What does the future hold for digital project management?
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Issue #38

Ask-A-Project-Manager: Future of DPM

(psst: enable images to see this pic!)

So much has been debated and speculated about the future of the workplace and how project managers will fit into that prediction. Obviously, we can't perfectly predict the future, but looking at trends, our current roles, and how our roles have changed over the years can give us great insight into where our work might be going and what skills we'll see a need for in the future.

This week, Patrice dives into this question from a reader head-on—and gives us all some perspective to chew on!

A reader writes:
Looking ahead, how is the PM role likely to evolve in the next half decade? Is there anything I should be doing to prepare for that? 

Patrice answers:
First off, I love how “half a decade” sounds so much better than 5 years! It feels like a lifetime. Which is good, because 5 years really isn’t too far away. So what will change between now and then?

Well, as digital project managers, we have to make sure we’re up on the latest technology, trends, tools, languages, systems...everything. So, will there be some new thing that all your engineers will be using? Probably. But that might happen in 6 months. New stuff is constantly coming at us, and we need to try to stay on top of things.

But it does remind me that the basic tenets of PM don’t really change too much over the years. How do I know? Because I’ve been a PM for 1,000 years so far. What a basic PM does today isn’t terribly different than what I did 20 years ago when I started out - we’re still looking to make sure we understand what needs to be done, we’re defining it and documenting it, and we’re passing along the information to people so they can successfully do the work. Our tools are super different (Patrice of 1999 would be BLOWN AWAY by Slack) but the core of what we typically do is largely the same.

BUT!! What I do see changing, and I LOVE IT, is the PM role is becoming super strategic in more and more companies. We aren’t just taking what sales and our AMs give us and executing, we’re giving real, solid, strategic insight into what we’re doing, and shaping our projects and pipelines as a leader. I see that happening more and more in the coming years. All I’m saying is - AMs better watch their backs. For real, though, the “producer”/hybrid of AM and PM is becoming more and more the norm. So, if you don’t have good client or strategy skills yet - better get ‘em polished up, because I think you’re gonna need ‘em.

This shift is really, really good. PMs have always been uniquely positioned to be not only tactical, but extremely strategic, because we see the universe from all sides and can apply knowledge from one area to another. Now that everyone is starting to realize this, it’s a great time to be a PM. This is where I think we should focus at least some of our energy in the next half a decade. Good luck!

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