Project management in the transformative age

Business World ( 08/12/2019- p.S1/4)

SUITS THE C-SUITE By Evert De Bock

New platforms and drivers of productivity are creating new possibilities at unprecedented speeds, with steady advances in robotics, cognitive technologies and intelligent automation. To remain relevant and competitive, businesses are looking to implement digital strategies to keep up with the speed of change.

However, while disruption has become the new buzzword to reflect the new trends challenging traditional business paradigms, the truth is that the fundamental changes in business models across industries convey a deeper shift that can be better described as “transformative” instead of disruptive.

One of the defining traits of the transformative age besides the speed of change is the increasing dependence on connectivity. As Norman Lonergan, EY Global Vice Chair of Advisory puts it, “the transformative age goes beyond mere disruption, and is instead about being connected, whether to interfaces, data, experiences, or people.”

Local businesses are already being recognized for using digital technologies that have transformed the market and for leadership in their digital transformation efforts, such as through the International Data Corp. (IDC) Digital Transformation Awards. Efforts are being taken to address the technological needs of many organizations and future-proof various businesses ranging from real estate, hospitality, restaurants, and infrastructure. A Microsoft/IDC Asia Pacific white paper, ‘Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific,’ predicts that by 2021, digital transformation will add an estimated $8 billion to the Philippines’ GDP and increase its annual growth rate by 0.4%.

CHALLENGES OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
To successfully lead their organizations through digital transformation, leaders will need to be well-versed in all aspects of the business environment, have the foresight to anticipate change, and integrate the disparate parts of a company. It’s certainly no easy feat. While 80% of organizations are undergoing digital transformations, only 25% of digital transformation projects result in real benefits. This is according to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a leading non-profit professional association. Since ownership of digital efforts should cut across the C-Suite and the different groups within a company, company leaders, IT, and project managers must all partner for optimum results while maintaining a broad view of the organization.

Digital transformation projects can be especially challenging for global organizations or financial services companies. These often have legacy technology, third-party partners that contribute to the company’s complexity, and ingrained ways of conducting business. While smaller, digital-oriented startups merely have to execute their digital strategy, larger companies will need to take extensive current operations through digital transformation.

Some of the challenges that arise due to the nature of transformation projects are resource allocation and priority in staff selection when weighed against ongoing operations. Another one is the impact of the transformation on the organization’s people, of whom many will be participants in the transformation effort. Transformation projects may result in changes to an organization’s structure, business processes, workplace location, or workforce, which, in turn, may trigger a natural human tendency to resist change. Addressing this human side of change is a key factor in ensuring that the results of any transformation project will endure. Further challenge comes from the scale of transformation projects, with diverse stakeholders both internal and external that will have varied, and sometimes, competing interests.

STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMATION
These challenges can be addressed through the principles used to manage a transformation journey. By choosing the approach that best addresses the needs of the project, organizations will help minimize risks, control costs, and increase value. Murat Bicak, PMI senior vice president of strategy, shares the following strategies for successful digital transformation.

Set clear goals and ROI metrics. There are several organizations that may still be confused about what it means to transform into digital. The effort encompasses more than the IT organization, and involves more than just digitization, according to Bicak. It is more about the business-wide use of emerging digital technologies to transform business processes and bring more value to both stakeholders and customers.

Ensure that C-Suite sponsors are actively involved in projects. Inadequate sponsor support is one of the leading causes of project failure, according to the PMI. Conversely, the most common reason that transformative strategies succeed is strong support and buy-in from leadership. Executives can be more effective by staying connected with the program, helping navigate challenges, communicating its role, and advocating the program.

Elevate the role of the project manager. The project manager role is evolving from that of an operational role to a strategy delivery role. Project managers are expected to bring forward expertise on innovation, strategy, and communication. Bicak adds that technical skills are only part of what project managers will need to lead digital transformation efforts, along with strategic business management and leadership.

The essence of project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements. It can be said that the rigor, discipline, standardized methodologies, and common language for complex change initiatives from project management can help increase the odds of success when applied to digital transformation. Investing in project management professionals by providing them with the tools, training, and skills they need to make their organizations as effective as possible will be key to driving the value delivery mindset needed for a successful project.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Evert De Bock is an Advisory Principal from SGV & Co.