Project management is a slippery target. Once the realm of project managers (PMs) armed with a tracking tool like Microsoft Project, an office, a travel budget, and the 411 on excellent meeting space all over the globe, it has become a role \u2014 a mindset even \u2014 that\u2019s better served by deep knowledge, leadership skills, negotiation tactics, and an empowered (and now probably remote) team.\n\nEven before the pandemic hit, project management was going through a sea change. But the remote nature of our new normal has accelerated and morphed that change so rapidly that trends are going hot and cold before our eyes.\n\n[ Learn why IT projects still fail at an alarming rate, beware the project management myths to avoid, and find out how to pick the right project management methodology for your team. | Get the latest project management advice by signing up for our CIO newsletters. ]\n\nTo get a bead on what\u2019s hot \u2014 and what\u2019s not \u2014 in project management, we spoke to PMs who are living at the cutting edge of this change. They share what trends are rising, which are falling, and what\u2019s fantastic \u2014 or disappointing \u2014 about these trends.\n\nHot: Remote collaboration tools\n\nThe pandemic has pushed people \u2014 not just those in technical jobs \u2014 to use tools many have long resisted. And a funny thing happened. They got comfortable with them. They discovered that the digital tools we techies have been using for ages allowed them to be highly productive, while staying closer to home and family. After people go back to the office \u2014 in whatever fashion they do \u2014 this is likely to continue. And that is changing everything.\n\n\u201cThe pandemic has been a catalyst,\u201d says Jeff DeVerter, CTO of products and services at Rackspace. \u201cMicrosoft has seen two years of digital transformation \u2014 people moving to the cloud \u2014 in a few months. It\u2019s going to be interesting to see how this will augment businesses going forward.\u201d\n\nScott Bales, vice president of delivery and solution engineering at Replicon, agrees. \u201cWe can't spend time with our customers \u2014 a loss that has impacted projects because being in the room offers a higher bandwidth conversation. But we gained video calls. Now, instead of seeing somebody for two weeks in person at the outset and again near the end of a project, you see them 100 percent of the time \u2014 online. This seems to be accepted as the norm now. That\u2019s an interesting trend.\u201d\n\n\u201cIT departments have always tended to adopt new stuff,\u201d agrees Evans. \u201cThey move easily to things like JIRA, Slack, and Teams. But now we're seeing wholesale shifts among more traditional departments. For example, a large Swiss bank we work with is rolling Teams out across their entire organization so they can have online team meetings, chats, virtual presence, and all the stuff that techies have used for years.\u201d\n\nCold: Meetings\n\nMeetings have been fundamental to project management since the first project emerged from the primordial ooze. But 2020 might turn out to be their demise.\n\nLong, in-person meetings are certainly falling by the wayside. Hastened by the pandemic, the trend was already heading under way. \u201cNot long ago, project meetings could stretch to two hours, easily,\u201d says Nancy Bechthold, vice president of service operations at NetSPI. \u201cNow they're as quick as possible.\u201d\n\nEven as recently as last year, everyone wanted to discuss things, solve problems, and brainstorm in big group meetings, she says. \u201cNow people have so much coming at them, they just want a dashboard view.\u201d\n\nKevin Evans, chief technology officer at ActiveOps, agrees. \u201cNot long ago, a large project for us \u2014 an American bank or European healthcare provider \u2014 involved getting lots of people together in a room to talk. People would say, \u2018I'm here! Here's my status. I'm concerned about this. I have an issue.\u2019 And the group would hash it out together.\u201d\n\nNot anymore. There are no in-person meetings. No big project launch gatherings. All of that is right out.\n\nThis shift has changed the nature of meetings, not just where or how they are held. \u201cNow, they're very much more checkpoint style,\u201d says Evans. \u201cSmaller groups arrive at a video meeting with mini potted solutions. People come in with, \u2018My team have solved this problem,\u2019 rather than, \u2018We have a problem.\u2019 It's changed the dynamic.\u201d\n\nHot: Competence\n\n\u201cWorking remotely levels the playing field,\u201d says DeVerter. \u201cI was recently on a call with the CIO of a large global bank. In the past, I would have flown to his location, worn my best suit, and met in his fancy office.