1. Introduction

1.1 Overview of Management

Management is about achieving results through people. This involves the processes of planning, organizing, and directing the activities of employees, in combination with other resources, to accomplish organizational goals. Understanding the fundamentals of managing and leading people is an important place to begin the study of project management.

Depending on the nature of the organization and the industry in which it operates, managerial responsibilities can vary widely. However, general managerial responsibilities typically include long-range planning, environmental scanning, supervision, coordination, customer relations, community relations, internal consulting, and monitoring of products and services. As seen in Exhibit 1.1, these responsibilities are best viewed by considering the three major types of roles managers play within organizations:
1) informational, 2) interpersonal, and 3) decisional roles.

Exhibit 1.1The roles managers play (accessible version) 
Rice University, OpenStax

The extent of each of these roles depends on the manager’s position within the organizational hierarchy. As shown in Exhibit 1.2, different skills (conceptual, human, and technical) are required for different levels of the managerial hierarchy. Success in executive positions requires far more conceptual skills and less use of technical skills in most (but not all) situations. In contrast, first-line managers generally require more technical skills and fewer conceptual skills. Lastly, middle managers may require to be well-rounded in all three skills. Note, however, that human relations skills, or “people skills,” remain important for success at all three levels in the hierarchy. 

Exhibit 1.2: Difference in skills required for successful
management according to level in the hierarchy
Rice University, OpenStax 

In addition, the extent of the roles also varies by department and function. Significant differences can be found in accounting, human resources, manufacturing, and sales, just to name a few. A key differentiator is the emphasis of each role. For instance, managers in the accounting function spend little time, if any, resolving customer service issues. However, managers in the sales, marketing, and service functions spend a considerable amount of their time ensuring those issues are effectively and efficiently resolved.

A lot has changed in the field of management. 21st-century managers differ from their predecessors in four key ways. They have become global strategists, masters of technology, good internal/external advocates, and premier leaders-motivators.

The focus in this text is on the role of the project, program, and/or portfolio manager. The unique emphasis of these roles naturally leads to a discussion of what a project, program, and/or portfolio are and why a focused emphasis on leading change is required. In addition, we will look at the unique technical and soft skills that successful project management professionals must possess. 

1.2 What is a Project?

A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.1

Organizations often choose to manage a related group of projects in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control unachievable by managing projects individually. When this occurs, it is known as program management.1

As an organization grows and matures, change becomes necessary to its sustained viability. Understanding the drivers of a change is the first step in understanding how the project should be managed. Some changes are mandatory. This is often the case with changing legislation and regulations. Mandatory changes often have compliance deadlines and penalties for non-compliance. Operational changes seek to address deficiencies in the day-to-day operations of an organization and can involve repairing or replacing equipment and facilities. Lastly, strategic changes are optional but once pursued, help take the organization to the next level of performance in the marketplace.

Regardless of the underlying driver(s) for a project, all projects have unique objectives. These unique objectives lead to specific and measurable time, as well as cost and performance requirements. Projects end when their objectives have been met, as well as when they are no longer desirable and/or achievable.  In contrast, operational work is not temporary. Operational activities are ongoing and are performed to sustain the organization. The daily processing of sales transactions is a good example of an operational activity. In contrast, replacing the system that processes daily sales transactions is a project.

1.3 How is Project Management a Unique Discipline?

Disruption is the new normal. At the time of writing this open educational resource, humans were experiencing life in the midst of a pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has been profound and prolonged. The pandemic began against a backdrop of extraordinary change driven by new technologies, a push for governments and organizations to demonstrate a deeper commitment to social accountability, and rapidly evolving customer expectations. So much is at stake and unfortunately, many organizations have not survived the economic conditions brought about by these forces of change.

Government, non-profit, and business leaders alike know that continued success depends on an agile mindset. Organizations need highly adaptive people to deliver on bold ideas with equally bold and big projects. Before we examine why project management is a unique discipline, it is time for an introduction to the two major organizations with worldwide impact on the practice of project management: Project Management Institute (PMI), with world headquarters in the United States, and the International Project Management Association (IPMA), with world headquarters in Switzerland. This text follows the approach taken by PMI and will remain aligned with PMI as their best practices evolve.


Exhibit 1.3: PMI is a global organization consisting of over 300 local chapters
Map template: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr

PMI is a non-profit project management professional association. It is the most widely recognized association for those who consider a project, program, or portfolio management as their profession.  Founded in 1969, PMI works in nearly every country around the world to advance careers, improve organizational success, and further the project management profession through globally recognized standards, certifications, communities, resources, tools, academic research, publications, professional development courses, and networking opportunities. With a membership of more than three million people, it has proven its ability to help organizations deliver successful change initiatives.

