It’s Monday morning. A project manager from the dev team has a meeting with partner marketing to see if his team can help the marketing group launch a new mobile app to corporate partners later that day. Two of the team’s developers hop onto a conference call with one of the company’s cloud hosting providers to discuss the new features they are pushing into production for a client-facing application. The rest of the team is working with a programmer from the finance department, completing a new accounting system feature scheduled to launch that evening. It’s just another day in digital business.
Digital business blurs the line between the physical and digital worlds to create new ways of doing business according to the definition set by analyst firms Gartner and Forrester. Here are some changes that project teams can expect in the digital business future.
The democratization of project management
The centralized project management office (PMO) comes into direct conflict with the digital business where traditional lines become blurred. A traditional PMO is a top-down command structure for delivering software projects. Digital business does away with that age-old power structure and even lets business units manage their software development projects without IT assistance.
While part of me can understand one view that says digital business is going to end project management. But what I really see is how digital business democratizes project management. Yes, the PMO as we know it might be gone, but cloud-based project management applications will enable project team members to enter and interact with project information in real-time, and in visual formats that are helpful and accessible to them. In turn, project managers and executive stakeholders can set up personalized views into project schedules and information as they need them.
IT organizations grow increasingly decentralized
Once upon a time, organizations had a centralized IT department that supported the various business units and departments—from engineering and marketing to accounting and support. The migration of business systems to the cloud, along with mobile app clients for those cloud platforms, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and DIY app development, is going to making it easy for business departments to fend for themselves.
I’ve reviewed some of these apps and DIY app development tools in the past for clients. While these tools may never replace some enterprise applications, they are good enough in 2016. Give some of these tools another few versions and it might be a very digital business-friendly story including shorter development timelines and less reliance on programmers.
These technological changes will make for a more decentralized IT organization. Project teams could lose their buffer with their business customers. By necessity, project managers will have to become more business savvy and entrepreneurial because their projects could be spread out across multiple departments and business units. Project terms may shorten too. While I don’t foresee software developers losing their jobs, those jobs could become increasingly more specialized. In the case of operations teams, digital business means leaner operations groups because so much of the digital business infrastructure is outsourced to cloud providers.
PPM goes bye-bye
There’s been some significant investments and exciting developments around project portfolio management (PPM) in recent years. These developments promised executive stakeholders a single view into all of the projects going on inside their organization. The future of digital business disrupts that nice one-person view as projects become smaller, more agile, and more than likely move outside the IT department. The scope of PPM will no longer be necessary as digital businesses seek out more collaborative cloud-based project management solutions to manage smaller more iterative development projects pursued by the IT department and business units.
Agile across the business
Agile development and Agile project management will gain the widest possible adoption in digital business. When it comes to digital business, Agile will transform the business culture and processes, not just software, which will help organizations be more responsive and adaptive to change.
Project teams with Agile development experience will do just fine in a digital business future. However, it’s Agile across the business, meaning the entire enterprise will need to learn and adopt Agile-related processes to ensure successful adoption on the road to becoming a digital business. You can expect to see Agile practices crop outside the development organization in areas including human resources, marketing, and even accounting.
DevOps breaks down silos
Many analysts following digital business agree that DevOps will be one of the great accelerators that can help companies enable digital business transformation. A real test before getting to DevOps will be development and operations teams finding shared goals. Passing that test will be another step in preparing project teams for a digital business future. Another test will be representatives from development and engineering groups educating business units about DevOps to help shepherd the needed cultural changes forward.
More analytics? Yes, please!
Digital businesses are increasingly data-driven. With all the excellent work being done by project management platforms, business intelligence (BI), collaboration platforms, and big data vendors to provide analytics in the cloud, project teams can expect a lot more analytics in digital business.
I expect that there will be project managers and team members who won’t trust the rising tide of analytics across their backend systems. The savvy project managers new to the digital business will look for ways to use the newfound analytics to bolster their business cases, proposals, and team’s standing in the organization. Analytics will also play a larger part in cloud and mobile security. This will enable even a decentralized IT department to spot trends in cloud-based application and mobile usage by their employees, contractors, and customers to enable them to manage BYOD reimbursements and even pinpoint usage anomalies that are the first sign of a potential security breach.
Project teams inside digital businesses
In a digital business future, Agile development, DevOps, harnessing data, and collaboration will be the order of the day. Development teams will follow more traditional Agile and DevOps methods that might be modified for organizational needs. Sales, marketing, communications, finance/accounting, and other business departments will also become more Agile by following more iterative business processes, contributing to cross-functional teams on a regular basis, and taking a greater development, operational, and operational stake in technology projects that affect them at departmental and corporate levels.