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The status quo of digital transformation in project-oriented organisations

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A recently published survey of the GPM (German Project Management Association) contains interesting findings regarding salaries and career perspectives for project personneI in addition, the report provides insights into the impact of the so-called ”digital transformation”. It´s in full swing and has now arrived in project management as well. On the one hand, projects are being applied to implement digitization. On the other hand, project-related work itself is transformed by the use of digital media and places higher demands on the employees. Above all, employees are required to show a higher reaction speed and greater flexibility.

The advantages of digital transformation are seen through the eyes of the respondents above all in optimized knowledge management, in the structuring of work steps in projects and in process optimization. Interestingly, on the other hand, the respondents hardly see any positive effects with regard to faster or more cost-effective project execution. Even the easier integration of international project team members is perceived rather sceptical. Although the digital transformation is already in full swing, companies are only partially meeting the requirements.

Obvious investment needs are recognized and realized through the implementation of adequate IT systems. According to the results of the survey, clear deficits are to be found in the creation of the necessary personnel requirements, such as the development of employee competencies, the adaptation of personnel development policy or competence management. The adaptation of entrepreneurial work organization, which is an important structural prerequisite for the successful implementation of digitization, is often insufficiently addressed. In addition to questions regarding data security in projects, the risks associated with digital transformation are therefore primarily employee-related risks. The focus here is on the risk of information overload and overstraining, especially of less digitally savvy employees. By contrast, the frequently discussed topic, which poses a threat to jobs, is considered less serious. Only a significant minority share the view that digitization would reduce the need for staff. Nevertheless, the fear of losing a job is comparatively high, but this should rather be due to the higher competence requirements than to a rationalization.

In addition to the general advantages of the digital transformation, the effects of these in the five typical project phases were also examined. It becomes clear that with the digitization above all in the project control and in the pre-project phase initiated storage planning efficiency potentials can be lifted, however less in the initiation and the definition of projects as well as in the last phase, in the project closure phase.

Finally, the survey wanted to know from the respondents how their organisations are preparing for the digital paradigm shift. Here it should be noted that so far rather the entrepreneurial investment needs are focused, but the employees and the changing competence requirements are not in the foreground. Thus, the majority of funds is invested into IT systems, very little in trainings and competence development of project personnel. Furthermore, the adaptation of the work organization and the associated alignment with the new digital conditions are often neglected.

- 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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