The digital transformation has long since reached project management and is fundamentally changing the way we work in projects: dealing with new technologies and modern forms of communication that work across departmental and hierarchical levels require an increasing degree of personal responsibility and have consequences for collaboration. At its core, digitalization means that companies must align their value creation with the needs of customer. This customer orientation also applies to internal processes when project employees work together. What seems like a big challenge actually holds an incredible opportunity for the future?
Project planners have been using digital tools in their work since the 1980s. In the past, these tools were called Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project and were used to exchange project plans within a small group of people or project teams, but there were some problems that could not be solved:
- Information on the current status was not available in real time
- Only the project planner had the entire overview
- Changes had to be obtained from the individual participants and then communicated
- There was no connection whatsoever between the project-relevant data
- The manual maintenance effort was enormous
These points show the paradox of digitalization: Just because digital tools are used in project management does not mean that the entire process has been digitalized. In order to achieve this, a “digital mindset” is required that looks far beyond the use of individual software solutions. The prerequisite is that you understand what digitalization means for project management, because
- New technologies lead to new ways of working,
- Digital tools support cross-departmental communication and break down knowledge silos
- And the fast-paced digital working world requires a high degree of personal responsibility.
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Digitalization and Work 4.0
Real-time information and status updates have long been established in our private environment – no wonder that these requirements also apply to the working environment and the flow of information within projects: Everyone wants to know in real time where the project is and which tasks have been completed, which documents are missing and who is working on what. And this information should be available regardless of whether someone is in the office, with a client or on a plane. There is also a need to communicate changes in the project quickly and reliably to the responsible people. To achieve this, both the digital tools and the project members must be integrated into the workflow and networked with the data. For instance, to ensure Oracle Netsuite workability, check out https://acterys.com/integrations/oracle-netsuite/.
Software-supported project management produces the best results when the individual systems are networked: planning, resource or document management are currently operated in independent applications in many companies. This inevitably leads to system breaks and loss of friction. However, this inefficiency can be reduced through clever digitalization and even eliminated through automation. What use is it if a colleague in the project has completed a task two days earlier than planned, but I am not notified? While the colleague previously had to write an email about it, project management software now proactively informs me that the higher-level process has now been completed and I can start the next phase early. If the processes are networked company-wide, the completion of this process means that the accounting department is notified and partial costs can already be billed. This type of partial automation has long been established in industrial companies and should also become standard in project management thanks to the possibilities of digitalization.
Innovation – networking makes it possible
Contrary to the romanticized image of geniuses tinkering in the garage, innovations arise through the exchange of knowledge across expert silos. The strength of digitalization lies in the ability to connect people and data across departments. This in turn creates the basis for bringing in the experts who can best help projects to a successful conclusion. But this also means that the know-how “leaves” the previous departmental silo, at least temporarily. And with this exchange of knowledge it becomes democratized. This is often accompanied by a loss of power, can lead to the dismantling of hierarchies and trigger conflicts. This project can be carried out in an effective way using Netsuite Power BI.
It is therefore helpful to prioritize projects and thus justify the use of experts in high-priority projects. A priority can be set, for example, based on innovative strength. In this context, innovation should not be limited to the creation of a new product or service, but rather as something useful. As soon as the benefits are in the foreground, the ranking or power position of individuals can no longer be used as a justification for prioritizing projects.
The crux of the matter is personal responsibility
Just as the way we work in everyday project life changes due to digitalization, the roles of project managers, employees and stakeholders are changing. The following applies to everyone: more personal responsibility. Digitalization is a catalyst for a new understanding of responsibility within projects. When everyone has the information relevant to them available through connected software, they are responsible not only for getting it, but also for making it available to others. Digitalized project management is no longer just about creating software-supported transparency about who has to complete which tasks and by when. Rather, relevant information can be fed back into the system and fed into the information cycle. This builds up project knowledge step by step and makes it accessible so that better decisions can be made more easily and quickly, enabling all project employees to actually work independently.
Establish a culture of error
Mistakes happen. A crucial factor for the success of independent work is tolerance for mistakes. The question is not whether to pursue the agile, classic or hybrid approach to project management. But whether the company can deal with the fact that demanding personal responsibility from employees allows them to take wrong turns from time to time. A culture of error does not establish itself. Digitalization also offers an opportunity here. Because if the process that led to the wrong turn is traceable thanks to digitalization, it can quickly be clarified why, for example, a project is taking longer than planned. We learn from wrong decisions and, in the best case scenario, failed projects can be reopened and successfully completed through findings from the documentation.