Is digital transformation ending the need for project managers?

The role of project managers is changing as a result of digitisation.

Once upon a time, IT was an efficiency play. Then social media came along, smartphones and the cloud. This drastically changed how business is done, initially encouraging and then later forcing businesses to embrace technology.

Not all businesses have fully jumped on the digital bandwagon, however; many are still in the midst of what’s known as “digital transformation.”

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.

This shift is changing not just how organisations 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. Communication

Project 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.

Communication used to take place via meetings and email, but now tools such as Trello and Slack 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. Management

The days of silo project work is 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-organising project management.

Project managers still have their place, but it is much lighter-touch and more big picture than before the digital transformation began.

3. Results

The tools of project management have gotten much better since digital transformation 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.

Even for project managers that don’t optimise 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.

Project Managers can do more with less, which means more focus on results and less on process work.

4. Analytics

Digital transformation is affecting project management in 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. Mobile

Finally, project teams are getting a lot more decentralised.

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 marginalised 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.

I don’t think digital transformation is threatening the need for project managers (just yet) but it is helping project managers to deliver better quality solution delivery. 

Interested in joining the digital transformation? I have highlighted the best project management software in this roundup.


Nazrul Hoque – 01 January 2020