Is Digital Transformation a threat or an opportunity for Project Managers

Is Digital Transformation a threat or an opportunity for Project Managers

By Hani Hmedeh

If we think about technology today and how it's impacting our personal life and work, it is all evolving because of digital evolution. And digital transformation and the term digital itself are very challenging nowadays. So what is the effect of this digital transformation on organizations in general and the project management industry in specific?

The power of "Digital" and the importance of “Transformation”

Technologies' capabilities have evolved in the last few decades, and Digital Transformation had introduced a new set of capacities that changed the way we work and operate.

Consequently, this transformation unlocked the hidden value of organizations and generated a change in their culture. Those changes impacted the operational model that will, therefore, re-define the future of the organizations.

The role of the project managers in this Transformation

Transformation is more than moving a company from one state to another at the executive level. It is much more about changing the execution, implementation, and operation level; and the project management accordingly with this newly introduced capability and technology.

It is the stage where the organization execution muscles (like the functional managers, operational managers, and project managers) can translate their leaders' visions into reality without affecting other activities. 

Adapt and Adopt 

With all those changes, project managers need to adopt and adapt to the newly available technological-digital capabilities (in the organization) to realize the benefits of the risk (opportunities) and the challenges (threats) it's introduced. Thus, such transformation will force a new change in the team culture, customer experiences and project management tools & techniques.

New Technology

You can't win a court case if you don't understand the law very well 

When we go back to the late '80s into the '90s, one of the largest technology transformations that were going on was the "ERP" system. That was a technology transformation era where it was a fundamental shift in the core technology that an organization would utilize. But what never actually changed was how the company worked and not how the customers are served. 

One of the most significant changes introduced by the digital transformation is the way:

  • People interact with each other,
  • Organizations interact with both their employees and customers,
  • Project manager to interact with the project team and the project stakeholders. 

With those communications changes and the way we interact with others, the project manager should have a good understanding and skill-set to define the advantages and the disadvantages, the limitations and power of this new capability to maximize their opportunities and minimize their threats. 

New Talent

you can’t win a Formula-One race with a good car only… you have to have a good driver.

Many people think digital equals technology, so a digital transformation is the same as a technology transformation. That is WRONG!!!

What's happening now with digital is much more than technology. Yes, and for sure, the digital transformation does have some components in which you're going to introduce technology and software capabilities to support your transformation journey. Beyond that (and those tools), you are playing the role of a designer responsible for designing a fundamentally new set of experiences, products, and services for your customers.  

It is essential to train the employees and the project managers accordingly to use the new capabilities available now at their disposal. It is very risky to have the wrong talent in the right environment. You have to have a capable human resource to drive the business using the new technology.

New Culture

You can't lead a change if you don’t change yourself.

Organizations believe that they can shift one state (from where they are today) to another  (to where they need to be tomorrow) without proper cultural transformation. With this approach, they underestimate the upcoming challenges!!!

Introducing the right technology is essential, and hiring (or developing) the right skilled talents is a necessity. However, both changes are not sufficient to perform a complete digital transformation. A fundamental shift in the organization's culture and mindset and the way the organization operates is needed.

On the project management level, you're no longer going to have a waterfall, a linear mindset or methodology. You are going to have a (dynamic) agile approach to manage your project in line with the dynamicity of the technology updates and development. At the team level, you have to infuse the right digital mindset and talent into that team.

Final Recommendation

Technology is moving fast, where other industries are moving slower; you can’t implement all the changes and accept all the practices to stay Up-To-Date. You have to be selective and agree to implement the standard practices with an accepted margin of innovation.

People drive the business, and having the right talent allows you to stay in the competition. As a manager and leader, you are responsible for acquiring,  developing and supporting your team to empower your project with potential talents that facilitate your resource management and maximize your success chance.

Finally, culture change is a mandatory requirement in the digital era, and it's not a one-time change; it's a non-stop era! You have to keep transforming yourself and your team over time because your customer expectations change (very quickly) in line with the technology development.

By Hani Hmedeh