Normally I start off these project management trends pieces with a celebration of what I got right the year prior (all my insights for 2015, 2016, and 2017 are still available), but 2018 is going to be different.
What’s special about 2018 is not that there’s going to be a breakout technology or a sudden surge of government-hired PMPs. Instead, the scope for project management trends has gotten bigger. As predicted, project management is no longer sequestered to IT, and the entire business world is changing because of it.
That means role changes.
Project management trends for 2018
With a keen eye on promise, delivery, and actionable advice, let’s jump right into the five biggest project management trends shaping 2018.
1. Meet ‘business Agile’
Last year, I pointed out that several industries, including marketing, finance, and construction, were beginning to adopt the Agile development framework. And that makes sense; various research has shown that the Agile methodology improves communication, makes teams more adaptive to change, and has an overall higher return on investment, especially for small to midsize teams.
What we’re witnessing—which started just in 2016—is the rise of business Agile.
Unlike most business trends, business Agile is bubbling from small businesses up to the enterprise level—not the other way around.
Research from Babson College shows that as businesses grow larger, their median workforce age grows older; conversely, the smaller the company, the younger the workers. And as these younger workers are more flexible in their mindset about work, they’ve discovered that Agile business processes benefit them far more than traditional work processes.
Plus, there’s been an influx of tools that makes Agile easier.
For example, artificial intelligence and project management are creating a symbiosis where metrics such as LOE (level of effort) are automated, and project management decisions, such as which task to assign which person, will be met with relentless machine-based objectivity (more on this trend to come later in the piece).
Like jumping from scratch paper to a computer to do calculus, these machines will—and are—freeing up head space for new business ideas.
Consider this graphic:
Project management trends 2018: business Agile
Between the rise of the bots and business Agile, think of 2018 like 1869; business Agile isn’t just a trend, it’s a new way of doing business (just like the Second Industrial Revolution was). It’s been ramping up for a while, and we’re going to start seeing far more reporting on the trend over the next twelve months.
2. DevOps will be considered a part of Agile
According to Gartner’s definitions, splitting DevOps and Agile doesn’t make sense.
Consider how the tech giant interprets the two business philosophies:
Agile: “A method that applies tools, processes and organizational design concepts, inspired by software development methodology, to make [any] program more relevant, more adaptive and efficient.”
DevOps: “A change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of Agile, Lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach. DevOps emphasizes people (and culture), and seeks to improve collaboration between operations and development teams. DevOps implementations utilize technology — especially automation tools that can leverage an increasingly programmable and dynamic infrastructure from a life cycle perspective.”
In other words, the separation of the two practices is a moot point. Atlassian explains this point well: “DevOps seeks to bring that Agile attitude toward change to a new audience: IT operations.”
If we, as a project management community, can accept marketing Agile, construction Agile, and business Agile, then IT operations Agile should be no stretch.
3. The culture war arrives
This project management trend may have started in 2017, but it’s going to explode through 2018 and on.
The now infamous memo titled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” came out in August 2017—right up against Agile Alliance’s annual flagship conference, Agile2017. Furious about the memo’s implications—that women aren’t biologically designed or inclined to be interested in STEM—keynote speaker Jez Humble went rogue and deconstructed the entirety of the memo to an audience of hundreds of people.
There aren’t many affinity groups in project management; there are groups such as Women in Project Management (SIG) and Vets2PM, but a brief Google search doesn’t show any for the LGBTQ community or for racial or ethnic minorities.
One thing that makes this trend so interesting is the absence of diversity initiatives up until this point—many other sectors of business, such as marketing and IT, have long had proactive efforts to include a more diverse community—and those trends became stronger in the build-up to the 2016 U.S. election. The status quo has been to largely eschew the broader business pivot against homogeneity.
I imagine that’s going to change. As groups such as Scrum.org add language about inclusivity and openness to their guidelines and the Agile Alliance stresses their fully rewritten Code of Conduct, the project management community will become proactively inclusive of under-represented groups in IT.
With all value statements aside, this is a trend that is trickling in from the business community and the political climate as a whole, and as 2018 is an election year, there will be opinions on both sides.
