Dealing with digital

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Posted by Kirsten on 7th Mar 2017

Digital disruption is changing the way we work. Presenting both new challenges and opportunities for business, it is all about innovation and empowerment, and is consistently demanding change from established business technologies and methodologies.

The New Generation stream of the upcoming APM Conference will be focusing on the fact that we are in the midst of a digital revolution with new technology enabling us to deliver increasingly complex and interrelated projects, to work in different ways and to engage with a broader spectrum of users.  But, are we ready to embrace this change? How will our skills need to adapt to use technology effectively in different scenarios and how will we gain these skills? This stream will look at new ways of working in the future.

Self-driving cars, health and fitness monitors, artificial intelligence and 3D printing; these are just a few of the technologies that will have a massive impact on how we work. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that, in the near future, many employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment, and that, by 2018, 45 per cent of the fastest-growing companies will have more smart machines than employees.

Another advance is 3D-printing technology. However, a Gartner report noted that, by 2018, 3D printing could result in intellectual property owners losing at least $100bn per year through copyright theft.

The need to be agile
It is clear that companies need to adapt and become more agile to deal with these evolving challenges and make the most of the opportunities digital disruption provides.

One of the main challenges is the speed of technological change. Today, technology moves faster than regulation, compliance and governance, including most project approaches. It can be tough for organisations to change their mindsets to thinking disruptively, to throw aside legacy systems and build something new from scratch. However, with the transformative ability that even the smallest technological project can now bring, such ‘pinpoint laser focus’ approaches can bring the largest return on investment.

Embracing cultural change
These days, when projects fail, it is often not down to the technology, but rather a lack of willingness to accept the cultural change it brings. This is why the project manager’s role of ensuring organisational buy-in and preparing staff for the upcoming changes is so crucial. Disruptive technology enables the creation of a service or system at a much faster rate than ever before, but, alongside this, it brings the chance of projects opening up the business to new threats. In this situation, I feel that it is the project managers that are the first line of cyber-defence. This is because they are increasingly heading up digital projects that may not even have the involvement of their IT department.

With this in mind, project managers need to consistently consider whether current and new systems are secure, and understand where data is stored and how it is encrypted. Throughout a project – whether or not IT is a key component – they must continuously consider security and cyber-threats, and question whether the potential cultural changes are understood, what the cyber-risks are, and how high such risks are.

The importance of CPD
Project managers are not, and should not try to be, cyber-security experts, but I do think it is important that they know the basics in order to be able to question the processes and choose the best technical advisers. Continuing professional development (CPD) in its many forms can help keep knowledge up to date.

Project management is changing, and those who lead the way will become more agile, innovative and proactive in their approach. Successful project managers will watch for emerging trends and technologies and ensure they are aware of upcoming changes – something that can be done in all manner of ways.

CPD isn’t just about professional accreditation; it is also about attending workshops or lectures, taking part in webinars, and keeping a journal of what you set out to achieve and the outcomes – something Ihave done for the past 15 years.

Digital disruption is exciting – fun, even – and should be embraced. Behind the technology is the goal of making life better and easier, and, for businesses, it can lead to new markets and growth opportunities. While trying to keep up with high-speed technological changes, it is important to think about how to make the most of them and remember the benefits they can bring.

To find out more about new ways of working in which we embrace digital technologies, book now for the APM 2017 Conference.


This article first appeared in Project journal Spring 2017

JON BUTTRISS  is CEO at BCS Learning & Development Ltd, part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

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