Fast-Forward

Project Managers Will Still Serve Important Roles in the Future—But In Markedly Different Ways

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By Priya Patra, PMP

What is the role of a project manager in this era of digital disruption? An audience member asked this question in the middle of a panel discussion about the digital future at PMI's Global Conference late last year. Basically, I answered that the world would need project managers no matter how fast technology changes—indeed, because of it.

The role of the project manager will revolve more around people skills, especially as multidisciplinary teams become the norm.

But the question stuck with me and led me to think about what the future has in store for project professionals. Here are some thoughts on what to expect in the year 2033—15 years from now. We'll be there sooner than you think.

Automation

Tracking timesheets, writing change requests, invoicing and other repetitive work will be completely automated. No more tedious status report writing necessary: Software will monitor tasks completed by the team, capturing data and generating reports. All of this will allow project managers to focus on more creative tasks.

Robotics

Bots will collect and disseminate information that project managers used to handle. They'll cover things like process definition, resource planning, task creation and monitoring, providing a 360-degree view of the project to assist the project manager in delivering business outcomes. Project managers will now lead teams containing both humans and bots. The goal is to leverage the best of both.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI will help project managers be closely attuned to the social and emotional well-being of their team. Imagine a workplace outfitted with sensors capable of collecting data that details a person's mood; an AI tool could analyze the data and report out to project managers. This will help them proactively communicate and collaborate with team members to motivate them and foster an innovative environment where people creatively flourish.

The overall upshot: The role of the project manager will revolve more around people skills, especially as multidisciplinary teams become the norm. With fewer teams co-located, communication skills will be the coin of the realm to ensure all parties are aligned to project goals. Project managers will focus more on business outcomes, the team's well-being and building trust with stakeholders.

It's obvious that the future is digital. Less obvious—but no less important, from my perspective—is that project managers can and will be drivers of innovation and creativity in this future. With technology destined to take the lead on many day-today project management tasks, project managers will need to distinguish themselves as irreplaceable before the future has arrived. PM

img Priya Patra, PMP, is a regular contributor to ProjectManagement.com and a program manager in the IT sector who lives in Mumbai, India.

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