Project Management

5 Biggest Project Management Trends Shaping 2017

Published by in Project Management

By every measure, 2016 has been a huge year.

Pokémon trainers finally caught Pikachu outside of a video game console.

Beyoncé invented a new standard for exposing cheating husbands to the world.

And our sweet prince was taken from this earth too quickly.

Of course there was all that other bad stuff that happened, but you’re not here for what is now a history lesson. You’re here because you’re hungry to know how the project management field is going to change over the next twelve months.

You’re right to be curious. 2017 is going to be huge for project management.


Last year, we rounded up some huge 2016 project management predictions, like Microsoft Project’s loss in market share (Atlassian is creeping up!) and the growth derived from the merging of change management with traditional project management. The prior year, we predicted that the prevalence of PMPs would grow along with the emphasis on that year’s buzzword: “risk management.”

This year, we’re confident that we’re going call the most impactful project management trends of 2017. Read carefully; some of them may surprise you.

1. Agile project management will gain acceptance outside of software development.

Software development has long been the primary home of agile project management, but we’ve been steadily watching agile leak into industries outside IT. For example, there’s already an agile marketing manifesto, editorial staff often use kanban software to organize articles, and Scrum’s been used in finance for almost a half-decade now.

But these examples are discrete, a sampling of the very few industries that are even familiar with project management to begin with. And that’s about to change.

In just the past few months, agile project management has visibly crept into all industries. Graphic designers and UX professionals are using it. Agile is revolutionizing pet food product development. Even construction management has introduced agile to its workflows. IT no longer has a monopoly on the project management technique.

2. There will be a pivot that emphasizes nontraditional collaboration tools over traditional project management software.

One might expect an increase in agile’s popularity to necessitate more industry-specific software, but we’re not quite there yet (with exceptions for marketing and design).

Instead, 2017 will mark the beginning of a shift to collaboration software, like Slack and its alternatives, from existing project management software. Gartner explains that the “applications are already in use,” which encourages adoption and change management within the workforce. In other words, because they’re used to using Yammer or Jive, they would likely prefer to stick with those options.

While the trend itself is bound to take effect in 2017, Gartner cautions that because these collaboration tools are not built for project management, users will have to make adjustments. Gartner suggests, “Employees agree on basic methods of communication, such as ‘@’ mentions to include team members and hashtags for red flags.” Adopting these systems will require strong change management skills from the lead project manager.

3. “NPD PPM” won’t just be jargon anymore.

NPD PPM, or new product development project portfolio management software (see why there’s already an acronym?), has started to slowly creep into enterprise product development organizations—some sample brands include Decision Lens, GenSight, PDWare, Planview, Sopheon, and UMT360.

Gartner attributes the merging of NPD and PPM to agile’s widespread adoption and the Internet of Things. It explains, “Consumers pitted against talented product developers drive the need for product innovation that can never be ‘fast enough or ‘agile enough’ to meet market demands… The Internet of Things and digitalization are pressuring product companies and their product innovation and development teams to strategize, prioritize, select, source and execute projects designed to deliver continuous new and improved products to a vast majority of markets.” Since existing, general PPM software cannot address either of those needs, NPD PPM is sure to emerge as a winner this year.

And as agile spreads from IT to other industries, so too will NPD PPM; innovators will no longer be locked into software applications and development, but will also be able to apply these tactics to offline products.

4. Emotional intelligence will be the most-desired skill for new project managers.

Call it project management personality assessments, the right candidate “feel,” charisma, or just “soft skills.” Whatever it is to you, emotional intelligence (EQ) is about to get a lot more important to project managers.

Emotional intelligence is, according to Psychology Today,

The ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.

It is generally said to include three skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

Every year, Six Seconds: The Emotional Intelligence Network comes out with a State of the Heart survey, which aims to look at global emotional intelligence trends across the world. In State of the Heart 2016, it found the following:

  • Emotional intelligence scores are massively correlated with performance, with 55% of the variation in four key success factors predicted by EQ.
  • Managers effectively display optimism at a 13% higher rate than non managers.
  • Leaders who use their emotional resources to foster “engagement” (a sense of caring and commitment) deliver significant bottom-line results. Teams with higher engagement are: 50% more likely to have lower turnover. 56% more likely to have higher-than-average customer loyalty. 38% more likely to have above-average productivity. 27% more likely to report higher profitability.

Yet, in spite of these huge motivators for businesses to invest in emotional intelligence, scores on “Total EQ” are continuing to decline internationally.


Unsurprisingly, IT is already the laggard in emotional intelligence across industries.


What all this means is that more research is going to come out on the importance of emotional intelligence and IT will face increasing pressure to find emotionally competent leadership.

PM skills are, of course, a “must” when applying to new jobs. But so is emotional intelligence, especially if you want to positively differentiate yourself in the IT and telecom industries.

5. Project management certification requirements will begin to dwindle in job postings.

I know I’ve written quite a bit about project management certifications, but hear me out.

Their heyday won’t last forever.

The PMP exam and PRINCE2 have been around since 1984 and 1989, respectively. There are a lot of certified project managers. But many have begun calling into question the value of their certification—along with its accompanying cost.

For example, Lauren Maffeo, project management expert at GetApp concludes that PMP certifications just aren’t worth it. She writes, “exam content isn’t updated often enough to keep pace with today’s small business needs.”

Small businesses have lost their interest in PMPs—they just want someone who can manage projects and do it well. Larger companies are sure to follow suit… once they take the “PMP” requirement off their applicant tracking systems, the PMP itself will become moot.