4. The internet of things and artificial intelligence combine into a powerhouse of actionable information
Capterra’s Andrew Marder points out that the internet of things and artificial intelligence are going to affect most small businesses in 2018:
The growth of IoT and AI in union are going to change how project management is effectuated. In some industries, that change will be dramatic. The most notable effect from these concurrent trends in 2018 will be in project management software and in the project management role itself.
Artificial intelligence is slowly making its way into project management tools—just look at options such as Aurora, Clarizen, ClickUp, Forecast, and Rescoper. These tools are using AI to automate many existing project management tasks, including matching talent to tasks, reducing calculations for LOE, providing a hub for knowledge management, and creating reports with untiring objectivity.
Tim Clark, writing for Liquid Planner, summarizes IoT well: it “connects anything with an on/off switch to the internet or to each other. Examples of IoT in action include security systems, thermostats, electronic appliances, household lights, alarm clocks and more.”
In other words, IoT has the potential to introduce swaths of new data to project management software.
Internet of things and artificial intelligence combine
For asset-intensive project managers (like those in construction, field service, and logistics), get ready for all your “stuff” to start reporting to you like it has a mind of its own, informing you if it’s operational, needs attention, or should be left alone. Combine that with artificial intelligence, and hands-off safety and maintenance becomes a reality.
To be sure, these interconnected systems have existed for a while—Gartner reported in the Hype Cycle of the Internet of Things 2017, “While APM has been practiced for more than ten years in a handful of industries, its broader adoption has been stalled until recently,” (research available to Gartner clients).
Their analysts go on to explain that until recently, the technology to correctly implement the internet of things required the end user to know how to properly match their ones and zeros.
Now, assets are emerging designed for IoT. You can embed sensors into concrete, track an individual piece of clothing in a retail store, and automatically send and receive business card information based on proximity. You can now buy all these systems as-is—or implement them without coding knowledge—which means that they’ll start to permeate everyday businesses.
That means two things: the artificial intelligence that’s emerging in your project management software will start interpreting this data (and some project managers might find that they need integrated business intelligence software to handle the load), and there is about to be a boom in internet of things implementation projects.
IT project managers, get ready. There will be an entirely new positions created to handle the load, and you’ll be the first wave of the uniquely qualified to take them on.
5. Millennial project managers will make their debut
Millennials have long been in the workforce, but they haven’t existed in the project management space for long.
Millennials will be between 14 and 36 years old in 2018. However, consider the factors affecting project management and career choices among Millennials. The tl;dr? The PMP’s work requirements and the economy have made it difficult for Millennials to earn their certifications up until this point.
The impetus is two-fold.
Millennials can now claim enough work experience to be qualified project managers. As Millennials rise as managers in general (the average age of managers in general across the U.S. is 33), they now have the choice to take their experience and apply it to project management.
Second, the U.S. government is incentivizing the PMP. Before leaving the Oval Office, former President Obama signed in the “Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act” (PMIAA).
CIO explains, “Any government agency that is required to have a CFO are mandated to appoint a Program Management Improvement Officer… PMIAA creates an increased awareness of the need for certified experienced PM professionals across America.”
The PMIAA, now in its first full year, creates two incentives known to attract Millennials: educational opportunities and government jobs. While Millennials are underrepresented in government, it’s largely due to a high turnover rate and not a lack of interest. This program gives the Millennial generation leadership opportunities to change how business functions as a whole—an opportunity they likely won’t give up.
And with all those things noted, 2018 will just be the beginning of this project management trend.
What other project management trends do you anticipate for 2018?
There were plenty of options to choose from when writing up this piece. I’m curious what trends you think are most important. What did this list miss? What should have been prioritized?
I’d love to hear your comments and will respond below!
Want to do some more reading on the future of project management? Check out these recent articles:
- The History of Project Management and Predictions for the Future
- The Small Business Hype Cycle: Project Management
- 15 Incredible Agile Project Management Statistics for 2018
- 11 Top New Productivity Books Worth Checking Out (With Reviews!)
- Space Project Management: The 4 Best Practices That Can Help Us Get to Mars
Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.