Post-COVID Project Management: Trends, Transitions, and Tech Upgrades

Thursday, April 8, 2021 - 12:30
AIM Blog - Post-COVID Project Management: Trends, Transitions, and Tech Upgrades

We are on the cusp of the 18-month mark since COVID-19 appeared and took over our lives, so whether we are talking about working from home or health and safety protocols, discussing how our professional experiences are different in the pandemic is old hat.

And, thankfully, it appears we won’t need to talk about it much longer. Between Australia’s natural isolation and the underway rollout of the vaccine, it looks like our country is around the corner from becoming post-COVID.

What we would like to discuss instead is what work will look like in a post-COVID environment: will we maintain changes to project management styles? How does the mass integration of virtual communication technology impact professional methods? And what other trends will appear within this sphere?

Let’s begin with the most obvious and famous trend.

  1. Virtual and Remote work is here to stay (so we need to optimise it)
    If you worked in an office in 2019, it’s almost certain you spent a sizable portion of 2020 working from your home. Chances are you still work remotely one or two days out of the week at a minimum because remote work was found to be successful by 83% of employers. Simply put, working remotely is valuable for organisations.

    Since employees desire flexible working arrangements and employers benefit financially, we can be certain that remote work isn’t going anywhere. With that knowledge, the question then becomes: how do we best enable success in this situation?

    The core difficulties of remote work revolve around communication and collaboration, of ensuring that all members of the project team are aware of the overall plan and what their colleagues are doing. They must be aware of the context of their work, in other words, and have the ability to construct and elaborate the project collectively.

    A simple way to enable this is to utilise centralised virtual workspaces to plan and assign tasks, share work assets that can be made digital, and form a communication hub. There are many of these products (Asana and Basecamp, for instance) and they are not new, but expect to see a new arms race in this field as they rise in relevancy.

  2. Emotional Intelligence of Project Leaders grows in value
    It was already known that high Emotional Intelligence is important for Project Leaders to possess, because Emotional Intelligence is shown to be the most valuable leadership skill in general, but the increase of remote work drives its value sky-high.

    Think of the elements of a comprehensive soft skillset (e.g. the ability to listen actively, mediate and resolve conflict, and use influence to share strategy and persuade others of its merit). All of these are closely tied with strong Emotional Intelligence, and possessing these skills is obviously indicative of a good leader, but consider them in the context of physically disconnected colleagues of a project team.

    Differences of opinion will arise, it is simply inevitable in any group, and it is the responsibility of the project leader to fairly weigh and mediate these differences. You can’t sit the members down in a room together; although a virtual meeting through Zoom will provide a comparable experience, the lack of immediacy makes it harder to judge things like body language and so possessing high Emotional Intelligence is essential for discriminating between professional and personal disagreements.

    Furthermore, it is easy to lose track of the larger picture or your motivation when working in isolation. A leader who is able to empathise and connect with their team will be able improve motivation and prevent the miscommunications that derail important project steps.

  3. AI and Automation should be embraced
    Another big technological advancement to keep an eye on regarding project management is artificial intelligence, which has already been incorporated in many organisations to automate the daily tasks that otherwise require human effort. This has added value when project team members are working from home or virtual locations and the basic daily tasks are more likely to be forgotten or fall to the wayside due to more pressing concerns.

    Project managers are able to automate a variety of complex tasks, including scheduling and visualising data, the latter of which is then very useful for making better informed decisions. By driving project management through AI, you are able to reduce your overall time spent on administrative work, can better collect, track, and report on data, and minimise human error.

    All together, AI technology will allow you to better execute projects, through more impactful use of data and by achieving more in the same time frame as compared to what you could achieve before.

  4. Hybrid Project Management approaches are the future
    We’ve spoken previously about Agile project management and how this methodology feels particularly valuable in times of disruption, and clearly we are not alone in this thinking as research from McKinsey shows that around 70% of organisations deploy Agile practices today. It is a powerful process or mindset to use in project management, but nothing in this field is one-size-fits-all and for this reason many are turning to hybrid project management approaches.

For those who utilise Agile already, it is very likely that you have come across or actively engaged in a discussion of “Scrum or Kanban”, in which case the idea of hybridising methodologies is obvious. But if you’re not, here’s a simplistic rundown: Every project is unique as a whole, the individual stages of every project have their own ideal needs, and the people working on projects have different approaches and tactics to their work. Therefore, what works well for one project may have negative impacts on another. By taking a hybridised perspective, incorporating elements from multiple project management methodologies, you are able to be agile and adaptive when facing unknowns and highly rigid with the unassailable elements of the project (e.g. deadlines).

Surprise surprise, this again relates back to remote working. Employing the rigidity and specificity of Waterfall will assist high-level, long-term planning, while allowing individual members to be Agile and self-organised will ensure a continuous completion of work.

AIM’s Faculty of Project Management is the nation’s leading provider of Project Management training beginning at the Short Course level and moving through to VET training and Higher Education. If you want to learn how to effectively and efficiently manage projects from concept to completion and integrate project frameworks into the operations of their organisation, visit the Faculty of Project Management.