“The basic building blocks for digital services and products … have become so evolved, inexpensive, and ubiquitous, that they can be easily combined and recombined.”

— The Economist, January 2014

As the data age marches on, IT and business become even further intertwined. Where do project managers fit in the radically new IT ecosystem that will be a reality by 2020? On his recent Project Management in 2020 webinar, Gartner research VP Michael Hanford, discussed what we can expect in the profession in the years to come. Here are eight of his most pertinent observations.

Decentralized IT Spend

Approximately 37 percent of IT-related spending now takes place outside the IT organization. As more projects leave IT to reside with line of business managers, the percentage breakdown will increase to 50/50 (50 percent IT, 50 percent line of business) within the next few years.

Disappearing Professions

As machine capabilities continue to advance and automation becomes more sophisticated, more jobs based on pattern recognition will go to robots instead of humans. By 2050, about one-third of current white collar jobs will be gone.

Alliance Building

Enterprise IT has evolved in three stages. The first was IT craftsmanship with a focus on technology, operating systems, and hardware. The second was IT industrialization with a focus on repeatable processes, standards, and certifications. We are on the cusp of the third stage, platformization, which will focus on business models, markets, and alliances. The desired outcome during this stage is innovation and frenemy collaborations will be everywhere.

Movement from Software Delivery to Business Change

Once upon a time, project management was solely about planning and coordination. Many artifacts of this era, including PM-specific skills, linear thinking, and “best” practices, haven’t survived. Today, the name of the game is driving change and cutting complexity. “I got new software” is not a solution. Meaningful change is.

Rise of the Versatilists

Specialists with a deep bench of specific knowledge will not be able to learn and change quickly enough to address business requirements. Increasingly, PM success will be about versatility, or possessing good leadership skills, strong relationships, and the right contacts.

Social Teams

Thanks to digital natives shaping the workforce, the new PM team is social – incorporating crowdsourcing as well as external and internal stakeholder collaboration. Partnering is the new enterprise, with team members drawing paychecks from different organizations because a single organization may not have all of the skills we need. Increasingly, teams will be composed of assembled individuals participating virtually. Once the team accomplishes a short-term business objective, it will disband.


Today, 20 percent of projects are considered very complex, with many interdependencies, mixed work types, and the ability to transform a whole business. Increased complexity begets an increased pace of change.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The days of creating re-usable practices and solutions are over and turnkey is no more. It’s expected that every project will be a first, even for the experienced practitioner. Projects will also rarely have a defined endpoint, and instead, will continuously evolve.

Everyman PM

As a result of too many projects and PMs that are few in number and stretched to the brink, the year 2020 will expect a basic PM skillset of every line of business manager. Once this skillset is as common as, let’s say, business writing, we will need fewer, professional full-time PMs.

Strategic PMOs and EPMOs

PMOs and EPMOs that survive the zombie stage of existing just to exist will be mature and will deliver real business value. They will be responsible for helping senior leadership set goals and execute on those goals. Staffing will be via the revolving door depending on what skills are needed and when. Skills on tap will be provided by established networks of partners that can be called upon quickly.

Rapid Data Analysis

Armed with the power of computing, the portfolio manager will grow from a kitten to a lion. Machine partners will provide faster, smarter data analysis and instant, actionable alternatives in the short timeframe mandated by the portfolio manager.

Integration is King

Hanford anticipates big changes in the ecosystem surrounding program management. During the program lifecycle, there will be a series of events that involves technology trade-offs. Rather than writing new code, the chief task will be screwing together a bunch of existing IT components. The move from simple delivery to integration will complicate risk due to the need for new partners and greater security measures.

What do you think? Do Hanford’s predictions hit the mark?