It’s not news that organizations face a constantly changing world in 2021. And, if you’re in project management, keeping track of new and emerging trends will help you stay ahead of — or at least keep level with — what lies ahead. After all, while projects may feel as though they exist in their own bubble, based on their specific needs and requirements, project leaders ignore larger trends and forces at their own peril.
The Project Management Institute recently reported on the 5 Megatrends for 2021. They all lie in the areas of geopolitical, technological and long-term business and all have already affected the project economy.
“We know the world changed significantly in 2020, but our research confirmed the long-term impact of how these trends are changing how the world does business,” said Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute.
According to the report, the best project managers have used these times as a catalyst for change—delivering solutions at the intersection of multiple megatrends.
At Boost Midwest, our project management professionals understand that staying on top of the day-to-day details often leaves little time for future-gazing. But without an eye on trend indicators, project managers may find themselves operating under a model that has limitations for the business world today.
The 5 Megatrends That Will Affect Project Management in 2021
PMI’s report draws its conclusions from several sources: trend data, news reports, industry data, secondary research and interviews with project managers.
“All share a common thread: they are exacerbating the endemic exclusion, disruption, and discontent that have crept into our society,” the report concludes. Therefore, successful project managers will use these difficult times as a catalyst for change, “delivering solutions at the intersection of multiple megatrends.”
However, before organizations can navigate these emerging trends, it helps to understand their effect on the world and the economy, and how this trickles down into project management. And the first “megatrend” will surprise no one.
1. The COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic upended the world as we knew it. It also thrust businesses into a chaotic arena where the only constant was change. Companies pivoted to remote work, experienced supply chain disruptions and felt the impact of the growing cultural awareness of systemic disparities. Perhaps the biggest shift was the rush to digitization at an unheralded scale and rate. While this was felt especially in the education field, the business world also felt its effect, as it created a divide between digital knowledge workers who could easily switch to remote work and those who could not.
How Project Leaders React: As the “business as usual” model crashed during the pandemic, project managers who strived to foster greater collaboration and creativity were often able to identify new approaches and methods that allowed projects to continue to move forward at little or no disadvantage —and, in some cases, found increased efficiencies and improved overall results.
2. Mainstream Artificial Intelligence
The implications of artificial intelligence-fueled automation are enormous for business. With AI using adaptive algorithms to help us navigate unfamiliar environments, , and making decisions for us based on our behaviors, the use of AI in business is on the rise.
The PMI report includes this statement from IBM’s Vice President of development, data and AI Steven Astorino: “We are seeing every industry adopt AI, with the biggest-value project occurring in large enterprise financial and insurance companies.”
How Project Leaders React: Unintended consequences and ethical implications of AI-driven technologies may result from unintentional, built-in biases. So, project managers should focus on creating more diverse teams of members with different points of view and perspectives to help combat any inherent biases in the AI used.
3. The Climate Crisis
“Research from an array of organizations all points in the same direction: there will be more climate change— and it will happen faster,” PMI reports. And the pressure to act is increasing on governments, individuals and business.
How Project Leaders React: In the project management sphere, PMI advises leaders to consider the entire project life cycle, and then establish tools and metrics to lessen negative effects on climate change throughout the process.
4. Shifting Globalization Dynamics
Demographic shifts in emerging economies, the continuing shift of business to emerging and developing markets, and the uneven balance of the service sector over industrialization all affect how companies can navigate the dynamics of globalization.
It’s interesting —and important — to note that more than 75 percent of the 88 million individuals needed in project management-oriented roles will be living in China and India by 2027, according to PMI research completed in 2017. In addition, millennials and Gen Z individuals made up the majority of the global workforce in 2020, with one-third of them living in those two countries.
How Project Leaders React: As this trend continues, project leaders should be aware of the frequent disconnect between younger talent and the organizations that employ them in understanding their needs, goals and ways of working. Adapting training programs is one of the ways companies can address this.
5. Civil, Civic and Equality Movements
According to the PMI report, the protests that sprung up in 2020 are part of a wider trend spanning the past decade—covering nearly every continent and a whole host of societal issues — and pose serious risks for organizations in terms of business disruption and loss of trust.
However, silence in the face of cultural changes will likely backfire. Consumers and citizens are quick to abandon companies whose policies and practices aren’t aligned with their beliefs. But navigating the different culture currents isn’t easy. Project managers may be faced with criticism and demands from stakeholders and team members in areas they never before had encountered.
“Years of data show that diverse leadership leads to increased profitability, greater innovation, and more effective governance. Yet companies have made little progress in truly diversifying their ranks,” the report states.
How Project Leaders React: For smaller organizations, a willingness to listen to stakeholders both outside and within is a first step towards an effective response. And, for project leaders, implementing small changes can make a big difference.
The 5 Megatrends for 2021 “provides a preview of the world we’ll live in and how our community of project professionals and change-makers can drive greater social impact and value, no matter what sector or corner of the world,” PMI CEO Prashara concluded. “Success today requires that they continue to cultivate a strong business acumen and understanding of the broader strategic environment in which we’re operating.”
At Boost Midwest, our project management professionals are skilled at reacting to shifts and trends on a national and global level. While 2021 may be a year unlike any in many project managers’ memory, using it as an opportunity for change may be the smartest business decision to make.