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Transformation of Project Management role in Digital era

- Anil Gupta

In this constantly evolving information technology world, we have come a long way. In the last 25 years or so, the industry has seen significant change.  IT Project cycles, which used to be few months to sometimes few years, have come down in the range of few days to few weeks.  If you talk of any project spanning beyond 6 months, you are going to see a lot of raised eyebrows around you.  In this short article we will quickly review how the role of a project manager has changed in this evolving paradigm.

Focus on Design Thinking: Journey from the waterfall model, transitioning to agile/scrum methodology, and then to DevOps, the future of Project management is deeply linked to design thinking. The design thinking approach necessitates project managers to work with large set of stakeholders, engineers, industrial designers, artists, user experience guys, end users etc. The PM plays an important role in narrowing the scope of requirements that generates the most usable, affordable, non-typical solutions. The key changes required in a PM approach are – people centricity and empathy, extensive collaboration, taste for creativity, openness to absorb diverse viewpoints, and the most important of all, hands-on – dirty your hands for the task. Willingness to fail early is the key.

Focus on Industry trends: We are moving into a digital world, a world which has a very rapid pace of innovation.

“The new generation is becoming extremely smart. Highly confident about their capabilities, they have a taste of their own. Their working style is different; they want more freedom and flexibility in their work”.

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Trends change very frequently. Though the development cycles are becoming shorter, it is still important for the project manager to keep an eye on the predicted future.  You need to aim at where things will be, the state when you reach there – and not the state of today.

Foster on relationship and ecosystem: Gone are the days of complete self build or build/buy decisions. We are living in a world of environment and ecosystem. In this ecosystem, there is a lot more dependency for projects to have on how others produce their output. This dependency includes timing, quality, and  feature set. Do you have the ability to create relationships in the right manner so that you can influence your ecosystem partners? This ability to influence defines your success/failure in this modern era.

Clearly understand your constraints: A common reason of failure for projects is either late recognition of constraints or no recognition at all. This failure leads to the tendency of accumulating troubles and make a pile of them, until one day that pile explodes and has a major impact on the project.  Project managers typically run with limited resources and capabilities and also suffer from the diversified level of aspirations of its resource pool.  Clearly understanding, constantly communicating and identifying mitigation plan for your constraints is key to your success.

Grasp business models: The hidden success of almost all businesses is in their business model. It's the business model that differentiates competitive businesses from each other. Since business model is your organizational and group strength, playing to that strength and appropriately appreciating the key aspects of your business model in your development process could make or break things.  In such scenarios, the Project manager's broad understanding of the business model could increase the chance of project success by as much as 50%.

Project Manager to Project Leader: The new generation is becoming extremely smart. Highly confident about their capabilities, they have a taste of their own.  Their working style is different; they want more freedom and flexibility in their work. As “flat” is becoming the mantra of everything, this generation is also applying that mantra in their relationship with their boss. You need to really consider the spirit of flatness with your team. Rather than manage, lead the team to get the best output.

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Even though the paradigm is changing, the basic project management principles which include project planning and control, requirements management, stakeholder management, cost management, schedule management, risk management etc. will all remain the same. All of them apply in this digital era as well. In fact, they are more relevant in this era than ever before. However, the need to adopt more agility, more smartness, building and leveraging relationships in the changed, larger ecosystem - is the mantra of the day.

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