DigitalizationProject Management

Digitization Projects & Project Management 

What does digitization have to do with entrepreneurial and social skills? More than you would think. That’s at least the conclusion Dr. Matthias Eberspächer reaches after having conversations with experts the results of which he describes in one of his newest articles.


In order to read the original article, please click here: Braucht die digitale Transformation ein neues Projektmanagement und neue Projektmanager? [article in German] In my blog post here, you will only find a brief summary of the original and my opinion about the topic. 


Digitization projects are actually digitization programs. Because of their broad scope and rather unspecific goals, digital transformations are often not one project, but instead are comprised of multiple, interconnected projects that together form a program.


According to Dr. Eberspächer this program consists of three phases:

  1. Ideation
  2. Design
  3. Realization


The so-called digitization projects  actually happen in the process phase Design. Dr. Eberspächer describes digitization projects as interactive, interdisciplinary and incremental. In plain English, this means that digital transformations have less clear requirements and (at least initially) an equally unclear path to a solution.


The resulting complexity of digitization projects make it that much harder to plan and manage them. The skill profile of a project manager needed for a project that deals with a digital transformation is displayed very well in a chart [in German]  in the article.


The most important skills?

  • Strategy
  • Culture and Values
  • Versatility
  • Teamwork


“The ideal project manager is basically a management consultant with very good social skills.”


I can only agree with the contribution by Dr. Eberspächer and his call for a new project category for projects that deal with digital transformations. This would not only help with training new project managers as he shows so well, but also simplify our dealings with customers in general and SME customers in particular.


Not many clients initially are aware of the complexity of a digitization project and how much more far-reaching the problem often is than originally expected. And because of the more manageable company size of SMEs, many project managers as well as company owners think that „digitization“ is quickly implemented. Unfortunately this is not the case. 


The program approach is especially helpful for our dealings with clients in my opinion. In the Ideation phase, the project manager can talk about the program as a whole with the client and more clearly define the goals as well as the scope. We do this at the beginning of every project anyways, but to actually include it as a phase of the project or program planning, seems like a great idea to me for digital transformations.


In conversations with my clients during this phase, it has in the past happened frequently that we realized there might be better solutions than the requested one or that the requested solution isn’t even feasible in the current “non-digitized” environment of the customer when talking about the goals of the requested services.


The priority here is to understand the clients’ goals and then propose possible solutions. In the Design phase as well as in the Realization phase, the actual digitization projects can then be implemented and realized.


What I think is very important here is that within the program there can be multiple projects that together support the overall program goal. It is also possible that different project managers support different projects within one program. These project managers can come from outside of the company or can be part of the company.


It is important that the program manager keeps in mind the actual goal of the digital transformation and clearly communicates to the respective project manager how their project and their contribution facilitate reaching the goal.  


What do you think? Do you also think a new project category for digital transformation projects would be helpful? 

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