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Competences – an update for the digital era

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Digitalization is a trend which influences our life in all regards. Waking up in the morning, we´ll get a full update on what has happened during the night and what we can expect during the following hours. An App provides all information for today, the shortest route to our office considering relevant traffic jams and so on. In our office we´ll analyse the latest customer data, including their preferences, choices and sales numbers through data analytics … and we could go on and on…

It´s quite obvious that digitalization has great influence on our projects as well. Which competences do we need in order to cope with these changes? Firstly, and certainly most important we need to develop competences dealing with digitalization, utilizing digital tools and applications, understanding the potentials as well as the threats. A project manager may use social media to search for competent team members or contractors for a virtual project. Another competence is data analytics. We have an increasingly big amount of data available (“big data”), which we can make available for decision making. Analyzing data of our customers, for example their preferences, questions, sales or complaints allows us to take more information into account while developing new products and services. A project manager needs to utilize available data, analyse it statistically with available skills, methods and tools, for a better understanding of stakeholder interests. It may support also the forecast or anticipation of trends and future developments.

The more information are available, the faster the change of customer requirements, the  shorter the lead times of product or service development and the more interaction between all stakeholders involved. Agile project management, change management competence and short learning cycles are necessary for project managers. Critical reflections of the work performed, self-organisation and a participatory leadership style are needed. Project managers as well as all employees need to be virtuoso, switch roles and responsibilities from one instance to the other. Reflection, feedback and dynamic learning processes are key, collaboratively with others, exchanging experiences as well as know-how. Thus, the competence for collaboration and stakeholder engagement will become a core competence for every project manager. The project manager does not solely focus on the project, but increasingly on the context, relevant stakeholders and how these stakeholders can be involved. The management competence will be less important, increasingly we need to influence the project through interventions, shaping the context in a favourable way, making stakeholders engage and support the project.

There is no reason to be scared. The evolution of project management will continue. Try to take part in the journey, try new things, interact and learn from the young people as they are more keen to utilize the tools available through digitalization.

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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