\u201d\n\nGathering remotely removed the trappings of success and power that has historically defined this kind of high-level meeting. With no need for office space, travel budgets, or Gucci power suits, it came down to competence.\n\n\u201cHe was in what looked the corner of his attic,\u201d laughs DeVerter, \u201cwearing a pullover. His CTO was in a T-shirt. A lot of what used to happen was built on tradition, presence, that sort of thing. Now, it\u2019s all about how well you can back up what you're saying.\u201d\n\nIt is playing out in unhappier ways for people and organizations that relied on those trappings rather than competence. But this trend has already shown to be good for overall productivity.\n\n\u201cWe will all be graded on our ability to produce as individuals and organizations,\u201d says DeVerter. \u201cA lot of companies have been measuring by presence. You could get by if you knew how look busy, clocked in at the right time, and had the right stack of papers or the right amount of email throughput.\u201d\n\nGiven this, says DeVerter, \u201cleadership should be putting everything on the table. They should be setting the bar and saying what the goal posts are so the team can run hard towards them.\u201d\n\nCold: The project manager\n\n\u201cI do not have a project manager on the team at all,\u201d says Maria Psaltaki, CPO at Infinity. \u201cThis is a trend I've seen in the last couple of years. If you are a technology business, are relatively small, and have an agile framework, there's no need for project management role.\u201d\n\nThe job title \u201cproject manager\u201d probably isn\u2019t going away immediately. But as the role of project manager morphs into one of leader, teams \u2014 with the help of tools like Jira \u2014 are taking on what was once the wheelhouse of the PM.\n\n\u201cIt's the democratization of the project,\u201d explains Dan Lawyer, senior vice president of product management at Lucid, creators of Lucidchart. \u201cThe PM still has their role. But having more people accountable for their piece is helpful.\u201d\n\nThis trend is largely driven by tools that allow visibility into the details of a project that was once held \u2014 siloed \u2014 by the PM. Now with tools such as Lucidchart, monday.com, Asana, Jira, and others, everyone can access the piece of data, status update, or knowledge they need on a task\u2019s progress or a team\u2019s issues when they need it \u2014 or as it happens. With the right tools, real-time data feeds directly into each person\u2019s view of the project. The clarity of this allows the PM to rise out of the burden of gatekeeper toward leading and directing.\n\n\u201cWe talk about PMs as orchestrators,\u201d says Lawyer. \u201cThey're orchestrating and enabling. There's still a core hygiene role played by project managers that\u2019s necessary.\u201d The PM has an eye on a meta-picture of the project, sees the obstacles in its path, and knows when to direct a team toward action or solutions. \u201cBut it\u2019s happening in distributed and democratized way,\u201d he says.\n\nHot: Meaning\n\nWhether it\u2019s taking a stand on racial injustice, recognizing that coworkers have lives outside of work, paying employees fairly, handling sexual harassment allegations responsibly, or responding to a pandemic, meaning is trending hot.\n\n\u201cEverybody jokes, \u2018How are you making the world a better place?\u2019\u201d says Matt Burns, startup ecosystem leader at monday.com. \u201cBut I don't think it's a funny joke anymore. People want to know, \u2018How are you making this world safer, happier, healthier? What are you doing?\u2019 We live in a shared society and should focus on improving it."\n\nThis isn\u2019t something that can be handled lightly, either. Giving lip service to a social trend can easily seem disingenuous, like jumping on a bandwagon to get points you aren\u2019t willing to earn. \u201cThe public will ask for receipts,\u201d says Burns.\n\nNow that we\u2019ve taken location out of the workplace, he says. Meaning is likely to drive people\u2019s reasons for choosing one employer over another, one location over another. \u201cIf you want to get the best diverse talent to grow your organization, they need to know they mean a great deal, they matter, that they're making the world better,\u201d Burns says.\n\nCold: Freedom\n\n\u201cI think the biggest trend I\u2019ve seen is around freedom of software selection,\u201d says Matt Burns of monday.com.\n\nThere has been, for many years, he says, an attitude in companies of, get the job done. It doesn't matter what you use. Pick what suits you and make it happen.