Work and the world around us has been disrupted. Computers and robots are taking over many of the jobs humans used to do. This economic change is impacting every industry including the practice of project management (PM).
Should project managers be worried? We’ve researched and interviewed leading voices to uncover the major project management impacts, technical skill sets PMs need to thrive in this digital economy, and insights from leading experts in the field that define the future of PM and technology.
Here are four ways technology, digital futures and the internet of things are disrupting project management.
Impact: Competition in the Marketplace
Change: 21st Century PM Transformation
Today’s organizations are changing the way they do business and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are leading the way to enable better partnerships between technology and the business. Traditional project management roles, methods and purpose are no longer viable in this digital economy.
Project Management should be about adding value and realizing benefits. In a recent Project Times article, “The Future is Now; The 21st Century Project Manager,” consultant Kathleen B. (Kitty) Hass describes how CIO’s are shaping new roles for the enterprise:
“Project Managers (PMs) are partnering with business analysts to drive value through projects,” she writes. “BAs are focusing on strategy, innovation, value vs. requirements management. Project managers are focusing on creativity, complexity management, continuous delivery, project ROI vs. project schedule, budget, scope.”
Impact: Gig Economy
Change: Digital Literacy Skillsets
A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, approximately 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. You can call it the “sharing, on demand, freelance or gig economy.” Startup companies have created niche businesses that are allowing entrepreneurs to run their own mini-businesses. Earlier this year a Milken Institute panel discussed jobs and the economy; below are some insights.
- 8 out of 10 jobs require digital literacy
- More education and training will help you be more marketable, retain job retention, etc.
- No job will be truly safe; huge number of jobs that are routine and predictable will be susceptible to automation going forward.
- Contract jobs and freelancing are the big growth in jobs; it’s a gig economy!
- The recovery in the economy has been slow, but, although the recovery is extended, its strong.
- Government and private sector need to work together to help improve the economy.
- Today, disruptive technology has a shorter optimization effect to take advantage of improved business process and management changes to achieve productivity benefits.
- The nature of work is changing. This is not a new fear that exists; change is in the nature of work. Benefits are now through work sharing and new products/services; challenge now is how can we reduce barriers to create jobs.
- Tech and Globalization is to diminish the demand for low level skill sets. Demand has risen for roles for management.
We’ve written previously on the rise of project collaboration, with distributed teams and a more mobile team requiring new tools for communication and collaboration.
What has been the impact to project management? Project Managers have a wide variety of choices to find contract gigs in public, private and nonprofit sectors through the traditional method or by using many of the “gig or freelancer” websites that many employers are now using solely to hire resources to manage projects for their businesses.
Also, another trend occurring in the private and public sector is outsourcing technology and hiring more project managers to manage large contracts for vendor/system integrators according to Payson Hall, PMP, a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group.
Impact: AI and Robotics
Change: 21st Century PM Skill Sets
There have been predictions that robots would take over jobs for years and this year there has been more evidence of this with driverless cars and even Time magazine adding to the anxiety.
Earlier last year there was a lively panel debate titled “Be afraid, be very afraid: the robots are coming and they will destroy our livelihoods,” by Intelligence Squared regarding technology, jobs and robots. There were many pros and cons that were discussed; below are some highlights of the discussion:
- Innovation is not meant to eliminate jobs; it’s to improve productivity, higher quality, few errors and its side effect is job reduction.
- Technology empowers us to adapt to take advantage of our ability to engage in new forms of activity.
- Shift to a machine learning revolution; the revolution of algorithms.
- Self-driving cars are new examples of robots replacing skilled human labor.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics:
- AI and Robotics won’t destroy jobs; they are the tools to build the job of tomorrow. The reality is that AI, digital futures, the internet of things has arrived; we must change.
- Robots work by algorithm and are not creative, out of the box or imaginative; humans are cognitive. Robots are replacing skilled labor at a lower level.
- Humans provide the art and science; empathy/emotional intelligence. It is the partnership between man and machine that will solve problems through human ingenuity.
Impact: Project Complexity
Change: Strategic and Innovative Project Roles
Project Managers (PM) and Business Analysts (BA) have had traditional defined roles in many organizations but project failure still seems to plague many organizations. As we move into the 21st century, it’s time for a change.
Why? A shift in organizational change, approach and methods to be lean and nimble while staying competitive, improvements in performance and adding value and innovation. The reality is that all projects will become more complex as we shift from traditional to strategic frameworks. In the aforementioned article, Hass nicely identifies the future shifts in key roles for organizations in this chart below:
Views from the Community
Senior Project Manager Priya Patra, with Capgemini India, recently shared her insights with me about projects, technology and robots:
“Projects are for the people, by the people and of the people. Every project starts with a business case – to solve a people problem, without people there is no project. A Project Managers’ role is to orchestrate the entire show. Technology or a web robot (BOT) can only augment the project manager. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship. It’s all about collaboration between what machines can do and humans can do; BOTS are mainly for crunching data that the managers need, so they can be more equipped to make decisions and work on tangible needs of their teams to get things done.
“But can a BOT take over the job of a project manager? Robots can be great task drivers, it can measure team for deadlines, procedures and progress., can it measure the non- measurable aspects like team morale? As of today, robots simply don’t have the nuances to manage complex human relationships yet, which means missed opportunities, diminished creativity.
“I remember the famous dialog from the movie Iron Man 1 on the future of air combat between Tony Stark and Rhody. Rhody says “Is it manned or unmanned?” I’ll tell you, in my experience, no unmanned aerial vehicle will ever trump a pilot’s instinct; his insight and ability to look into a situation beyond the obvious and discern its outcome, or a pilot’s judgment.” Projects are like air combat; some decisions need to be taken on the fly by the project manager on their instincts and experiences. BOTS can augment the ability of a project manager to take these decisions, but are still not equipped to execute them.”
To make sure you stay competitive in the field you’ll need the right tools to lead your team through the 21st century. ProjectManager.com has been an industry leader in online project management and collaboration tools for teams, so people can work wherever, whenever and stay connected on the most important project details. Try it now with our free 30-day trial.