Looking Ahead: Trends and Forecasts in 2020

Insights | 05 February 2020

The last few years have already seen huge changes to the project management profession. Agile practices have become far more common, technology has impacted the way in which we manage our projects and expectations of the project manager have shifted.

The below list is by no means exhaustive or will necessarily be fully realised this year. But these trends will change the way in which we view and approach project management in 2020 and beyond.

Evaluating the definition of project success

We will see a re-evaluation of how we define project success. Traditionally speaking, project managers are expected to focus on project outputs, but this is no longer the case. There is a growing shift in the expectation that the project manager will ensure the project is delivering outcomes and value.

Project success traditionally corresponds to delivery on time, to cost and to an agreed level of quality. Yet this does not include a key metric – value. There are many examples of a project being delivered on time and on budget, but has resulted in little value for the organisation. On the reverse, often projects that are over time and budget still end up delivering huge value for an organisation, therefore ultimately worth the additional cost or time.

Recent research from the AIPM found that only 19% of organisations deliver successful projects. It would be interesting to dive deeper into the insights behind those projects to understand how each organisation was defining success.

Ultimately, what we will see in 2020 and beyond is a growing discussion around how we should define project success and looking to strike the balance between metrics (such as time and cost) and the expected value that the project will deliver.

AI and automation and the impact on junior project managers

AI and automation will shift the project management profession. Simpler tasks will be automated, freeing up a project manager’s time to work on various projects at once or to focus on more complex tasks.

The key issue that arises from this is the potential gaps that will be created between highly skilled project managers and the junior roles within the team. Typically, these junior roles have learnt the project management ropes by undertaking the simpler tasks. They may not be overly complex or challenging, but they have given those individuals insight into the workings of projects and enabled them to progress on to more senior roles.

Training and certification can only go so far, and it is incredibly important that it is supplemented with on the job learning and experience. The danger is that as technology improves, the gap between experienced project managers and their junior counterparts will become increasingly difficult to close.

2020 is the year that starts a growing discussion about the impact of these technological changes – and given the pace of change, there will be many more repercussions that emerge.

Social responsibility in project management

There is a growing pressure on organisations and their corporate social responsibility. There is the potential of this crossing over into the project management world, particularly when ensuring a project and the project manager adheres to certain high standards –  the focus will shift to sustainability and supplier checks. This can be costly or create operational difficulties but will also serve as a point of differentiation to their competition.

The challenges of taking the more responsible route will be varied, but long-term we believe those who adapt will reap the rewards.

The expansion of the project manager’s toolbox

The 2019 AXELOS PPM benchmark report found that there was perceived value in a project manager being viewed as a ‘generalist’ – i.e. not associated with a single industry or specialism. While the report did not dive deeper into the rationale behind this, we can speculate about a number of reasons – future career prospects and the range of projects managed, to name a few.

Organisations are expecting project managers to oversee projects of differing scale and complexity, not to mention manage areas outside the traditional realm of the project manager (for example, managing value as we mentioned earlier).

This combination will lead to a rise in project managers looking to further their skills and knowledge – there are already many options for training, tools and guidance on new ways of working available.

It is important to note that any project manager looking at a new tool or methodology should first make sure that they fully understand how it is applied, and secondly that it is being applied to the right environment. Furthermore, upskilling should not be at the expense of core project management skills and training.

We hope that we’ve offered a different perspective on what 2020 may look like and areas that we may see significant development. Mostly, we hope your year has been off to a successful start.

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