PMI defines project management as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.1 Project leaders are evaluated on how effectively they apply their project management knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a change in a functional area(s) and how effectively they prepare the functional area(s) to sustain the change. They ask themselves questions such as, Will this change add value to the organization?” As a team, they may askWill we deliver solutions when they are needed, within the funding parameters available in the organization, and will we meet the expectations of the enduser community?” They also frequently ask, “Are the stakeholders, including the impacted functional leaders, still supportive of the changes to be delivered?” Answers to these questions guide the project team’s work.

To help keep project management terms and concepts clear and consistent, PMI introduced the book “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK Guide) in 1987. It was updated in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, and most recently in 2017 as the sixth edition. A seventh edition is on the way in 2021.

PMI’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession2 revealed that in organizations with mature project delivery practices, an average of 11 percent of the investments made in change was wasted due to poor project performance. Further, organizations that undervalue project management as a strategic competency for driving change report an average of 67 percent more of their projects failing outright.2 On a global scale, this translates into billions of dollars wasted. In these turbulent times, failures of this magnitude can lead to disastrous outcomes for organizations already struggling to survive. For those that do survive their failed change attempts, many find themselves forced to reimagine what they do and how they do it.

This new decade has introduced us to the “Project Economy.”2 Organizations are constantly searching for ways to adapt and thrive. This means high-stakes projects are frequently launched with a variety of titles, executed through a variety of approaches, and are focused on delivering financial and societal value.



In the Project Economy, change is introduced rapidly, and some organizations call upon their functional managers to deliver low complexity change into their environments. These functional managers are often successful in leading these change initiatives when they have the needed skills and capacity to apply the appropriate project management tools and techniques while overseeing the daily operational activities of their teams. In addition, simple changes with a well-defined solution and a low level of complexity can be successfully introduced using predictive (also known as waterfall) development approaches.

However, if a functional manager lacks the skills required to manage a project or finds themselves frequently putting out fires started by product/service performance issues, unreliable suppliers, aggressive competitors, and/or ongoing human resource issues, a project management professional is often asked to lead the change. Furthermore, when the change requires cross-functional teams to understand the needs of the end customer and deeply explore these needs before building a solution, project management professionals are better suited for these types of change initiatives.

In the Project Economy, a growing number of executives are embracing professional project management. According to PMI’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession, these 21st-century leaders know that technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can be “the difference between a breakthrough year and just an okay one. However, these leaders also know that these technologies are only as smart as the people behind them. Successful project leaders of the 21st century truly understand that their people skills are just as valuable as their technical skills. PMI’s research on the skills most valued by employers has led to the creation of the Talent Triangle.  

Exhibit 1.4: PMI’s Talent Triangle. The three points of the triangle (which represents the ideal triad of skills) are technical project management, strategic and business management, and leadership.

Technical project management skills:

Technical project management skills are about successfully tailoring the tools, techniques and processes used. This domain also includes the ability to thoroughly plan, prioritize and effectively manage the scope, schedule, budget, resources and risks associated with a project.

This text explores the technical management skills that are required for project management. The required knowledge varies by process group, and this will be highlighted as we explore how projects are initiated, planned, executed, monitored, and ultimately closed.

Strategic and business management skills:

Strategic and business management skills are about communicating a project’s organizational aspects, develop delivery strategies and maximize business value.

Some projects require specific organizational and/or industry knowledge. This knowledge can be defined by industry group (pharmaceutical, financial, etc.), department (accounting, marketing, legal, etc.), technology (software development, engineering, etc.), or management specialty (procurement, research and development, etc.). These application areas are usually concerned with disciplines, regulations, and the specific needs of the project, the customer, or the industry.

It is important for project leaders to embrace a life-long learning mindset as internal and external environments often change very quickly. During the first phase of a project’s life cycle, known as the “initiation phase,” project leaders assess the strategic and business management knowledge they have and its value to the new project underway. If necessary, effective project leaders seek to close their knowledge gaps through their own research and by seeking the support of mentors.

Lastly, it is important for project leaders to understand the organization’s vision, mission, and strategies.  The importance of this will be discussed in Section 2.1. 

Leadership skills:

Leadership is about using one’s interpersonal skills in order to guide, motivate and direct a team.