The takeaway? If you’re happily secure in your job as a PM, it might not be worth paying the recertification fee this year.

Project Management Trends in 2017: Is there more to it?

I’m sure that there are other project management trends coming in 2017. What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

Interested in more project management trends? Check out these articles:

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

About the Author

Rachel Burger

Rachel Burger

Rachel is a former Capterra analyst who covered project management.


Comment by Pamela Jackson on

This is a great article still! I’m wondering about the number of global users of IT project management. Any data?



Comment by Rachel Burger on

I am delighted to hear that! Check back soon for the top PM trends for 2018 🙂

Comment by Rowland O. on

Hi Rachel. Quite a nice read. Really informative. I’m about commencing a PhD in PM. Seems your blog will be a good source of knowledge for me.


Comment by Don Harold on

Personally, I think there is no standard project management approach that works for all projects. The choice of the right approach for managing a project depends on various factors, ranging from the complexity and type of project to the experience in conducting projects of the organization, the customer’s willingness to be involved in the project, and the norm in the industry.

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Comment by Rachel Burger on

Great! Good luck 🙂

Comment by Ntebo Brown on

Thanks for sharing these trends Rachel, your article is going to help me make an informed decision as I’m starting with PMP Exam preparatory course on the 2 July 2017.

Comment by Carol Baker on

Many companies require or desire project managers to be PMP certified…Why? Having the certification doesn’t mean anything in real world application if a company doesn’t understand the different factors that affect the outcome of a project’s success or failure and plan for them in advance rather than be reactive. A PMP certification is a nice to have but it is not and should not be the industry standard


Comment by Rachel Burger on

Great to know my piece on project management trends is helping out! What are you writing about?


Comment by Charmin Patel on

Thanks You for sharing the trends. It will help me in my research report.


Comment by Rachel Burger on

Fair enough, Eron! The question is if hiring managers view it the same way, though. Does the certification prove that the PMP necessarily knows how to handle a project? I’d argue that while the answer is a resounding “yes” now, the PMP is going to go the way of the MBA; hiring managers will prefer experience over certification.

Comment by Eron Andrade on

Rachel I think there is a mess between managing a project and managing day to day activities. Agile methods can be used as tools within PMBoK’s areas of knowledge and processes. It is good to remember that the PMBoK guide is a collection of best practices recognized and applied successfully on most projects. It is crafted with the collaborative participation of various people around the world. I don’t think PMP certification is losing strength.

Eron Andrade, PMP, Brazil


Comment by Rachel Burger on

All insightful thoughts. I’m not sure hiring managers will look at an MA in PM and prioritize that over a Pmp, as most managers don’t know what the core differences are. That may be a project management trend to track over the next three years.

Comment by The Enterprising PM on

The PMP certification actually is meant to distinguish those with delivery leadership ability. The problem is that so many non-leadership positions now require a PMP certification (project ‘coordinator’s, project ‘administrators), and of course the number sheer number of those certified has diluted that intent. A Master’s degree will go a long way in separating oneself from the pack. Real PM’s need to be able to save a company money or earn revenue through project valuation, a skill most PM’s lack (strategy). You can read more about it on In relation to collaboration software, it can never replace project software unless they incorporate advanced features like resource management and leveling, activity based costing, portfolio management, etc. Agile is an understandable and desirable development methodology ; however, using velocity in an organization driven by quarterly earnings is sheer fallacy which is why most orgs are stuck in a state of ‘agile-like’. Good ‘food for thought” article. EPM007


Comment by Rachel Burger on

Maybe. I think that may be more of a trend for 2018/2019 than a project management trend for this year, with the exception of a few rare enterprise companies.

Comment by Girish Dharan on

Rachel, thought provoking and well summarised. I think with Digitization / IOT / Colloboration Software, there will be additional thrust on the project managers to become more technologically savvy.

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Comment by Rachel Burger on

Great point!


Comment by Diane Dromgold on

I’d add that there will be an increasing distinction between project delivery people (the ones with the EQ and the ability to make things happen through influence, authority and leadership) and the project administrators (this is where the PMP may find it’s new home).

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Comment by Adrian Dooley on

Until now all the standards that the certifications are base on have been closed and copyrights jealously guarded. Perhaps open, free frameworks like will do for the PMBoK and PRINCE2 what Wikipedia did for printed Encyclopaedias.


Comment by Rachel Burger on

That’s great to hear. I think using communication software (like Slack or Skype) could be a project management trend of its own, seeing as using those systems are essential to shifting from informal to formal project management.

Comment by Niall Sullivan on

As you mentioned, the biggest challenge for project managers is not that they don’t see the benefits of collaboration software, but that they have a hard time convincing other people of its merits.

In the UK, there has been a huge growth in the use of collaboration software within the public sector in particular, as they see it as a secure and efficient way to work with internal and external stakeholders.

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[…] and development, but will also be able to apply these tactics to offline products.” – Rachel Burger for Capterra, excerpted from here article titled, “The 5 Biggest Project Management Trends Shaping […]


Comment by Rachel Burger on

That’s a good point, Ken. I agree that the U.S. government really likes PMPs and will be slower to evolve, and that’s a good distinction to make. With that said, I think companies are already devaluing the certification, especially within SMBs.


Comment by Ken Ashe on

The US government really likes the PMP certification. As long as that stays the norm, I don’t expect this cert to fall too far out of favor.

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