Digital Lean

The Future of Project Management in the Digital Age

I am tempted to conclude that project management is on the decline. There is saturation in the number of project managers, in the activities called projects, in the number of projects managed by professional project managers, and many other metrics used to measure the effectiveness of project management discipline. It seems that this practice , as designed and used more than 15 years ago needs to redefine itself to be able to produce strategic advantage in the era of digital transformation.

If it is so, what other methods and concepts should business companies use to execute the work in an efficient manner? And also, what should the project managers do?

To answer these questions, we need first to remember how project management achieved such a high visibility and popularity in the last 15 years. Recall that this was the time of big investments in IT infrastructure and in-house developped IT applications. These investments required very strict scope management, time scheduling, resource deployment and cost management skills to make sure the company resources are used wisely.

But nowadays, the data is moving onto the cloud platform, and business value is created by using readily available APIs from an external ecosystem to make our business and application experiments. And it seems we don’t need project managers for that.

Let me then outline some advice on how to navigate through this new digital world without traditional project management.

If you are a company, implement your brand new Business Transformation Office (BTO) and define your own digital strategy. The digital strategy will surely impact both your processes and your products. Hire a professional Program Manager to run your BTO and run the operationalization of the strategy in a set of initiatives. Make sure that each initiative is based on measurable success factors and use Lean method to run a series of Kaizen (or Kaikaku) workshops to find concrete solutions for each initiative. At the end of each workshop, set up a self-managed team to do the follow-up implementation. The team will ideally be structured from your own people, external digital consultants and vendors. Measure the success of each initiative and continuously adapt and refine your strategy using data analytics techniques and feedback from the teams and customers.

What you can see here is a blend of techniques. You may call it Digital Lean if you like.

If you are a project manager, you might consider to learn some of the techniques outlined here. You can move into the BTO, or even develop your career helping the businesses create them. Learn the Lean techniques like Value Stream Mapping and how to moderate and facilitate Kaizen workshops. Become either a process or product specialist. It doesn’t matter if your title will remain PM – in any case, your previous experience and rigor in project management, and the skills in communication and cost management will be very valuable in this new environment.

Sasha Lazarevic,
February 2016

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