I can’t believe I’ve been writing Project Management Trends articles since 2016! So much has changed… As it should. Here are my Top 5 new Project Management Trends as we move into 2024. And I’ll also discuss some of the other trends you need to be aware of.
Here’s what we will cover:
- Context: Look Back on Previous Project Management Trends
- #1 – The Trend Everyone is Talking about: Artificial Intelligence
- #2 – An Old Trend with a New Paint Job: Neuroscience
- #3 – A Familiar Trend, Up-issued: Agile 2.0
- #4 – The Critical Trend, that’s Under-valued: Responsible Project Management
- #5 – My Trend to Watch: Making a Difference with Social Value Projects
- Honorable Mentions: Trends that Continue to have an Impact
- Trends that Have Yet to Make a Big Impact
Context: Look Back on Previous Project Management Trends
Version 1: 2016’s Project Management Trends
Back in 2016, I wrote the first of my Trends articles. So, I wanted to pick up on everything I was aware of, and I covered a lot:
- Dedicated Project Management Offices (PMOs)
- Strategic Project Management
- The Talent Agenda
- Training for Soft Skills
- The Integration with Change Management
- The Shift to Agile
- Project Management as a Core Skill
- Governance, Accountability, and CSR
- Cloud-based collaboration
- Getting to Grips with Global Virtual Teams
- Use of Big data
- Crowd-sourcing and Gamification
- Online Career Networking
- Online Learning
Versions 2.0 and 2.1: 2019 and 2020 Project Management Trends
Then, I wrote a completely fresh article in 2019, in which I identified five themes. It was so popular, I did an update in 2020, with a further three themes. The eight I covered were:
The Shifting Nature of Projects
This focused on increasing complexity, systems thinking, and the use of three technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Knowledge Systems. Not surprisingly, part of this has remained in my Top 5.
Changing Enterprise Requirements on Projects
This was about monitoring, measurement, and the integration of Project Management into wider enterprise management, through Portfolio Management.
The Project Management Industry Context
This looked at my sense of what changes we’d see from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Association for Project Management (APM). I also considered the strength of APM’s commitment to the diversity agenda – and they still lead the way.
The Impact of Social Changes
This looked at a range of topics, like rising global economies, the diversity of the project profession, the gig economy, crowd-sourcing, and remote and virtual teams. The 2020 update was written in the belly of the global COVID crisis.
Professional Knowledge and Skills
I anticipated a big change in the forthcoming 7th edition of PMI’s PMBOK Guide, and discussed the ever-popular topic of the value of certification. I also foresaw the rise of data skills and soft skills training for Project Managers – including anticipating the incorporation of ‘neuro-leadership’ into our profession. This is one of this year’s Top 5 trends.
Trends in Project Management Methodology
It was no stretch to predict the continued growth of agile, Kanban, and hybrid approaches. But I also discussed benefits management and outsourcing.
Technology-related Project Management Trends
Here is where I discussed Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) properly, along with changes to the software tools that we use, as a result.
Trends in Project Management Infrastructure
This section covered both people infrastructure (virtual teams and PMOs of all sorts) and machine infrastructure (software tools and reporting dashboards).
I did not rank or shortlist the Project Management trends I discussed. So, I cannot claim to have seen which would grow and which would fade. But, without a doubt, all of the trends are still present in our landscape. And many of them have become big movements that I think will dominate our landscape.
But there will be changes of emphasis in my Top 5 for 2024. And also, one (arguably two) new trends to consider.
The Trend Everyone is Talking about: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a whole basket of technologies that are already starting to revolutionize our profession. Within the AI basket, we include Machine Learning (ML), automation – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA), predictive software, generative AI, and optimization tools for things like resource planning and scheduling.
By late 2022, this was so obviously important that I did a LiveStream in November. That was hugely popular and inspired me to make 2023 my OnlinePMCourses Year of Artificial Intelligence in Project Management. I also developed my AI in PM Professional Briefing, which has proved phenomenally popular. And I have been updating it every month and will continue to do so throughout 2024.
