At first, IT was an efficiency play. Then social media came along, smartphones and the cloud. This radically changed how business is done, forcing every business to become a digital business.
Not every business has fully become a digital business, however; many are still in the midst of what’s known as “digital transformation.”
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Simply put, digital transformation is incorporating digital tools in all aspects of a company’s operations, fundamentally changing business processes and how companies engage with customers.
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This shift is changing not just how firms engage with customers, but also how companies make products; every aspect of operations is affected, including the project management role.
With that in mind, here are five ways that digital transformation is changing how project management is done today.
1. Asynchronous communication
Teams have always talked with each other, but digitals tools are nothing if not about communication today. This has opened up the back and forth that take place among project team members—and it is happening asynchronously.
Communication used to take place via meetings and email, but now tools such as Slack and Chanty have created a virtual space where much of the interaction among project team members takes place.
This shift not only increases the velocity of communication, but more fundamentally it moves it toward an asynchronous model where team members check in and give updates between project tasks instead of in real-time. Face to face and real-time communication still occurs, but the lion’s share is starting to happen in these team spaces instead.
2. Less management
The days of siloed project work are rapidly coming to an end. For project managers, the role of guiding teams is even coming to an end in the traditional sense.
That’s because greater communication combined with the trend of agile project management, an outgrowth of digital methodologies, is ushering in an era of self-guided, self-organizing project management.
For instance, the digital transformation and project management experts at Digicoop.io, developers of the work management platform Kantree, have made project managers become more like facilitators and less like traditional managers.
“We chose not to have managers, but coordinators who make sure that what we decide together gets done,” the company noted in a recent blog post. “It’s not a full-time role, rather a temporary assignment. The coordinator takes on projects that are ‘up their alley’ and correspond to their skills, so that we can collectively tap into each person’s strength.”
Project managers still have their place, but it is much lighter-touch and more big picture than before digital transformations.
3. Greater results focus
The tools of project management have gotten much better since digital took over how business is done.
Tracking deliverables, setting goals, managing time and watching team interactions has become almost a trifle for project managers post-digital transformation. One project manager I know personally even spends a mere two hours a day working; with a little automation and efficient habits, she turns her full-time project management job in Silicon Valley into less than a part-time gig.
Even for project managers that don’t optimize to that degree, digital transformation is freeing them up to focus more on big-picture thinking and strategic planning instead of the nuts and bolts process work that used to be a hallmark of managing projects.
PMs can do more with less, which means more focus on results and less on process work.
4. Analytics at the forefront
A forth way that digital transformation is affecting project management is that numbers are taking a greater role in decision-making; project management is getting more analytics-driven.
Almost everything a team does can now be tracked and quantified as a result of all-digital workflows. This opens the door for more data that project managers can use for tracking and quantifying the work being performed.
At the same time, artificial intelligence and business intelligence built into software is making it easier for project managers to use this data in new and creative ways. Project managers have always been focused on key performance indicators, but digital transformation has vastly increased the scope for leaning on numerical data for managing projects.
5. Remote teams
Finally, project teams are getting a lot more decentralized.
The plethora of digital project management platforms, combined with videoconferencing and changing work expectations as a result of digital processes, has meant a large increase in remote work.
Whereas remote workers once were marginalized and somewhat out of the loop, the move to digital processes has made telecommuting an option that is only limited by company policy; some companies even work entirely from distributed teams.
This is a sea change for project managers, who now must balance timezones and work on inclusivity as much as they have had to stop caring about the nuts and bolts of project management process. The role of the project manager has shifted more toward being a mother hen and less about hard-nosed deliverables and managing employees.
For businesses in Silicon Valley that are natively digital, this is all old news. But firms that are just now transforming digitally are discovering that more changes from digital than just customer relationships. All processes are affected, including project management.
- We've also highlighted the best project management software in this roundup