Top 12 PM Trends for 2018

Project management is not a stagnant industry. Just like when managing a project, there are changes hiding behind every corner. While an artificial mark like the end of one year and the beginning of another doesn’t herald new movements and ideas, it makes a line in time for us to look forward.

Many of the trends that we’re seeing impacting the course of our profession are not new, only increasingly more pronounced, while others are rising on the horizon and promise to influence the way we work for years to come. Either way, they’re all worth looking at for anyone managing projects in 2018. And we’re sure to review these trends in the year ahead on our blog.

So, we gathered together our editorial team and got out the whiteboard for a brainstorming session. Our experience and research came up with these dozen trends that you’re sure to hear more of as we head into a new year. Let us know what you think, and tell us if we’ve left any major ones out you feel are going to be a big story in 2018.

project management industry predictions 2018

1. Artificial Intelligence

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI), but most of what you hear is more consumer-based. Yes, technology like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo, is making more of a foothold in your home, but there are applications that reach into how project managers work.

We’ve yet to achieve the highly intelligent (and evil) malfunctioning thinking machine of Hal, predicted in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, many of the more repetitive tasks in all sorts of industries have been automated by robots and other AI software. That includes project management.

AI will add great productivity to projects as it helps with workflow, interacts with resources and responds to your plans with insights and suggestions to make add efficiency to your process. One way it’s already acting to streamline projects is by online tools that don’t rely on paper and centralize data that is easily accessible by all.

While the promise of AI has yet to see its full expression in our industry, it’s coming, and smart project managers are going to have one eye peeled to track its advances, so they can then be applied to our projects.

2. Wearable Technology

Another consumer trend that is finding its way into the workplace is that of wearable technology. As the internet of things leaves the desktop and ventures beyond your smartphone, connectivity will be embedded in things that you’ve taken for granted. This is not only a way to track how many steps you’ve taken in a day, but can also be instrumental in improving project productivity.

According to recent study by Research and Markets, wearable technology improves the “productivity and efficiency in industrial sectors.” Not only does the use of smart glasses, wrist-worn devices and head-mounted displays reduce the error rate of teams, they increase efficiency and safety.

Data from wearable technology can also be used to learn from the behavior of your workforce in order to increase efficiency and productivity in your teams. Because they address the health and wellbeing of workers, they add to employee well-being and increase job satisfaction, which means higher morale and more employee retention.

Wearable technology can also streamline the day-to-day task management process. Time can be scanned and collected on virtual timesheets as well as scanning task progress to have an accurate picture of the traffic flow of your team. While such technology as smart glasses can bring what one team member is seeing to the whole team or project manager, if necessary.

3. Hybrid Methodology

Gone are the days on one-size-fits-all methodologies. Traditional waterfall methodology is being adapted and tweaked by adding other methodologies and even processes like Agile to help with project management. These hybrid methodologies are partially due to the wider application in our industry of Agile as a way to manage parts of larger projects that have not been beforehand in its purvey.

Therefore, there is more a need for a hybrid project manager, one who is not solely expert in one traditional methodology but is well-versed in several, and competent in determining the best method for the project at hand. This hybrid method to managing projects is only going to increase as we move into the new year.

4. Emotional Intelligence

We’ve talked about emotional intelligence before (EQ), so it’s not new, but is a growing and influential trend in our process-based pragmatic industry. In a world where efficiency and productivity are everything, we can get lost in the method and forget that there are people who are implementing our plans, who don’t follow the rules of mathematics.

While technical skills are not going out of style, what is sometimes dismissingly referred to as soft skills are not to be ignored. The better you are in communicating and managing people, the more likely your plans will proceed without a hitch. But, of course, there’s always a hitch.

When you have different people working together, there’s going to be problems. Depending on your EQ, you can quickly resolve those issues or watch helplessly as they spiral out of control and threaten the success of your project.

5. Project Management Office

The project management office (PMO) is a driver of having projects meet their original goals and business intent, according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2017. Because of this success rate, they see PMOs gaining even more traction in the coming year.

One of the reasons for a PMO is that it can bridge the gap between the high-level strategic vision of an organization and the project’s implementation. According to the PMI report, 38 percent more projects met these goals when they had a PMO, and 33 percent less projects were deemed failures.

PMOs are predicted to continue driving business change. PMI notes that the percentage of organizations with a PMO is on the upward trend, from 61 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2017.

