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Project Management in 2021

William Delaney

As the clock struck midnight on December 31st 2020, a great cry of joy swept through the world in hope that 2021 would be different.

2020 was a gruesome and tiring year for most as the dreaded pandemic swept over the globe, causing panic, fatigue, loss and confusion both personally and economically. While wishing for the year to be better, it’s important to plan for the worst in hopes for the best. Project management and business is no exception to this.

When it comes to business, last year taught us more than we ever expected. Suddenly, employees were working from home, communications processes changed overnight and managing projects became far more complicated. While some industries – such as online retailers and tech – thrived under these changes, many sectors were devastated by the impact, thousands lost their jobs and social welfare services were (and in many cases, still are) being pushed to their limits.

But one heartening thing we learnt was how quickly we as people and businesses are able to adapt. With that in mind, here are our predictions for what project management will look like in 2021.

Resource planning will be at the forefront

Capacities and resource scarcities are not exactly new to project managers, but never before have they been such a focus. Being aware of your overall capacities has never been more essential for identifying bottlenecks and creating accurate predictions that can be positively future-focused. It is vital that your project management software encompasses not just the general project management requirements, but resource management as well.

Resource allocation challenges don’t just affect the project manager, but most project professionals across the spectrum: from portfolio and programme managers to all of the stakeholders involved. Being able to generate scenarios and estimate probabilities allows for the successful compilation of projects and effectively meeting company objectives and expectations.

Integrate and collaborate

When you’re managing projects where specialized skill sets are involved, being able to communicate and share knowledge is the lifeline of the project’s success. With resources being pulled left, right and centre it’s important that your management software makes communicating between project participants, project managers and stakeholders easy and transparent. This will improve the overall running of the project, while also allowing participants to share feedback and advise, or lend helping hands, promoting teamwork.

It’s all about the cloud

Whether your organisation is digitally savvy or not, our way of working is evolving at a phenomenal rate and digital transformation is inevitable. The impact of 2020 alone has tipped us into the need to use cross-organisational cloud-based solutions where possible, so that projects can be managed, employees monitored, tasks can be assigned and data can be analysed. By utilising a cloud-based solution, your teams will be able to login and take action whenever and wherever they are.

Put agile projects at the top of the list

Reliance is one word project managers don’t like hearing. By accepting more agile projects, you’re less likely to end up in circumstances where reliance on one particular individual or team is necessary. These projects allow for the project and portfolio managers to use collaboration between different departments, teams and functions in order to increase productivity and accelerate completion.

Know your deadline but plan with an open-ended delivery in mind

As a project manager, you know that stakeholders deadlines are of the utmost importance. But when it comes to putting together your team’s plan of attack, it’s vital you take an agile approach to the work and leave room for an open-ended delivery. This allows for teams to collaborate, digest and iterate in order to develop a quality product in a timely fashion. Factor in buffers to your sub-tasks to ensure ample time for this.

Project management is more than managing projects

The role of the project manager has evolved exponentially over the past couple of years, and now means more than just planning projects. We see project managers tackle communication issues, becoming more socially aware within the organisation and dealing directly with personal issues of project participants. Organisations should be aware of these additions and provide adequate training to their project staff in order to cater to their teams and develop their role.

Responsibility and accountability

With these drastic changes in the work processes within organisations, reliance on the project managers and PMO (Project Management Office) will come under increased scrutiny. Senior management will be holding them even more accountable for the successful completion of projects. As direct contact with others involved will be less achievable with senior management and direct contact with stakeholders will become more in line with the communication between the project manager and those relevant.

For this reason it’s of the utmost importance that the available project management solutions are clear and transparent and that identifying any potential threats is made as simple as possible.

Looking forward

The project professional is now more than ever on the frontline within the company structure, and with all of the major changes that have happened over the past 12 months adaptation to this new way of processing has been a challenge. But by following the new learnings and using tools that are created to tackle such issues, project, programme and portfolio managers can plan, manage and complete projects that exceed stakeholder and business objectives. But word of warning failure to modernise your company process can easily because your achilles heel, be cautious in your project endeavours.