Project management key to digital transformation

Project management key to digital transformation
Murat Bicak, senior vice president, Strategy, Project Management Institute.
Published: 18 March 2019 - 10:39 a.m.
By: Mark Sutton

Organisations need to adapt how they operate to be more flexible and responsive in an AI and data-driven era, or else risk failing, according to the Murat Bicak, senior vice president, Strategy, Project Management Institute.

On the sidelines of the Dubai International Project Management Forum, which took place last month, Bicak said that in order for organisations - both private corporations and government entities - to be able to successfully leverage the benefits of AI and other data technologies, they will need to adapt organisational structures and culture, and rethink how project teams operate and how they can take decisions if they are going to be able to master digital transformation.

The leaders in digital transformation - be they governments including Dubai, or digital corporations such as Google - have all realised the importance of data and the ability to make swift decisions based on the data. Better adoption of AI will not lead to AI replacing humans, but complementing humans, and supporting them to do their jobs better, which makes it even more important that organisations adjust for this change.

This will put much more emphasis on project management and project driven approaches to work, he added, so that the organisational focus can be on completing tasks and objectives.

"Until very recently, organisational leaders under-appreciated the power of project discipline. You can see it in the UAE, which is clearly making project management a core skill, how important project management is to implement and deliver on strategy. Organisations that really understand that, are going to be the future," Bicak said.

Companies will not be able to have projects that start with one brief and a timeline that remain unchanged from start to finish, but will need to include ongoing feedback from across teams and stakeholders.

Although AI will support teams, the technology is not as important as skilled staff who know how to use it, he added. Companies have been talking about big data for a long time, but many of them are still unable to harvest the value from their data. This means companies will need to attract and retain skilled employees much more effectively.

"Turning ‘employees' into ‘talent' is a major cultural shift - you see that conversation happening at companies like Netflix, Google or Amazon, because they know that they are relying on talent, and that without that talent they have no competitive advantage."

Taking a more team-oriented approach, will also require critical thinking and decision making skills, as well as giving teams the independence to fail, and for organisations to accept that level of risk in their business.

"The frequency of decision making needs to go up and that requires teams to be able to make their own decisions too, which requires them to learn from failure," he said. "It is naive to expect that project teams won't make mistakes, but we don't want that kind of business where teams won't take risks. In a highly competitive business world, not taking risks is the biggest risk - we need to change that dynamic."

Bicak said that while many corporations see the value of digital transformation, there is a reluctance to adapt and retrain staff. The PMI is supporting its members with new training in this area, and ensuring that good project managers are able to add a digital dimension to their existing skillset of project skills, strategic and business management skills and leadership, so that they can increase their ‘digital dexterity'.

Managing the digital transformation will come to project management, he said.

"What we are really talking about is a project discipline, that has a very clear mission and a vision and a team and talent that surrounds that to make it happen. This is the future, and that is why we believe that organisations that get this are going to be able to protect their future."

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