when planning for the year ahead. Each year will have its challenges to bring. But with focus, determination, and the right tools and techniques at your disposal, you can face these challenges head-on.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

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