I’ve also have written articles and made videos on the topic throughout 2023. These included my follow-up webinar in July 2023. Let’s see what topics arise for me to cover in 2024.
An Old Trend with a New Paint Job: Neuroscience
The need for Project Managers to get training in soft skills has been on my list of trends since the start. Of course, PMI has recently sought to rebrand them, to make them more appealing, by calling the ‘Power Skills’. And, I fear, there are some signs that this label is sticking. I don’t know whether PMI was the first to use this term, but it was certainly the first in the PM space.
Emotional Intelligence (sometimes called EQ) has also featured for a while now, and in 2020, I also discussed the rise of neuro-leadership articles in more general management and business publications. My copy of Neuroscience for Leadership was first published in 2015.
However, 2022 saw the publication of Carole Osterweil’s excellent Neuroscience for Project Success. I interviewed Carole about neuroscience and also wrote an article about the topic (with a review of the book). Carole has been tirelessly promoting these ideas to Project Managers and I predict that there will be a spate of new books and new thinking in the coming years. But, for me, Carole is the OG.
If you want a quick primer, I did a short video, What is Neuroscience?
A Familiar Trend, Up-issued: Agile 2.0, Agile 2, and Hyper Agile
I will talk about the continued rise of Agile methods as part of the takeover (a good thing) of hybrid project management over the last few years. In 2022, my theme for the year was ‘All project management is hybrid project management’.
But here, I want to highlight that Agile itself is due for a refresh. What that will look like, it is too early to say. And I am also not the right commentator to pick a front-runner from among the emerging candidates. Indeed, the eventual ‘next evolution’ may not be one of the current contenders. But I have had all these concepts across my desk in the last 12 months:
- Agile 2
A move towards more flexibility in leadership, individual contribution, and business intelligence. Then, there is the more radical…
- Agile 2.0
The proponents see agile as, to a degree, flawed and failing users. Agile 2.0 offers new replacement statements to replace the Agile Manifesto.
- Hyper Agile
Lifting agile principles beyond the agile development team, into corporate culture.
- Agile 2.0.0
I kid you not! Okay, I grew suspicious at the second heading and skipped to the end of the article. It’s fun, though.
There are several articles about the first three ideas and we know that when something gets satirized, it’s real. There is a new evolution of agile coming. Let me know if you want me to cover these ideas in detail.
The Critical Trend, that’s Under-valued: Responsible Project Management
We’ve had the ideas of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), sustainability, and green PM for a while. But when you lock them all together – social responsibility, ethical behavior, and environmental care, you get a sense of responsibility that is hard to criticize. Various researchers are working on the ideas for Responsible Project Management.
Sadly, a lot of this is still buried in the halls of academia – as evidenced by the shocking price of this year’s De Gruyter Handbook of Responsible Project Management.
However, some of those researchers are working hard to bring the ideas of Responsible Project Management to the working professional community. Among them is Dr Karen Thompson, whom I interviewed in 2023.
This is a trend that is just starting up. Some of its elements are well-established, but the big picture of Responsible Project Management has a long way to go. But I am putting it into my Top 5 Project Management Trends as much in hope as in expectation. Because we need it. So few politicians are prepared to act responsibly (in so many countries). So, that leaves it down to us: working professionals, to change the world for good.
This, of course, leads me to…
My Trend to Watch: Making a Difference with Social Value Projects
When APM asked to sponsor the video that became ‘What is Social Value? And How Can You Measure it in Projects?’ I was delighted. This is such an important idea. It is not the same as Responsible Project Management, but is closely allied. It is the idea that our projects can create social value. That is, they can deliver real benefits to our communities and to society as a whole.
And, not just the projects that have social goals at the fore. We can craft our project definitions to include social benefits in the way we manage our projects and in the mix of benefits they deliver.
