Digital transformation is gathering momentum across all industry sectors, driven by a new wave of disruptive technologies forcing businesses to adapt to new ways of working. And as organizations strive to harness the business benefits of digital disruption, the value of robust and more strategic project management practices continues to soar.
The impact of this digital disruption on organizations and their project management practices is the subject of a new global study by the Project Management Institute (PMI), Next Practices: Maximizing the Benefits of Disruptive Technologies on Projects.
Digital disruption brings huge challenges as well as major opportunities to drive business growth and competitive advantage. Yet many organizations are failing to recognize the significance of this.
The report revealed two distinct performance levels from companies that fell into two groups: the innovators and the laggards.
Innovators See Benefits from Adoption of Disruptive Technology
Innovators, which made up the top 12 percent of the survey, were defined as organizations with a mature digital transformation strategy. They have adopted disruptive technologies as a priority, and, as a result, have met their business goals.
By contrast, laggard organizations, comprising the bottom 14 percent of survey respondents, are defined by their immature, or in some cases non-existent, digital transformation strategy and their aversion to risk. They see digital adoption as a low business priority.
Specifically, the study found that innovators are using disruptive technologies to enhance the role of project management with their organizations by encouraging greater efficiency and automation (75 percent compared with 53 percent of laggards), automating mundane tasks to free up time for higher level work (59 versus 47 percent of laggards), and developing more strategic roles and leadership skills (57 versus 35 percent of laggards).
Cloud Solutions, AI, and IoT Offer Competitive Advantages
The term “disruptive technology” encompasses a broad range of tools, systems, and even finished products that deliver value in terms of competitive advantage. Perhaps not surprisingly, the three most impactful of these technologies, as named by survey respondents, were cloud solutions, AI, and IoT.
With cloud technology providing speed and flexibility, AI driving intelligence, and IoT connecting much more efficiently to data, the resulting technological triumvirate can radically transform the role of the project manager.
The survey appears to back this up. Eighty-four percent of innovators, for example, believed that cloud technology gave their organization a competitive advantage, by facilitating better collaboration and communication and creating greater efficiencies in an increasingly remote, mobile, and field-based world of work. This compared with just 57 percent of laggards with this particular view.
IoT, which delivers powerful levels of connectivity and data exchange, was seen by 62 percent of innovators as a route to a competitive advantage thanks to increased data efficiency enabling more accurate data-driven decision-making. Just a quarter (26 percent) of laggards made this observation.
Sixty percent of innovators stated that AI, which enables faster and more reliable decision-making and helps to minimize human error, was giving their organization a competitive advantage, compared to 22% of laggards.
Automation Frees Project Managers from Routine Tasks
AI, in particular, could be seen as having a significant role in elevating the strategic importance of the PM role by freeing them up from some of the routine tasks, such as scheduling and budgeting.
The automation of these more mundane elements of project management creates greater opportunities for the project manager to take ownership of all the leadership components of the project.
What is significant about this is that leadership skills, alongside strategy and business management, represent a cornerstone of the PMI Talent Triangle of technical project management, developed in response to a growing demand for soft skills, including leadership, strategy and the creativity of human intellect, which disruptive technologies are unable to provide. These are the skillsets that will shape the future of project management.
Innovators already know this and are modifying the project manager’s core skill sets accordingly, recognizing the need for them to have more subject matter expertise and to acquire knowledge and delivery standards that go beyond major certifications. More importantly, innovators are involving their project managers more in the value delivery process as managers of change, as cited by three quarters (76 percent) of those surveyed.
83 Percent of Innovators Already Seeing Benefits
The vast majority of innovators, 83 percent, are already seeing the benefits of adopting disruptive technologies in terms of meeting or exceeding their business objectives. Many of these have also prioritized critical roles for the project manager working with disruptive technologies, both as an advocate for the technology and as an authority on disruptive technology.
Within innovator organizations, project managers are more likely to be seen as leaders who are driving the change and innovation that disruptive technology adoption demands.
They also place a greater focus on project management performance improvement and regard proven project management practices as essential for bringing discipline and standardized methodologies to complex change initiatives.
Investing in project management experience leads to better project outcomes. Of the innovators that were embracing project excellence, 71 percent were meeting the original goals or business intent of their projects, compared to only 60 percent of laggards.
Other disruptive technologies considered impactful by the organizations surveyed by the PMI included blockchain, 5G mobile Internet, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and autonomous, or self-driving vehicles.
Innovator organizations that view these and other emerging disruptive technologies as an opportunity to advance, focus on the value delivery landscape, and enable project managers to play a more strategic role in managing disruption, stand to gain more as a result of it.
In summing up the report, PMI President and CEO Mark A. Langley said:
“Disruption has become part of the norm in business and we know that successful organizations are those that can rapidly adapt to new opportunities and challenges. As disruptive technology impacts the work we do, project managers become more valuable than ever as advocates and agents of change with the power to significantly impact the bottom line.”