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What does digital transformation mean? 

Digital transformation is essentially business transformation that comes about as a response to changes in customer behaviour. The changes in customer demands due to rapidly advancing technology, and the shift in how they access information, products and services means companies need to determine whether their current processes, procedures, operating models and organisational structures are still relevant.

What does this mean for project managers?

Once a need has been identified, this catalyst for change triggers the requirement for transformational change in order to realise the new vision. The transition strategy, whether it be to deliver cost savings, introduce new technology or improve customer service, requires ownership by leadership and execution by project managers. 

Fergus Gilmore of Deltek, says:

Leadership must ask: which KPIs are we looking to address in this project? Which processes will these technologies enhance? How will they impact the organisation's competitive position in the market? Effective change management and smooth adoption of technologies that will have a measurable impact on your business and ways of working are the primary goals here. A solid governance model and disciplined value measurement must be integral to your technology selection.”

Why do project professionals need to understand digital transformation?

“As a new Chartered profession, we need to address the implications of technology for project management as a whole, and for individual professionals, not only for the benefit of the economy, but also for society itself. “By 2020, it is believed that 40 per cent of incumbent companies will be displaced by digital disruption”.  – David Thomson in the chartered report, 'The robot professional'.

Why transform?

To remain competitive in an increasingly digital environment, companies need to develop new technology capabilities, transform their business model, and bring innovative products and services to their customers. According to consultant Neil Perkin, effective digital leaders need to become "ruthlessly customer-centric, visionary, adaptive and agile, commercial, data-driven, open, curious and innovative" in order to lead an organisation to digital maturity.

  1. Rapid adoption of mobile technology drives the need to improve efficiency, reduce admin, boost customer control and enhance business agility.
  2. Customer choice and expectation grows, meaning decision making driven by data on market trends and customer behaviour is the key to success. 
  3. Fewer barriers to entering markets mean that organisations must seek to establish new revenue streams through enhanced digital experiences. 
  4. Changing customer demands mean we have to find new ways to innovate.
  5. Our increasingly interconnected world will see rapidly changing legislation and security challenges.

The primary goal is a smooth adoption of technologies that will have a measurable impact on your business, through the effective management of the change process.

Steps to digital transformation

How will you respond digitally to your challenges in order to transform your business? 

1. What is driving your change?

Transformation of any kind is specific to the organisation and the environment in which it operates but it should be possible to identify key drivers for change, including:

  • The need to find new revenue streams and services;
  • The need to improve customer experience and provide superior service;
  • The need to differentiate in the market and become more competitive;
  • The need to find efficiencies and drive down costs.

2. What are you trying to achieve?

Define your strategic priorities and establish key performance indicators (KPIs). Measures of success may be significantly different to what you have previously used, transformation means you can harness innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.

3. Where you are now?

Organisational maturity in the use of technology means that digital transformation looks different depending on where you are. For example, do you provide the following:

  • Online customer service;
  • Real-time access to detailed customer profiles across all contact points (mobile, web, etc);
  • Personalisation based on customer profile characteristics (leveraging data analytics);
  • Dynamic/flexible offers tailored to customers interests.

Digitally mature organisations leverage technologies, data and business analytics to better understand customers, including unique preferences, habits and requirements. How digitally mature are you?

4. Adopt the right delivery for your organisation

Change professionals recognise that there is no one size fits all for delivering change – many factors around the people, the processes, the technology and the leadership will make up the culture of the organisation and this will dictate the way in which you navigate change.

But, technology-driven change is accelerating and unpredictable. Many conventional process driven approaches to projects are no longer adequate. Delivering with agility and iteration, responding rapidly to change, learning by doing and realising benefits early are all typical characteristics of digital transformation.

This challenges the organisation’s ability to accept ambiguity, release control and drive ownership deep into the organisation. Introducing agility into your project delivery can offer significant challenges as well as benefits.

Digital disruption

Digital disruption is a product of adoption, acceptance and, ultimately, the change that technology brings in the way that people interact with each other, brands, products and services. The drivers of change around digital are real, accelerating unabated, and demand respect and attention, which is why we need to consider digital transformation.

The impact of digital disruption on organisations and the need to integrate digital into all aspects of the business, requires vision and buy-in by leadership in order to successfully address it and develop their digital capability. 

Does this increasing focus on technology mean project professionals should worry about job stability in the future?

Projects are increasingly viewed as social systems, and the need for professional skills related to managing, engaging and communicating with people will never completely erode. Automation and AI are massive advantages for more commoditised tasks, such as data profiling.

If you can provide greater efficiency, accuracy and cost control by offering such services, you will set your firm apart, but a growing profession with the skills to enable these changes is more valuable than ever.

Transformation case studies

Project managers and future transformation

As a function and business model, project management is growing at an exponential rate. Objectives are becoming more and more ambitious, forcing solutions to aim higher than ever. Read more

Bank transformation programs

In a world where business has few certainties to cling to, the banking and financial services (FS) sectors could make a strong case that they face the greatest, most fundamental challenges ahead. (*Member only content*) Read more