Project Management Trends: PM Software in 2020 and Beyond

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Successful project management isn’t just about keeping your resources and tasks organized. In order to really stay ahead of the curve, you need to know about the latest project management software tools and techniques affecting the industry. That’s why we spoke to several experts to get their thoughts on the project management trends we’ll see in 2020 and the years to come.

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Project Management Trends

Key Takeaways:

Project Management Trends You Can Expect for 2020

The holiday lag is behind us — time to hit the ground running. Let’s cover some of the most prominent project management software trends in 2020 that will affect how you work.

You’ll find a list of software features at the end of each section (if applicable), which you can leverage to keep pace with the evolution of how projects are managed and work is completed.

This will help you identify if your current project management software is working for you or whether it’s time for an upgrade.

1. Artificial Intelligence

This shouldn’t come as a surprise — AI is impacting the software world in virtually every major industry. But what does its presence mean for project management now and in the future?

A PMI report on AI identified six leading technologies that are having or expected to have an impact:

  • Decision management
  • Deep learning
  • Expert systems
  • Knowledge-based systems
  • Machine learning
  • Robotic process automation (RPA)

PMI also notes that the technology by itself is only half the equation. For companies to leverage AI to its fullest extent, it needs to be paired with human collaboration.

PMI highlights several differences between businesses that are considered AI innovators vs. laggards, as shown in the graphic below. Understanding and working towards the positive characteristics will help your company be better prepared to embrace the coming changes.

While there’s a lot of potential, AI, at its fundamental level, is highly technical and complex. Veteran project manager Audrius Zujus offers a word of warning regarding AI in project management: “There is a good chance that the problem you are trying to solve doesn’t require an elaborate AI solution.”

In other words, pushing for AI because it’s trendy may backfire if a project’s success doesn’t rely on AI being present.

It’s best to treat AI as any other technology — useful when used correctly but not something to throw every problem at.

Your Software Features Hit List

Workflow builder
Alerts and notifications
Predictive analytics

2. Data and Analytics

While many project management features are already very much data-driven, all of our experts still see analytics as a major focus in this industry’s future.

Dr. Sapan Desai, CEO of Surgisphere Corporation, spoke with us on the specific needs of project managers in a healthcare environment.

“Project managers are required to keep track of numerous financial metrics,” he explains. “As projects become more complex and involve stakeholders at multiple levels, there is an increased need to also have built-in performance improvement tools and integrated access to data.”

Dr. Desai says that many businesses will need to turn to solutions that leverage project management features, performance improvement tools and a sophisticated healthcare data analytics solution.

We’ll also see an emphasis on data in the professional services realm. Shane Anastasi, CEO of PS Principles, offers this prediction:

“PSA vendors are going to turn to AI to start to guide project managers to better decisions. Currently, many PSAs have a sort of recommendation approach that is very data-driven, but the demand for improved project outcomes will move them to attempting to predict project success. This might manifest itself by attempting to track more data around earned value (comparison of budget consumed versus progress made) for similar projects of size and complexity. This kind of comparison can give a ‘best in class’ type recommendation that might help keep the project from getting off track.”

Alan Zucker, founding Principal of Project Management Essentials, believes data’s presence in project management will increase, saying:

“As teams mature in their workflow based Agile practices, the use of predictive analytics that help estimate the time and effort required to deliver stories will also increase. Using these predictive analytics may prove to be the best way of estimating project cost and duration.”

Your Software Features Hit List

AI-based features
Real-time tracking and forecasting
Knowledge management
Resource management

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3. More Collaborative Workspaces

For many companies, project management software is a tool used to keep track of their processes and teams. However, many businesses find themselves working inside other systems such as Google Drive or Dropbox and using their project management system as a sophisticated to-do list.

But Zucker expects more working space inside project management solutions when he says, “Another major trend is the shift to collaboration workspace management tools, which allow teams to work and collaborate online. These tools make it possible for remote or distributed teams to create information radiators that are available to all team members.”

According to Planview, 59% of all projects are made up of dispersed teams. This makes centralized collaboration even more important.

project management geo dispersion statistic

Source: Planview


For example, let’s say your account manager received your graphic designer’s first draft of a logo. Instead of accessing the file back and forth in Dropbox, users could simply upload the various logos within the project management software. That way they could track which logo was the newest version and see all past iterations in chronological order.

Not only is this true for project management, but it’s also true for professional services management software. This type of solution is created specifically for services professionals such as lawyers and consultants. While PSA software puts a greater emphasis on things like accounting and customer relationship management, it’s built upon project management principles as well.

Anastasi predicts:

“I also think the PSAs are going to be forced to start to consider the handling of more project-specific information so that members of the project can share information. PSAs have tried to avoid getting bogged down in project communications, but as the market heats up, especially on the Salesforce platform, my guess is that they are going to be forced to start collecting this information. That means they will become more a project workspace by default than the current project financial repository.”

When assessing your software needs, consider the current setup of teams and users. If you’re spread across multiple locations, for example, you need to ensure the software you use can overcome these geographical challenges.

Your Software Features Hit List

Messaging capabilities, including @tagging
User groups
Guest accounts
Resource management, including workload views and user skills

Compare Top Project Management Software Leaders

4. Widespread Agile

There are several project management principles a business can put into effect, but one seems to be rising above the rest.

“One of the biggest trends is the dramatic shift to Agile,” Zucker says. “We have reached a tipping point with over 70% of organizations (based on PMI’s Pulse of the Profession survey) using Agile at least part of the time.”

But what does this mean for the future of project management software?

agile project management statistic

Source: PMI


Zucker predicts, “With the rise of Agile, tools that integrate Kanban or task board interfaces into the project management ecosystem will become more prevalent. There are many vendors that have Kanban interfaces, but most of them are not integrated into a broader ecosystem that includes traditional views such as the Gantt chart.”

