5 ways project management can help you hack digital transformation

Only 25% of digital transformation projects yield real benefits, according to the Project Management Institute. Here's how your organization can improve.

3 key takeaways from Tech Pro Research's 2018 Digital Transformation Survey Bill Detwiler spoke with TechRepublic about the findings of the 2018 Digital Transformation Research Report produced by TechRepublic and ZDNet sibling site Tech Pro Research.

Nearly 80% of organizations are undergoing significant digital transformations, but only 25% of those projects have resulted in tangible benefits when measured against their original goals, according to recent research from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

As ownership of digital efforts widens into the C-suite and cross-functional groups—that have a broad view of the organization, according to a recent Altimeter report—company leaders, project managers, and IT must all partner to see optimum results.

SEE: Digital transformation: A guide for CXOs (Tech Pro Research)

Here are five hacks for successful digital transformation, according to Murat Bicak, senior vice president of strategy at PMI:

1. Set clear goals and ROI metrics

Many organizations still face confusion around what digital transformation means at a definitional level, Bicak said.

"It's more than digitization, and it encompasses more than the IT organization," he said. "Rather, it involves the business-wide use of new digital technologies to transform how work gets done in an organization and the kinds of value it can bring to its customers and stakeholders."

Setting clear goals and measurable results can help demonstrate the value of these projects, Bicak said.

2. Ensure executive sponsors are actively involved in projects.

C-suite sponsors must be actively involved in digital projects, as inadequate sponsor support is the no. 1 cause of project failure, according to the PMI report. Conversely, the no. 1 reason strategic initiatives succeed is due to leadership buy-in and support, the report found.

"Being an effective executive sponsor is much more than simply signing off on a program," Bicak said. "It means staying connected with and advocating for the program, communicating its critical role, and helping to navigate challenges."

3. Elevate the role of the project manager

The project manager is evolving from an operational role to a strategy delivery role, bringing expertise on strategy, innovation, and communication, Bicak said. While technical skills are important, they are only part of what project managers need to lead digital transformation efforts, along with leadership and strategic business management, he added.

4. Adopt a formal project management approach

Project management has several proven methodologies that will deliver better results, Bicak said.

"Organizations that invest in project management practices—whether predictive, agile or hybrid—continue to experience greater success than their underperforming counterparts," he added. "They embrace a value delivery landscape mindset, which, in short, is the full suite of methodologies and practices that project managers use to get a project done."

Choosing the approach that best fits the needs of the project and the organization will help minimize risks, control costs, and increase values, Bicak said.

5. Invest in project management

Business leaders must support their project management professionals by providing them with the training, tools, and skills needed to make their organizations most effective, Bicak said. This is especially important today, as demand for project managers far outweighs supply, he added: Employers will need more than 87 million people in project management-oriented roles by 2027, according to PMI research.

For tips on how to become a project manager, check out this TechRepublic cheat sheet.

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