In the sixth edition of the PMBOK Guide, PMI identified a very comprehensive list of the skills and attributes needed by project leaders. All the skills and attributes are important. For purposes of this text, the following key skills and attributes will be highlighted:

Exhibit 1.5: The key skills good project leaders possess (accessible version)

This is by no means a complete list of all the skills and attributes required to be a successful project leaderMoreover, the nature and complexity of project can help identify which of these skills will be more instrumental to project success than others. PMI is committed to helping project management professionals develop their skills in all the key areas. One of the ways this is done is by encouraging certification. There are many certification opportunities, including the PMP (Project Management Professional) and the CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). Once certified, project management professionals have access to a wealth of ongoing professional development resources aligned to all areas of the Talent Triangle. 

Additional reading: 

Successful project leaders know how to uniquely apply the knowledge and skills they have learned to each project by tailoring the tools and techniques they use. The complexity of a project has a big impact on the tools and techniques required throughout the project lifecycle. PMI has identified five phases in the project lifecycle and offers the following definitions of each phase:  

Exhibit 1.6: Project phases (accessible version)

In addition, project management tools and techniques have been developed from the 10 different knowledge. These knowledge areas reflect the cross-functional skills and teams required to deliver transformational change in an organization. These knowledge areas are applicable to solutions developed using a predictive (waterfall) delivery framework and an adaptive delivery framework. Depending on the delivery framework used, the knowledge and skills applied may be for the entire project or for a particular release/phase.

The sixth edition of the PMBOK offers the following definitions for each of these knowledge areas:

  1. Integration management

    “The processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify and coordinate the various processes and activities with the process groups.”

    Projects involve all types of different synchronous and asynchronous tasks.

    Project leaders rely on their soft skills to facilitate activities and keep all the project teams moving forward together.

  2. Scope management

    “The processes required to ensure the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully.”

  3. Schedule management

    “The processes required to manage the timely completion of the project.”

    Projects have a definite beginning and end.

    Managing the time dimension of a project is about defining the activities, sequencing them, identifying resource needs, estimating activity durations, and maintaining the schedule as changes occur.

  4. Cost management

    “The processes involved in planning, estimating, budgeting, financing, funding, managing, and controlling costs so the project can be completed within the approved budget.”

    Projects consume resources.

    It is important to understand the financial benefits of the project and compare them to the costs incurred. If the costs (representing the organization’s investment in transformation) are greater than the benefits, the project may not be financially justified.

  5. Quality management

    “The processes for incorporating the organization’s quality policy regarding planning, managing, and controlling project and product quality requirements in order to meet stakeholders’ expectations.”

  6. Resource management

    “The processes to identify, acquire and manage the resources needed for the successful completion of the project.”

    Resources include the people, supplies, and materials required to produce the outcomes.

  7. Communications management

    “The processes involved to ensure timely and appropriate planning, collection, creation, distribution, storage, retrieval, management, control, monitoring and ultimate disposition of project information.”

    Projects typically impact a lot of people.

    Ensuring everyone is aware of what is happening and their continued role in achieving project success is often one of the most difficult, and time-consuming, aspects of project management.

  8. Risk management

    “The processes of conducting risk management planning, identification, analysis, response planning, response implementation and monitoring risk on a project.”

    Projects are a discovery-driven process; uncovering new customer needs and identifying critical issues not previously disclosed often occur during a project’s lifetime.

    This creates a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty creates risk; when unexpected events occur, risk becomes an issue.

    Successful project teams are able to proactively identify what can go wrong on a project and put appropriate response plans in place to deal with these risks.

  9. Procurement management

    “The processes necessary to purchase or acquire products, services, or results needed from outside the project team.”

    When outside vendors are engaged in a project, there is a need to determine how these vendors are selected and effectively managed throughout the project’s duration.

    This work also includes contract development and administration.

  10. Stakeholder management

    “The processes required to identify the people, groups, or organizations that could impact or be impacted by the project, to analyze stakeholder expectations and their impact on the project, and to develop appropriate management strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders in project decisions and execution.”

    Along with communication, stakeholder management is a critical success factor in project management.

    If stakeholders are not satisfied with the outcomes of a project, the project will not be successful.

Lastly, project leaders who are able to effectively understand the environment in which they are operating can not only refine their approach to tailoring the tools and techniques required, they can also significantly increase the likelihood of successfully delivering change.

There are many factors that need to be understood within a project environment.