So instead of having to choose one visualization tool over another, project managers are now going to have more options when it comes to managing their resources in an Agile environment.

Your Software Features Hit List

Scrum board
Out-of-the-box templates that support multiple methodologies
Agile reports, such as burndown charts, sprint reports and version reports
Task lists
Issue tracking

5. A Blended Approach to Project Management

Yes, Agile is a big deal. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only team in town. The reality is, there’s still plenty of need — and room — for other methodologies such as Waterfall.

This blended approach is something you can expect to see more of as businesses seek to improve their processes. In today’s complex environments, adopting and adhering to one methodology is often more of a hindrance than a help.

This multi-faceted approach translates into the software realm. While some products like Jira focus on niche capabilities (Agile in Jira’s case), others like Smartsheet take a broader approach, offering tools that support various methodologies.

Your Software Features Hit List

Support for both Gnatt and Kanban layouts
Customization options that allow you to fit the software to your processes
Integration-friendly so you have control over adding tools that can better support how your team works

Compare Top Project Management Software Leaders

6. Demand for Soft Skills

Another project management trend to keep an eye on is the growing importance of soft skills. Villanova University identified the seven of most critical soft skills for project managers, based on research done by PMI:

  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Organization
  • Trust-building

Emotional intelligence is also a major area of emphasis. Understanding tools and processes is vital to successful project execution, but even more important is the ability to understand your team. It’s people, after all, who get the work done.

And remember that blended approach from the last section? It spills over into the relational side of project management. You may be required to deal with leaders of several different departments, each with their own opinions, expectations and communication styles.

Leading a project is a balancing act, making soft skills essential for those who want to successfully navigate the intricate landscape of human interaction.

7. Advances in Timekeeping and Resource Management

One of the great things about PM software and similar systems like professional services management solutions is the ability to track time. This allows companies that don’t produce a tangible good to still measure their output.

However, as anyone who’s used project management software can tell you, timekeeping is still a considerable chore even when aided by digital tools.

In fact, an HBR study calculated that a single worker loses $50,000 each year in revenue by inaccurately tracking their time spent emailing. When you apply this loss to the entire professional services industry, we’re looking at a loss of $7.4 billion each day in the U.S. alone.

Email Tracking and Frequency graph


But this might change in the next few years.

Anastasi says, “I think PSAs will introduce more advanced timekeeping that integrates new technologies. Time recording is a real pain for all consultants and making something that can either capture time from spoken commands, desktop monitoring, calendar schedules and so on.”

He continues with how a new timekeeping system could affect resource management:

“I anticipate that technology will be able to present the consultant with a fairly accurate picture of his or her week now that these kinds of data collections are possible. It might even reverse the model such that consultants are no longer ‘asked’ what hours they worked and instead help guide the consultant to utilize their time during the week by scheduling the time a consultant needs to be working on a specific project.”

But resource management will be getting a boost in its own right, according to Anastasi.

“Customers need better, more detailed resource analysis, scenario building and assignment,” he says. “Currently, vendors provide resource assignment that simply allows the company to generate a revenue forecast. Customers, however, want to play with the forecast in real time and at a granular level of this month or quarter. They have to hit a revenue number using the resources and skills they currently have and many vendors don’t have an easy way to play with this quarter’s forecast to determine the most optimal use of skills available.”

Your Software Features Hit List

Planning dashboard
Resource profiles
Resource pool
Built-in time tracking
Integration with popular timekeeping apps like TSheets

Get our Requirements Template for Project Management Software

To Sum It Up

It’s an exciting time to be in project management. Technology advances like AI and data analysis continue to improve the ways in which teams work, leading to better project outcomes. Other trends such as soft skills and increasing emphasis on collaboration point to the human element that has and always will be integral to executing projects successfully.

It’s always important to consider the future before making any investment, especially if your company is contemplating a new project management software solution. Make sure to check out our free requirements template to help your business determine which features it needs to succeed in the new year and beyond.

What other project management trends do you think we’ll see this year? Let us know in the comments!

Contributing Thought Leaders

Shane AnastasiShane Anastasi

Shane has 20 years experience in the delivery of enterprise professional services and founded PS Principles in 2014 after publishing his groundbreaking book, The Seven Principles of Professional Services, which has become the standard orientation guide for customer-facing consultants. The goal of PS Principles was to help customer-facing project teams deliver their projects more successfully. Shortly after founding the company, he put the theories to the ultimate test by becoming the CEO of CirrusOne, a CPQ implementation start-up.


Alan ZuckerAlan Zucker

Alan Zucker has over 25 years of experience working in Fortune 100 companies leading projects and large organizations. He has delivered thousands of successful projects and managed major strategic initiatives. Alan has led large organizations and managed multi-million-dollar programs with hundreds of resources. In 2016, he founded Project Management Essentials to provide training and advisory services. His areas of expertise are project management, Agile, and leadership. He is a keynote speaker and provides customized training. He is also an Adjunct College Instructor.


Sapan DesaiSapan Desai, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS

Dr. Sapan Desai, a board-certified vascular surgeon and lean six sigma master black belt, has received international recognition for his work in healthcare quality, machine learning and data analytics. He is the visionary behind QuartzClinical, a cloud-based healthcare data analytics platform that helps hospitals rethink how they operate. In addition to his role as the CEO of the Surgisphere Corporation, Dr. Desai’s experience as a healthcare executive includes performance excellence, quality improvement, innovation in healthcare delivery, healthcare leadership and strategic management.

Zachary TotahProject Management Trends: PM Software in 2020 and Beyond

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