PMI: project managers are key to a successful digital transformation

Today, companies must constantly keep up with the pace of innovation or risk falling behind their competitors. Project managers offer the solution, but they can’t change an organisation by themselves

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Project managers understand what change in one business unit may mean for another, and supporting them means supporting change across the business

Every day, enterprises around the world are confronted with disruptions that stem from technologies we once thought to be impossible. Technology is powering change at every level of every industry, and it has become increasingly difficult to keep up. In fact, tech disruption is happening so quickly that no sooner has an organisation developed a new way of meeting a challenge, it must then pivot. This is often due to someone else having developed a better technology or a different capability that puts them ahead of the competition, leaving other enterprises to play catch-up. Put simply, the disruption landscape is a frontier of change and, to stake a claim, an organisation must move faster than anyone else.

Just 15 years ago, a new operation, organisational model or project could gestate within a business for a year or two before the competition got wind of it and attempted to build their own version or do the same thing but better. However, technology has fuelled a relentless pace of development and competition that shows no signs of slowing – if anything, it’s accelerating.

The disruptors
The transition from 4G to 5G is a huge development that will prove to be a pivotal disruptor for enterprises in every industry. Its capabilities and speed enable organisations to move data faster and embrace cutting-edge technologies, as well as take advantage of the Internet of Things, which will continue to serve as the ultimate connector for both organisations and people. With 5G, a physician can direct an operation being performed in another country, a complex supply chain can be simplified to move faster, and drones can perform the work of humans, freeing them up for other tasks. No matter the industry, 5G is a disruptor – and when used correctly, it’s an enabler too.

Organisations are struggling to capture the value of new technologies and truly unleash their positive disruptive forces

However, organisations are struggling to capture the value of these new technologies and truly unleash their positive disruptive forces. The first step is to understand the technology and its capabilities, as well as its limits. The second step is to lean into that technology, embrace it and discern what it can do for your enterprise and its challenges.

5G’s exponentially faster data transmission opens the door for organisations to find new value. But what is that value and how do you create it? How can your operational model evolve to take advantage of that speed? It’s a conundrum that every major business on Earth needs to tackle, but the answer can help an organisation thrive and outlast its competition.

Change does not come easily, though, especially when external pressures are relentless and a business must meet its daily goals while keeping pace with constant disruption. It can also be complex and often requires a team of skilled experts to implement it – like business, it does not happen in a silo. When change occurs in one part of an organisation, it is likely to have a deep impact on another, which is how a business should operate.

That does not mean the enterprise is necessarily ready for such a domino effect, however. One small alteration often takes an enormous amount of effort and, in a world in which technology is disruptive and swiftly changes the way organisations conduct business, employees may see it as a threat – not just to their livelihoods, but also to the reasons why they do what they do. What’s more, the organisation and its employees may not have the necessary skills to implement it.

Here to help
There’s a set of workers uniquely positioned to assist with this transformation: project managers. Every single organisation is going through change in one way or another, and project managers are the specialists that can deploy technologies to help a company implement it efficiently, move faster and do more. However, this can add to an already heavy workload for project managers, who are now being asked to do much more than simply get a project done on time and within budget. Today, they need to be aware of all of the different technologies that can influence an outcome and be empowered to help implement those technologies. Project managers understand what change in one business unit may mean for another, and supporting them means supporting change across the business.

Bots are no substitute for creative leadership, essential problem-solving or decision-making, nor the innovative mindset that project managers bring to an organisation

The Project Management Institute is here to empower the project managers who make change happen inside an enterprise every day. Our essential mission is to enable project management professionals and the organisations they support to be successful when preparing for a future dominated by digital disruption, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and new ways of working. Skills constantly have to be updated to handle these technologies, and we want to help project managers acquire those skills and deploy them to change their enterprises for the better. Our goal is to help them succeed and become integral to the organisations they serve, bringing strategy to life and changing the world.

We also want to make it easier for companies to attract and retain project managers. AI is replacing many of our day-to-day tasks, but it cannot replace the human touch and spirit: bots are no substitute for creative leadership, essential problem-solving or decision-making, nor the innovative mindset that project managers bring to an organisation. These used to be called ‘soft skills’, but now they are hard skills. They are human skills. And they are essential to any organisation looking to solidify change as a way of pushing the enterprise forward.

Train and transform
By providing the proper training and support, companies can enable project managers to become even more relevant – not just by setting new standards, but by helping these workers acquire new skill sets that allow them to do their jobs more effectively. First of all, we must assist project managers by providing them with the information they need at their fingertips. The technology exists, but project managers must be given the necessary data to do the job that is required of them. What’s more, they need it fast, preferably via self-service and especially at crucial points throughout a project. The more project managers know, the better the outcome will be.

Second, we must enable project managers to tap into different kinds of methodologies, such as the agile model of working. This knowledge helps project managers become more nimble and versatile, allowing them to transition smoothly between different projects while fostering growth and organic development within the organisation. Project managers can assist in the implementation of this transformation, but by giving them the right knowledge and equipping them with the proper organisational tools, they can also be change leaders. An organisation that empowers its project managers is an organisation that can truly leverage the disruption and change that technology brings. In doing so, it will leave its competition far behind.