\n\nThis has fueled an enormous marketplace of tools and has led to organizations where, sometimes, no two people use the same thing to stay on track. \u201cI've worked with large companies that have thousands of different tools in use," he says.\n\nThat\u2019s changing. He has seen companies looking for standardization or consolidation into one system that serves everyone.\n\nSome of the many tools are necessary, of course. \u201cYou could use a hammer to cut a sausage, for example,\u201d he says, \u201cbut you'd have a bad time."\n\n\u201cBut a lot of tools have overlap,\u201d he says. \u201cI\u2019m seeing organizations start to consolidate, especially in the past quarter. The future is around creating systems and processes that aren't spread across 1,000 different silos.\u201d\n\n\u201cWhen all of these tools are spread out, that means all the important information is also inaccessible by other teams or they don't know where or how to find it.\u201d But when they are housed in a tool that allows everyone access to all that data \u2014 without having to burden staff with the task of assembling it \u2014 productivity soars.\n\nHot: Leadership\n\n\u201cHistorically, project managers have been very task-oriented,\u201d says Bechthold. \u201cThey had a project plan, checked in with a team, assigned tasks, and checked back periodically to see the status of those tasks.\u201d\n\nThat style of project management is waning. And this is both an opportunity and a challenge for PMs. \u201cWe're seeing project managers step into an actual leadership role,\u201d she says. \u201cThey're leading the entire team, in addition to leading clients toward the best course for success.\u201d\n\nThis means PMs have to know much more than how to keep track of tasks, updates, and deadlines. They must understand the project, even the technical aspects of it, its legal requirements, and how it all impacts the business as well as the project. Perhaps a PM\u2019s understanding doesn\u2019t have to be deep, not on every topic. They may not be pressed to write code or author legal arguments. But they do have to know enough to ask the right questions or call a client\u2019s attention to important issues.\n\n\u201cThis is a wildly different set of skills,\u201d says Bechthold. \u201cIt requires expertise as well as the ability to negotiate, mentor, and motivate. It also means they have to understand the business \u2014 and the client\u2019s business.\u201d\n\nCold: Office Hours\n\nWork hours are so ingrained in our collective psyche that it took a global crisis to make us see they might not be necessary.\n\nBurns says we have replaced \u201coffice hours\u201d with something more human, that allows us to take care of work as well as home and self. It works better not only for working from home during a pandemic but also for a global workforce that operates in all time zones. He calls it \u201ccontext.\u201d\n\nOnce we achieved wholesale adoption of video calls, Teams, Slack, monday.com, and other tools that allow everyone let the team know their current status, getting context on what people are doing has replaced the assumption that if the clock says it\u2019s work hours, everyone is working. Context has also replaced \u2018if it\u2019s after hours, leave everyone alone.\u2019\n\nNow that we\u2019ve made that shift culturally \u2014 and remained productive \u2014 we probably aren\u2019t going back.\n\n\u201cPeople can work in the morning, look after their kid at lunchtime, work a bit in the afternoon, look after the kid again, and work a couple of hours in the evening,\u201d says Evans. \u201cIf that works for them, it\u2019s fine. And given the nature of remote tools, it usually does.\u201d This is a big shift. \u201cYou couldn't have somebody in a traditional office setting roll into work at 10 o'clock at night,\u201d he says.\n\n\u201cI was recently working with a cohort in Israel,\u201d agrees Burns. \u201cI knew it was late there. So before I reached out, I checked his \u2018status\u2019 in monday.com. He\u2019d set it to \u2018working but also spending time with family.\u2019 I shot him a message and was able to give context that I was simply offering an update and wished him and his family well."\n\nKnowing that he could have part of his colleague\u2019s attention \u2014 not all of it \u2014 informed both his approach and expectations. In that case, partial attention was all he needed. There was no need for a call or a meeting. The interaction happened quickly in an instant message. This is a scenario that\u2019s playing out everywhere. \u201cWe have all become more accepting of people\u2019s \u2018context,\u2019\u201d says Burns.