6. Kanban Boards

What is Kanban? Kanban is a Japanese work that translates to billboard in English. This methodology that originated with the Toyota company to improve manufacturing, but is increasingly being integrated into more structured project management.

It is a lean scheduling technique that uses a visual board composed of a grid and Kanban cards to manage workflow. It’s mostly been used in Agile projects that are smaller and more likely to have changes, but that itself is changing as the industry embraces this efficient way to limit work in progress and avoid multitasking, while fostering a culture of collaborative problem-solving.

The adaptation of Kanban is a good sign that will continue, as project managers embrace innovation and avoid stagnation in terms of what tools they use to manage their projects. It helps that Kanban works so well with Agile, Scrum and lean management, which speaks to the growing trend towards hybrid methodologies mentioned above.

Related: Kanban vs Scrum: Which is Better?

7. Analytics

Project managers love numbers. They want to crunch them and then peer into the results like it’s a crystal ball in which they can discern the fate of their project. It’s not magic, of course, but the best way to get a clear picture of how a project is progressing.

Therefore, the use of project dashboards is only going to escalate as the year moves forward. More project management tools are going to have them with a greater flexibility of filtering those widgets that are used to gather the project metrics. Of course, these tools are going to be increasingly cloud-based so that that data is collected in real time and reflects more accurately the project.

Related to our other trends for 2018, analytics will become an even stronger player as they include data collected from wearable technology and crunched by AI.

8. Cybersecurity

The more project management goes online, the more concerns there are about security as valuable data is more likely to get compromised. Is the tradeoff worth it, better metrics and increased productivity for a less secure network? It is when you consider the advances being made and which will continue being made into 2018 with cybersecurity.

Data breaches aren’t going away, but also here to stay is the use of online project management tools and mobile devices. According to Forbes, “In 2018, the next frontier in this battle to protect information will be the advancement of technology powered data privacy management solutions. Through a holistic practice of data governance, businesses will ensure that data remains secure and compliant with global legal regulations and user privacy requirements.”

There is also the likelihood of more formal regulations being created to set a standard of prevention, detection and response from agencies and technology alike.

9. Women in PM

Women have been trending for years, decades even, but real change is starting to happen. A woman ran for the highest office in the land and the growing success of the #MeToo campaign is changing the way people do business in real and substantial ways.

While women continue to be a minority in project management, that fact is quickly being addressed as our own Naomi Caietti in a post offering advice for women in the industry. More women were leading projects when she wrote that article two years ago, and the numbers are increasing.

Women will continue to land in executive positions in and around project management, which will also address the salary gap. The new year is set up to become one of the most impactful for women in general and business in particular.

10. Autonomous Vehicles

As the investment in driverless cars continues and all the major tech and automotive companies scramble to gain traction in this burgeoning market, 2018 might not be the watershed year in this technology, but it’s only going to get more pronounced. Project management is sure to feel the impact.

That doesn’t mean you and your team will be shuffled from site to site by autonomous vehicles, though you might, but it does mean that more project managers are going to find themselves leading projects in this growing field.

Therefore, you’re going to want to know more about the processes involved in this new industry. More and more of these manufacturing jobs are just a collection of smaller projects that come together to create the larger one. More projects will be related to this endeavor as the money continues to flow in.

11. Remote Teams

The sharing economy has shown that more companies are embracing the use of distributed teams. More workers are also seeking the flexibility of regulating their own hours and not being chained to a desk or office.

This trend will only continue, as it goes hand-in-glove with the collaborative trend that has carried the industry over the last number of years. Organizations will invest in deep-integration technology that promote communications over a wide variety of platforms.

Remote teams can be cheaper and more productive when managed effectively with the right tools.

12. More Work!

Project management has been growing as a profession for years. In 2013, PMI estimated 15.7 million new project management roles by 2020. But in 2017, they note that by 2027 employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles.

That means that more people are going to come into project management to fill the talent gap. Expect to see universities churning out more project management degrees and certification courses increasing as people seek to get the education they need to differentiate themselves and learn the trade.

But there will always be a call for the “accidental project manager,” who might not have the credentials, but learn on the job. Expect an uptick in this sort of project manager as the demand for project managers increases.

Whatever trends lead the industry, the basic goal of project management remains the same: deliver your project on time and within budget. For project success you want the right tool that can adapt to industry trends and still give you the features you need to steer your project over its many phases. is a cloud-based project management software that gives your real-time data and the flexibility to keep up with the changing landscape of project management. Take a free 30-day trial today and see how it can help you stay ahead of the trends.

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