This was one of my favorite videos to research and make in 2023. And, it turns out that this is not just fluffy vaporware. There are real ways we can deliver and measure social value.
This is my trend to watch, for 2024.
Honorable Mentions: Trends that Continue to Have an Impact
There are a number of trends that will continue to have a big impact through 2024 and beyond. But I think the big shift has already happened in each of them. What remains is for more details to be worked out and for adoption to move from the early adopters and early majority, to the late majority and into the heartland of the laggards.
Hybrid Project Management
With PMBOK 7, PMI has completed its transition to method-agnostic Project Management principles, and a true commitment to hybrid Project Management. I expect APM’s forthcoming APMBoK 8th edition to follow suit. Yes, there are still hold-out purist predictive and agilist project managers (if you can be a pure agile project manager!). But these are the exceptions; the laggards. As I said above. The next step is an evolution of the agile principles, processes, and tools.
Value and Benefits Management
Again, the bell weather here is also the 7th edition of PMI’s PMBOK Guide. After far too long, it brought the concept of value to the forefront of PMI’s thinking (and the ANSI standard for project management). Now, we just need to get on and ensure more Project Managers understand value delivery and the processes and practices of Project Benefits Management. May I recommend my own, best-selling, course?
In many organizations, data analytics is going mainstream, with tools like Microsoft’s PowerBI. The gap, I think, is that once again, there is a large late majority of Project Managers who are mentally putting these tools, and data-thinking in general, into the ‘too hard’ or ‘not interesting’ categories. This will leave those particular professionals increasingly less relevant in the job market.
Remote Working and Team Autonomy
We have been finding ways to meet the challenges of leading remote teams for 20+ years now. But the COVID-19 pandemic did a lot to accelerate our skills. Necessity is, they say, the mother of invention. However, we need to systematize what we have learned and continue to innovate and experiment. There may or may not be an optimum in the range from 100% co-location to 100% virtual working. But I doubt there is. There will just be a whole load of models that can work exceptionally well for different teams in varying cultures. The problem is that we need to eliminate the many models that do not work, and leave teams disengaged, and projects struggling to deliver productivity and quality.
I’ve heard colleagues talking this talk and I’ve seen a few even walking the walk since the mid-90s. It’s not that we haven’t made progress: we have. And a lot. Rather, this is a long journey and we still cannot see the horizon. I have covered PMOs a fair amount, but this is not my expertise. Let me know if you want me to find more experts and offer you new content on this crucial topic.
Trends that Have Yet to Make a Big Impact
For various reasons, I have identified three important trends that have yet to make the impact they should.
I recently published a video, What is the Blockchain? In that video, I explained why blockchain technology will be valuable for so many businesses and governmental institutions. Yet it has not cut through for… reasons (watch the video). So, I predict blockchain technology will be a big trend. But we aren’t there yet. Which gives you a good while to get ahead and learn about it!
Caring about Well-being and Mental Health
I still regularly see plenty of posts on social media from Project Managers who feel burned out, stressed, or even depressed. Organizations like APM have had this on their agenda for many years and have done great work. But the problem often lies with employers and bosses. The need to fix some of these problems remains highly salient, but the impact we have been able to make remains woeful.
And, talking about woeful impacts…
Diversity and Inclusion
Yes, in some countries, we are making big strides. But this will remain in my ‘yet to make a big impact’ category until I see evidence that workplaces are truly color- and gender-blind, and that representation at all levels matches the national averages across all demographics. When people:
- whose ethnicity differs from the prevailing national culture can feel welcome and truly equal, and when people
- sense no disrespect for their sexual preferences
- face no discrimination for the different abilities they bring or the style of thought they use
- are not disadvantaged by their gender identity
Then, we can stop banging on about this topic and focus on getting the enhanced results that truly diverse, inclusive, and welcoming teams bring.
What Project Management Trends do You See as Most Important?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I do hope you have spotted something I missed!