I got excited when a research report was produced in October 2020. Please don’t judge me based on this statement – getting excited about a report – I do like to read up on the latest going-on in project management.

While the report in question wasn’t specifically on project management, it was one that I had been waiting for. It was the Word Economic Forum The Future of Jobs Report 2020.

It comes out every two years and it “maps the jobs and skills of the future, tracking the pace of change… and the expected outlook for technology adoption, jobs and skills in the next five years.”

The previous two releases – in 2016 and 2018 – have been a huge source of inspiration and interest to me as it has made me think about how the findings apply to project management. This latest release was no different.

I was especially keen to see if and how, in the world of technology adoption, project management would fare as an important skill. I know the importance of project management in technology adoption and digital transformation (more later), so it was fantastic to find The Future of Jobs Report 2020 (see image below) highlighting project managers as a role predicted to be in increasing demand over the next five years.

In fact, if you study the report's top 20 roles in increasing demand across industries, below, I can make the case that project management contributes to many of these increasing-demand job roles:

  1. Data Analysts and Scientists
  2. AI and Machine Learning Specialists
  3. Big Data Specialists
  4. Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists
  5. Process Automation Specialists
  6. Business Development Professionals
  7. Digital Transformation Specialists
  8. Information Security Analysts
  9. Software and Applications Developers
  10. Internet of Things Specialists
  11. Project Managers
  12. Business Services and Administration Managers
  13. Database and Network Professionals
  14. Robotics Engineers
  15. Strategic Advisors
  16. Management and Organisation Analysts
  17. FinTech Engineers
  18. Mechanics and Machinery Repairers
  19. Organisational Development Specialists
  20. Risk Management Specialists 

For clarity, I am using "project" to be more encompassing than what its purest definition is – I’m including programmes and all things change (it just saves me writing all of these out each time). Here’s my list – do you agree?

  • Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists
  • Digital Transformation Specialists
  • Project Managers (of course)
  • Strategic Advisors
  • Management and Organisation Analysts
  • Organisational Development Specialists
  • Risk Management Specialists

And here’s where I’m really going with this article: technology adoption. Technology adoption is a project. Digital transformation is a project – just with a technology hat on.

Implementing AI, process automation, migrating to the cloud, the internet of things, changing to virtual conferencing, etc – these are all projects and won’t be successful without effective project management.

One report from Global Data Centers, a division of NTT (told you I like a report), states: “half of digital transformation projects are always or regularly delayed”. Hmm…

Katherine Tate, Professor of Political Science at Brown University, summed it up beautifully when she said, “Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan”.

So while it is great to see project managers as a job role in increasing demand, it’s much more important than just ‘in increasing demand’ – it’s a job role and skill that business simply cannot afford to do without. Successful technology adoption is not possible without skilled project managers and effective project management.

Unfortunately, I still see too many organisations who haven’t made this connection yet. I’d like organisations to recognise and acknowledge that technology adoption and digital transformation is, first and foremost, a project. Once this happens, organisations can start to formulate their game plan.

[This article was first published on pmtoday.co.uk on 9 November 2020]

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