Digital disruption in project management – Get on board now

You see projects everywhere. Small projects – big projects. Development projects – delivery projects. IT projects – construction projects. Simple projects – complex projects. You see all kinds and shapes and you see the huge variance in the project outcomes. Successful projects – disaster projects. There are certain fundaments that are common for all projects. Three dimensions of Scope – Time – Budget are all visible in every single project. How can it be so difficult to control these three dimensions?

We have the history of Henry Gantt with his Gantt chart from 1903, the US Depart of Defense with their Program Evaluation and Review Technique from the 50’s and project WBS structure from the 60’s. We have the learnings from millions of projects. We have certified project management professionals and numerous studies from best practices and failures. One would imagine that by now we’d know how to pull off successful projects. Yes we should and might know, yet we fail. Big time.

According to a recent study Pulse of the Profession 2018 by the Project Management Institute (PMI), that studied insights from 5,402 project professionals, we fail way too often.

Some statistics from the study on global projects in 2017:

  • On average 9,9% of every dollar spent is lost due to poor project performance
  • 57% finished within their original budgets
  • 52% finished with their original schedule
  • 52% experienced scope creep

On primary causes for a project failure, here’s some of the main findings:

  • Inadequate/poor communication
  • Poor change management
  • Inaccurate requirements gathering
  • Inadequate vision / goal definition for project parties

The world is evolving with a rate never seen before and this brings plenty of challenges for project management as well. Projects face changing requirements during the execution phase as the business cases change, projects are more complex, there are more parties involved as multiple stakeholders are bringing their special competencies onboard and with their own ways of working. What worked well in the past likely won’t work in this environment. Project teams need to solve complex problems quickly when they emerge, while been increasingly diverse in make-up and often globally distributed.

It is now clearly recognized that we need to implement new ways to manage information. It needs to be transparent, always available, clearly communicated to all parties and traceable. It should not be in silos, in multiple databases, as the case is today, instead it should be fluently available with automated workflows. A change in a requirement cannot be passed thru a traditional chain of command, it needs to be instantly communicated to all relevant parties. It needs to be visual to everyone, it needs to initiate call-to-action automatically. This raises high expectations on collaboration and information management.

When traditional best practices aren’t enough for our digitally connected world, the ability to manage information, communicate without any friction and ability see the cause and effect of a change instantly will become a greater point of differentiation. As a result, project management by e-mail’s is a no longer an option leading to a rush of new digital collaboration tools and AI technologies entering the PM’s tool box. New digital ways of working and digi-native PM’s are sought after.

Digital disruption and transformation in project management is as evident as it is in any other functions. In near future it will no longer be needed to update the schedules, cost estimates or tasks manually when algorithms will be able to analyze massive amounts of historical data from past projects and help project managers to select the best options for decisions. They will help in running multiple different scenarios and freeing the capacity of the PM to focus on the most value adding activities, leadership and solving problems.

Tools to consider adding to the PM’s tool box:

  • Requirement management software to manage the evident scope creep and changes
  • Network collaboration tool with configurable workflows to enable fast and transparent information sharing
  • AI / machine learning for freeing PM’s time from cost, schedule and task management

My advice on digital disruption journey still is that tools only work if the processes and leadership is there, by far the biggest investment in ensuring your project delivery capability remains or raises to CHAMPION* level will be top executive recognition on the digital transformation and sponsorship on continuous project management training.

*) CHAMPIONS: Organizations with 80% or more of projects being completed on time, on budget, meeting business intent, and having high benefits realization maturity. (Project Management Institute)

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