Exhibit 1.7: The important factors to consider within the project environment (cultural, social, international, political, and physical)

The cultural and social environments consider people, demographics, and education. The international and political environment is about understanding the cultural differences of unique countries and the impact that local and national governments have on organizations. The physical environment is about working conditions and locations. Delivering a project that has global impacts is much more challenging than delivering a project that only impacts the local environment.

Of all the factors, the physical ones are the easiest to understand, and it is the cultural and global factors that are often misunderstood or ignored. How we deal with clients, customers, or project members from other countries can be critical to the success of the project. For example, North American cultures value accomplishments and individualism, and tend to be more informal, calling each other by first names, even if having just met. Europeans tend to be more formal, using surnames instead of first names in a business setting, even if they know each other well. In addition, their communication style is more formal than in the North American setting, and while they tend to value individualism, they also value history, hierarchy, and loyalty.

How a product is received can be very dependent on international cultural differences. For example, in the 1990s, when many large American and European telecommunications companies were cultivating new markets in Asia, their customers’ cultural differences often produced unexpected situations. Western companies planned their telephone systems to work the same way in Asia, as they did in Europe and the United States. But the protocol of conversation was different. Call-waiting, a popular feature in the West, is considered impolite in some parts of Asia. This cultural blunder could have been avoided had the team captured the project environment requirements and involved the customer.

Project leaders in multicultural projects must appreciate the cultural dimensions and try to learn relevant customs, courtesies, and business protocols before taking responsibility for managing an international project. A project leader must take into consideration these various cultural influences and how they may affect the project’s completion, schedule, scope, and cost.

PMI also identifies another key consideration in understanding project environments – organizational process assets (OPAs). OPAs include operational and project management processes, policies, procedures, success metrics, and knowledge repositories. The degree to which they are utilized in a project, as well as the expectations surrounding their use, have a big impact on how projects are delivered.

1.4 Digitization of Project Management

The Digital Age

We live in an era characterized by accelerating exponential change driven by a cluster of technologies, such as the internet, social media, mobile, big data/analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics. Beginning with the introduction of the very first personal computer in the seventies, today, with an Internet connection, one can use video and audio to communicate and transact anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. We live in a digital realm in what is loosely described as “cyberspace,” in which information is exchanged and shared in a space that is virtual. Though these digital technologies have been developing for many years, it is only in the past decade or so that their cumulative impacts have become so deep-rooted, extensive, fast-changing, and profoundly impactful as to herald the dawn of a new age – the “Digital Age” or the Digital Economy. The cluster of technologies driving this is varyingly referred to as digital technologies or digital forces.

The role of digital technologies will continue to expand. This will occur because more devices are accessing the Internet; an ever-increasing number of people are using digital services and more value chains are being digitally connected. Therefore, access to digital technologies is a source of major competitive advantage for organizations, particularly when paired with the ability to use them to transform the way value is delivered to the market. In the education sector for instance, despite the challenges due to COVID-19, virtual learning environments have made it possible for academic institutions to continue seamlessly with their academic programmes.

The Organizational Response – Digitization, Digitalization, and Digital Transformation

The onset of the Digital Age and the availability of new technologies have been the enabling factor in organizational change and innovation. Organizations have been putting in place strategies and launching projects to become agile, profitable, and smart in order to cope with an increasingly competitive environment and the unpredictability of markets.

Given this, companies have been in a rush to become digital and they are going about it in different ways. Some of them are implementing digital technologies to engage in new ways with customers and others are completely transforming their way of doing business or creating an entirely new business model. To understand this, let us consider a simple process like performance reporting. Such reporting systems have moved from paper to spreadsheets to smart applications with digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics.

However, to reach the maturity of “smart reporting,” one would have to reimagine the way reporting is done in terms of the reporting formats, the periodicity, the flexibility in the use of variables, the application on which the reports are developed, and finally, the way the reports are presented. Such a move in reporting systems would also mean new ways in which we engage our customers who would be receiving, in real-time, such reports all laden with infographics.

To elaborate this further, historically, businesses kept handwritten or typed paper-based records. During this time, business data was in a stage which is referred to as analog, and if you wanted to move or share this data or information it was done through the physical movement of papers and documents.

When computers went mainstream, most businesses started converting all those paper records to digital computer files. This stage was called digitization, which is the process of converting information from analog to digital. Through the process of digitization, finding and sharing information became much easier, but the ways in which businesses used their new digital records largely imitated the old analog methods. Computer operating systems and thumbnails were even designed around icons of file folders to feel familiar and less intimidating to new users. Digital data was exponentially more efficient for businesses than analog had been, but business systems and processes were still largely using analog-era ideas about how to find, share, and use information.

