The 6 Biggest Project Management Trends for 2016

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We knew 2015 would be a big year for project management.


We predicted that the Agile methodology would grow in the IT field. In a VersionOne study published earlier this year, 2013 to 2014 saw an 84% jump in new Agile adopters. That number likely continued to grow (we’re going to have to wait for their newest study to confirm).  

We also knew that mobile collaboration would be a new trend in project management software. This is immediately apparent in the growth of remote work and as major vendors like Asana and Wrike re-up their Android apps.

We expected a rise of interest in PMP certifications, cybersecurity, and risk management. All of these facets of project management became increasingly valued in the past year.

After a successful prediction cycle last year, we’re going to take another swing at project management trends in 2016.

Get ready: project management is about to look very different very soon.

1. Microsoft Project will lose market share as the leading project management software application.

Don’t get me wrong: Microsoft Project by far still dominates the project management software field. For example, our own project management research found that 67% of project managers use MS Project.

However, that market domination is shrinking. There are so many new project management software options–including plenty of direct Microsoft Project alternatives–that companies are beginning to shy away from the industry standard.

In fact, according to the same VersionOne study referenced above, “Most [respondents] used Microsoft Excel or Project; however, satisfaction rates were the highest with solutions built specifically for Agile.”

As pressure builds for teams to “jump off the Windows bandwagon,” expect 2016 to be the year that Microsoft Project’s market dominance begins to wane.

2. Remote teams will become the new normal.

According to Intuit, 40% of the American workforce will be freelancers, contractors, and/or temporary employees by 2020. Many of these contractors are already working remotely using sites like Upwork,,and Demand Media.

Additionally, full-time employees are increasingly telecommuting. A recent Gallup study found that 37% of Americans have telecommuted. When digging deeper into the numbers, it’s even more likely that those working in white-collar professions have telecommuted (44% vs. 16% in blue collar jobs).

In a guest post from Trello, Lauren Moon points out that technology can help with the growing presence of remote teams. She writes,

Distributed teams allow for companies to break down geographical borders in their quest to find top talent, but it also means making accommodations that traditional brick and mortar businesses haven’t considered… If done right, there is a low risk of decreased productivity, communication challenges, or disparate culture—and a high probability of more productive employees who are happier to boot.

Expect projects to continue using remote and contract team members–so much so that it will be the new normal going forward.

3. The rise of BYOD will cause project management software to have more ticketing options.

BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” has been making waves in all industries through 2015. The concept is simple: companies are allowing employees to use their own smartphones, computers, tablets, and other electronics for work purposes. This trend is contributing to high 2015 growth in mobile project management software.

New Horizons points out that BYOD will also pose a number of challenges to the project management field. Eric Bloom of Manager Mechanics writes,

BYOD has dramatically increased the complexity of technical support provided by the IT Help Desk and the development of software for multi-platform use. From a Help Desk perspective, these BYOD complexities are causing the creation of new processes, multiple installation images, and enhanced security schemes. These activities all require complex project-based work and may, expand the need and use of Project Managers with the Help Desk function.

In other words, BYOD means that not all technologies are streamlined in the office. While there is specific help desk software for IT (like Samanage IT Help Desk & Asset Management or C2 Atom), project managers will likely prefer help desk ticketing included in their multi-platform project management software. Examples include Workfront and Clarizen.

4. Project managers will need to learn more about change management.

We expect that project managers will need to learn more about change management, especially in enterprise companies. While change management is not the same as project management, there are many tenants of the process that overlap. As the executive level wants more buy-in and creates specific projects in respect to the change, project managers will be increasingly involved.

Project managers will be especially valuable in risk assessment, reporting, and team communication.

5. Project requirements–not organizational charts–will dictate project team members.

Celoxis smartly predicts that project requirements will chip away at the organizational chart. From their blog:

Project complexities will decide how the teams will be structured, what tools they will use and how the execution will happen… It’s time for enterprises to take a cue from the manufacturing sector and bring that level of rigor to their project management methodology.

While we agree that this is increasingly common in project management, there will also be more personal attention given to team members’ interpersonal relationships in team selection.

In the January 2016 International Journal of Project Management, researchers Hsu, Weng, et al found that there had been little research done on team member interdependencies. They write in “Understanding the Complexity of Project Team Member Selection Through Agent-Based Modeling:”

This study suggests that managers should be as aware as possible of how interdependent relationships are distributed across a cohort before they do any reorganization. These interdependencies may have as much or more effect on team performance than individual knowledge, skills, and abilities, and yet are often overlooked. The results of this study also indicate that using the homogeneous teams and the equity method for team member selection may not improve team performance by much. A manager who has worked closely and for a long time with a cohort of workers may know from observation, experience, and other types of information gathering, who works well with whom, but managers can also increase their knowledge along these fronts by conducting an internal social network analysis of their organization.

This essentially means that while there has been an emphasis on individual competency, organizations would be better off keeping familiar team members together.

Luckily, this is likely to happen in 2016. Millennials are known for being particularly community oriented and will demand to be placed on the same team as their “work friends.” Expect this trend to only grow next year.

6. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) will be the hot trend for enterprise project management software.

Customizability and security will be at the heart of enterprise project management software next year.

As enterprise businesses are wanting to securely tie their CRM software to their PM systems and vice-versa, API functionality will become an industry standard as opposed to a “feature.”

LiquidPlanner explains:

Project management and customer relationship management (CRM) platform integration can bridge the chasm between sales and development/engineering by exchanging data between these two key business systems. Even if sales and development are enemies in the wild, an API can provide transparency between the two systems.

LiquidPlanner isn’t the only company noticing this trend. For example, Deloitte has launched a guide to the growing “API Economy” and many project management software solutions (like Accelo, Comindware, and have adopted this trend.


There is no doubt that 2016 will be a big year for project management. Were there trends that we missed? Trends we got wrong? Let us know in the comments below!

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

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About the Author


Rachel Burger

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Rachel is a former Capterra analyst who covered project management.



We are now testing a new platform for ad agencies which is integrated with Microsoft ERP. It is called Axad and has been developed by Anegis. I think having an appropriate erp system which works well with other software within a company is the most important issue which has to be well taken care of in 2017


I agree that Agile/Scrum has gained more velocity and altitude this year (2016) and will gain even more next year. As such, I would caution and advise career IT PM’s like myself to beware. From what I have experienced, as Agile/Scrum gets more engrained in to the Corporate landscape, PM’s will dwindle in to the dust and Scrum Masters will rule. I see the career path of a PM moving in the direction of a Scrum Master.


Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that mobile collaboration would be a new trend in project management software. This is immediately apparent in the growth of remote work and as major vendors. very useful information


Project management is no longer just about managing the triple constraints, but rather about reaching solutions faster and demonstrating strong, direct business impact.


I am a Project Manager and this was really insightful in terms of how the industry will move in this year. I like to read up on stuff pertaining to industry. My usual dose of the same is provided by I have been user of zapty for a quite a long time and it has been a real help in the actual project management. To be fair tools are the future of project management too.


I am studying MS project management, found this article interesting and thought provoking

[…] that while, there are certainly advances in project management methodologies, tools and techniques (a few for 2016 here), they aren’t often (or ever, with the exception of perhaps Agile – see above) flashy or garner […]

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