PMI Named Top Skills for Digital Project Managers

The wheel of project management never rests. PMI researchers assume that in the coming years digital project management profession will undergo a remarkable transformation in the skills required for digital project experts.

As outlined in their latest report The Project Manager of the Future, the next stage of project management development will demand a focus on data science skills, innovation, security and privacy knowledge, legal and regulatory compliance knowledge, ability to make data-driven decisions, and collaborative leadership skills.

To be in the fast lane, project managers will have to pay more attention to these six project management competencies. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Data Science Skills

The year 2019 rolled around and presented a new spectrum of competencies for digital project managers to embrace. The first top skill, according to PMI researchers, is the ability to extract knowledge from data with the purpose of improving project outcomes.

To put it simply, business environments will encourage project managers to collect data and draw lessons from past experience, this time backed up by graphs and numbers. Different data sets will become the main decision drivers on various stages of project management — from initiating to closing a project.

Digital project managers will have to learn to view past projects as leverage to perform better in the future. Additionally, they will be held responsible for generating such organizational data that will determine which particular employee skills will complement future projects.

But it’s not the only way how data analytics is expected to influence project management. Based on data, project experts will be able to see if their projects are on track and predict any deviations from their plan if problems crop up.

Innovative Mindset

A course on innovation depends on how ready you are to invest in new project management tools and approaches. Attaining a rank of an innovator can be difficult in risk-averse organizations, though.

According to one PMI article, there are three obstacles that stand in the way of project managers developing this skill. Firstly, some organizations prefer time-tested practices over new ideas. Secondly, despite there is free project management software, tools designed to help PM experts innovate pass by their attention and remain inconspicuous. The power of up-to-date project management software is overlooked or misunderstood by many organizations.

Finally, project managers’ third obstacle is time, or a lack of it, to be specific.  So many different tactical demands and project initiatives should go firsthand, right?

Whatever the project environment, abandoning innovation all together is nearly always counterproductive. — PMI

Nevertheless, you can fuse a variety of methods into your work process that will foster the culture of innovation in your company. The 6-3-5 method, the pool method, the pin card method, the clustering technique — they were all designed to steer the growth of new ideas.

Security and Privacy Knowledge

Needless to say, security and privacy knowledge doesn’t fall outside the remit of the PMO office. Project managers have their part to play in building security into projects they manage.

PMI started to focus on security and privacy knowledge due to the reason that more and more projects are becoming dependent on information systems, which, unfortunately, have security flaws. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, cybercrime now makes up 40% of all recorded criminal incidents in the United Kingdom.

This haul of cyber security attacks should be a concern for every project manager. You never know which project will become the next victim of a breach, so it’s better to weigh up all possible consequences that might follow an attack of this kind. “Without solid knowledge of security, your projects could open your organization to crippling threats,” writes Nick Ismail, a cybersecurity correspondent for Information Age.

What is this ‘solid knowledge,’ then? Are project managers supposed to become cybersecurity experts? No, it will suffice if they know what kind of data they’re dealing with and protect it by all means. In fact, it’s a good idea to start building communication plans and take steps to inform their teams about the value of data they hold.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance Knowledge

At every workplace, there will always be borders employees cannot cross and limits they cannot exceed. There will be different factors and rules that your organization, country, or other institution, has set up to ensure a common process and vision on how things should be done.

In Switzerland, for instance, it’s considered illegal to own only one goldfish. But let’s have a closer look at legal and regulatory compliance knowledge as it relates to project management directly. Every organization has its own rules, laws, and requirements that have an impact on different aspects of project management. These standards may concern budget control, management of scope, and other deliverables.

As you forbid your children to talk to strangers, the same way your company prohibits you from disclosing private project information to PM Column, for example. As unbelievable as it may sound, the company can also establish an appropriate length of your beard or allow only emails written with purpose (check out these 25 ridiculous and crazy workplace rules).

Creating a successful project with compliance, however, doesn’t necessarily mean reaching a specific goal — the journey is just as imperative.

As a manager, you should keep asking yourself if everything you do at the moment adheres to your company’s codex. Were your processes — the planning phase, the execution phase, and the delivery phase — compliant with recent regulations established by your CEO? Do you communicate properly within your projects? Does your team receive regular feedback? Lines of questions. Digital project managers should not only be able to answer them all and plan based on definite criteria, but capable of reacting fast to new regulations that come up their way.

Ability to Make Data-Driven Decisions

Most companies sense that data should form the core of their best project management practices. Using data analytics to focus on different levels of project, program, and portfolio management, project managers will be able to make better decisions and, eventually, improve project outcomes. The power data can give to project managers manifests itself in:

  • knowledge if what they are doing is what they really intended to do
  • insights who or what preempts an initial plan
  • better awareness of true project delivery dates
  • the ability to make impactful decisions backed up by numbers

Organizations that want to become data-driven will expect project managers to use different kinds of metrics. But you should learn what data can do for you in your specific situation. Construction managers, for instance, can use architecture collaboration software to get the right cost estimate for their next building project. Consider training on how to prioritize and sort your data in a way that will have a positive impact.

Collaborative Leadership Skills

According to PMI, technical skills are not enough on their own but must be paired with leadership in order to support longer-term strategic objectives. The notion of collaborative leadership in project management is not new, as its core attribute is the collaboration between a project manager and the organization as a whole.

Control should be the last thing collaborative leaders seek to perform — they inspire others to work as a team. They also have a set of transferable skills that let them engage successfully in stakeholder management and strategic planning. Being a collaborative leader also means you should break down the walls and encourage cross-functional communication.

Collaborative leaders are culturally competent and possess contextual intelligence required to work with different sectors in the organization. These kinds of leaders offer security and trust to their team, at the same time motivating people to take risks. The decisions they make are passed through multiple teams in advance to make them more objective and create a system of shared goals.

These top skills for digital project managers will be key for success-driven organizations. By cultivating them now, you will gain a competitive advantage in contrast to your peers. Also, check out the ultimate guide to improving a project manager’s resume.

Illustration: Copyright © Irena Voilenko

1 Comment

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Ali Razareply
January 4, 2020 at 10:37 PM

Very useful, especially the segment on data-driven decisions and solutions. I feel this skill needs to be applied particularly to contractor management to facilitate discussions about performance.

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