Then organizations began the process of digitalization, which is the use of digital data to simplify the way work is done. A good example would be how call centres would use digitized data and information to provide customer service. Digitalization would enable call centres to provide better service by making customer records easily and quickly retrievable via multiple devices. The basic methodology of customer service did not change, but the process of fielding an inquiry, looking up the relevant data, and offering a resolution became much more efficient. In summary, digitalization is about the way business operations employ transformative digital technologies and information.

With digital technologies continuing to evolve and newer technologies becoming available, strategists have started generating ideas for using these digital technologies to improve existing ways of doing business, but more importantly, new ways of doing business. That is when the concept of digital transformation began to take shape. Organizations were now able to change their fundamental business models. Uber, for example, heavily incorporated digital transformation to change the way we rideshare.

Digital transformation is about changing the way business gets done and, in some cases, creating entirely new classes of businesses. With digital transformation, organizations are taking a step back and revisiting everything they do, from internal systems to online and in-person customer interactions. The questions being asked are, “Can we change our processes in a way that will enable better decision-making, increase efficiencies, enhance customer experience, empower personalization, and, most importantly, boost profits?”

Therefore, the organizational response to the capabilities provided by the Digital Age is to embark on a strategy of digital transformation of their businesses. Most organizations are integrating their digital strategy with their overall strategy to disrupt the marketplace. 

Digital Transformation in the Educational Sector

Digital transformation has impacted every industry. The education industry is also realizing the benefits of technology through digital transformation and the rise of educational technology. The way instruction is delivered, the assessments, the physical make-up of the classrooms – all of these and more have undergone a transformation.

Educational technology is succeeding in making virtual learning collaborative and interactive. Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality are examples of transformative technology that enhance teacher instruction while simultaneously creating immersive lessons that are exciting and engaging for the student. Virtual reality has the capability of bringing the outside world into the classroom and the other way around. Chromebook sales now account for more than half of all devices sold for U.S. classrooms. The onboarding of technology has enabled the use of SMARTboards instead of chalkboards and pods of SMARTdesks instead of individual seating. The use of AI in higher education has already proven useful. In one university, IBM Watson was used to create a virtual student advisory service that was available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Watson’s virtual advisors fielded more than 30,000 questions in the first trimester, freeing up the actual advisors to handle more advanced issues.

Another use for AI includes chatbots which have been deployed to clear queries around assignments, help students through a paperwork process, such as financial aid or paying bills, and ease the workload of the people who would normally serve these roles. Other applications of AI in education include personalizing learning, evaluating the quality of curriculum and content, and facilitating one-on-one tutoring with the use of Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Gaming technology is another area that makes learning difficult subject matter more exciting and interactive.3

Impact on Project Management

With a major percentage of organizations embarking on a strategy of digital transformation and disruption being the new norm, project leaders are becoming even more essential as organizations recognize that strategy is implemented through projects and programs.

So how exactly are the Digital Age and digital transformation changing project management? The impact is seen broadly at three levels in terms of skills, approaches to the delivery of projects, and the use of next-level tools and approaches that work. This creates both challenges and opportunities for project management and those who manage projects.

According to a recent PMI survey and subsequent study called, “The Project Manager of the Future – Developing Digital-Age Project Management Skills to Thrive in Disruptive Times,” project management will require organizations and individuals alike to embrace a full spectrum of competencies and approaches, along with a wide range of titles and methodologies.

From a skills and competencies perspective, project leaders will continue to need a thorough combination of technical and project management skills, leadership skills, and strategic and business management skills, which are already part of the PMI Talent Triangle introduced earlier in this chapter. In addition to this important triad of skills, organizations will need project leaders to learn and keep pace with existing and emerging technology. In the reality of the “Digital Age,” a new digital overlay has been given to the PMI Talent Triangle to emphasize how digital transformation is impacting every aspect of our work.

Success in today’s digital environment requires a combination of skills, some of which include data science (data management, analytics, big data), an innovative mindset, security and privacy knowledge, legal and regulatory compliance knowledge, the ability to make data-driven decisions, and collaborative leadership. The crux of it is that technical skills are not enough on their own and must be paired with leadership, as well as strategic and business management, in order to support the longer-term strategic objectives of organizations.

With regard to project delivery, organizations have been using a spectrum of approaches— predictive, iterative, incremental, agile, hybrid, and whatever approach will come next to change how work is carried out. Most organizations have embraced the entire value delivery landscape to deliver their projects and programs. Project leaders in organizations see disciplined agile delivery and design thinking as the growing approaches or processes that will be needed.

