Project Management Institute

How Will Project Management Be Changed By 21st-Century General-Purpose Technologies?

A special issue of the Project Management Journal® (SAGE Publishing)

Guest Editors:

John Steen University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Gary Klein University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Jason Potts RMIT, Melbourne

General-purpose technologies can profoundly change economic activity and launch new waves of products and services. For example, the printing press, the steam engine, the telephone, and the computer have all launched waves of creative destruction that have made lasting changes in organizations and society.

Viewing the past, it seems obvious that the steam engine was going to launch the industrial revolution, and the computer would change most facets of modern life, but this is due to the benefit of hindsight. In reality, the transformative effects of general-purpose technologies are very hard to foresee. Agarwal, Gans, and Goldfarb (2018) succinctly capture this problem with the observation that when the first iPhone came out, nobody realized the rise of Uber and said “Well, it’s curtains for the taxi industry” (p. 155).

Sensors that turn information from the operating environment into digital information have existed for years, but they have become cheaper and more powerful, and are also complementary technologies for project management. In economic terms, these have the effect of lowering information costs in projects to almost zero, resulting in important project management technologies, such as Building Information Modeling and augmented reality. These declining information costs will also enable a new wave of general-purpose technologies.

We currently see a new generation of general-purpose technologies that will change 21st-century organizations and will find uses in projects. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have already found a wide range of business applications, but their impact is only just starting to be seen in project management. Similarly, Blockchain (distributed ledgers), originally used for bitcoin, is now used across a wide range of transactions—from finance and insurance to food supply chains and diamond mining. The possibilities for coordinating interorganizational projects with Blockchain exist as well. On the horizon is a new form of computing called quantum computing, which has the potential to handle data and complex computations in a way well beyond the digital technologies we know today. In the same way computers have changed project management over the last few decades of the 20th century, quantum computers may change projects in a way that is presently unforeseeable.

For this special issue, we are seeking papers that find new ways to understand the effects of these technologies on projects and how they will reshape project management in the future. Our existing theories of economics, technology, and organizations provide ways of thinking about the impact of general-purpose technologies on projects and project-based organizations. Given the exploratory nature of this special issue we welcome all forms of submissions that offer insights into 21st-century general-purpose technologies, including critical literature reviews, theory-building papers, and empirical papers with qualitative or quantitative data. Technologies that may impact project management may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Big Data
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Enterprise Modeling
  • Smart Infrastructures
  • Internet of Things
  • Social Media
  • Cloud Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Blockchain
  • Smart Contracts


Full papers must be submitted by 30 September 2020 via the journal submission site ( Papers accepted for publication but not included in the special issue will be published later in a regular issue of the journal. If you have any additional questions, please consult any of the guest editors.

For further information please contact one of the guest editors of this special issue.

Author and Reviewer Guidelines

Special issues follow the same guidelines as those for regular articles. We expect the authors and reviewers to react promptly with their revisions and reviews. A special issue is a project with a scheduled deadline. While some variance may arise, timeliness matters more than that in a regular submission.

Key Dates:

  • Full paper submission deadline: 30 September 2020
  • Reviews and revisions: Winter/Spring/Summer 2020/2021
  • Expected publication: Fall 2021