Exhibit 1.8: Approaches currently used or being considered by project leaders to manage disruptive technologies

The cluster of technologies available in the Digital Age is cutting-edge and disruptive. Organizations must be able to not only understand these technologies, but also to integrate these technologies and tools into their organization. Regarding projects being carried out, leaders and team members must embrace the next-level tools and technologies, applying and integrating them into their project work.

These tools and technologies are a combination of collaborative work management tools, as well as traditional tools, including spreadsheets and traditional project management tools (e.g., Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management, Accolade, etc.), collaboration platforms (e.g., IBM Watson Workplace, Slack, etc.), agile planning tools (e.g., Atlassian, CollabNet, VersionOne, etc.), and collaborative work management tools (e.g., Smartsheet, Trello, etc.).4

Exhibit 1.10: Tools project leaders use to deliver disruptive technology initiatives

In addition to these tools and technologies, project leaders are also relying heavily on technologies that enable effective cross-team communication. Traditional tools, such as email, are cumbersome when it comes to collaboration, as they are not designed for real-time dialogue. Important information is easily buried within endless email chains, and constant email overload negatively affects productivity. On the other hand, collaborative work management software allows team members and co-workers across departments to engage, connect, and interact in real-time, significantly cutting down on email clutter and saving loads of time in the process. But more than just increasing the efficiency of intra-work communication, these technologies are improving its effectiveness as well. When team members are freed from filtering through hundreds of emails a day just to keep up with a project’s status, they are able to spend more time talking about project strategy — which is precisely where the bulk of your team’s conversation needs to be focused. 

Along with facilitating more efficient, strategy-focused communication, modern work management technologies are making it easier for teams to truly collaborate. With the right platform in place, executives, project leaders, and team members can add comments, assign tasks, organize dashboards, approve assets, and handle just about everything else related to the project all in one convenient solution. This deep level of collaboration inevitably leads to a greater sense of shared ownership from teammates and helps foster a cooperative, synergistic environment. Workers who feel they are part of a collaborative effort have been shown to have greater engagement, lower fatigue, and higher success rates than those who are isolated from peers.

As digital transformation automates workflows and coordinates traditional project management tasks like scheduling, Project leaders are getting more time to focus on strategy optimization and project delivery. In fact, the PMI predicts that as digital transformation continues to touch companies across every industry and vertical, Project Leaders will be viewed more as strategic leaders in their organizations: With more digital tools and automated processes at their disposal, Project leaders are homing in on the best ways to align each project with the business’ strategies and goals — and delivering more successful outcomes in the process.

Digital transformation is providing project leaders with the analytical technology to make data-driven decisions, break down patterns and trends, and ultimately enhance project outcomes and success rates. This access to deep data also assists executives and managers in making better-informed decisions faster and easier than ever before. Robust analytic reports help managers keep projects on track and on budget with real-time cost and labour analyses. In-depth data sets can also be easily broken down for stakeholders and executives, giving them precise insight into business impact and return on investment (ROI) on every project and helping them strategically plan future initiatives.

As technology continues to advance at exponential rates, organizations must adapt to the digital landscape or risk getting left behind. Companies that have implemented a digital transformation strategy have been shown to increase performance and revenues. A project leader who is mandated to deliver projects for organizations carrying out digital transformation would need to focus on streamlining communication, improving collaboration, and shifting focus from project processes status to strategy and outcomes. 

Future Scenario – Industry 4.0

In a sense, the Digital Age is spilling over and building up into the early stages of what is termed as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “Industry 4.0.” We are on the cusp of another technological revolution – one that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before and we do not yet know just how it will unfold. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics, information technology, and digitalization to automate production. Now, a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third and is characterized by a fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution, but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.


Project Management Institute. (2017). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2020). Ahead of the curve: Forging a future-focused culture. www.pmi.org/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2020

3Newman, D. (2017, July 18). Top 6 digital transformation trends in education. Forbes. www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2017/07/18/top-6-digital-transformation-trends-in-education/

4Project Management Institute. (2018). Developing digital-age project management skills: The project manager of the future. www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/digital-pm-skills.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en

5 McAbee, J. (2019, October 9). 4 ways digital transformation is changing project management. Wrike. www.wrike.com/blog/digital-transformation-changing-project-management


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Project Management Fundamentals Copyright © 2021 by Shelly Morris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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