Rethinking Project Management in the Digital Age

By E. LaVerne Johnson, Founder, President & CEO, International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL)


E. LaVerne Johnson, Founder, President & CEO, International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL)

Though project management has been practiced for thousands of years, dating back to the Egyptian pyramids, it was the 1950s which marked the beginning of the formal project management era. However, since then,the management of projects in today’s globally connected, digital environments has undergone even further transformation due to changes in the underlying technologies, project delivery models, and global value chains. The project manager of today must effectively leverage the following key principles, in order to thrive and be competitive in the digital age, resulting in excellence in project delivery.



Since the late 90s and early 2000s, governments, all over the world, have taken up the responsibility of protecting consumers from the mismanagement of sensitive information, both financial and personal. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999) are a direct off-shoot of such measures. It has now fallen within the responsibility of the project manager to make sure the project and its products are in compliance with applicable regulations. Project managers in certain industries must now possess in-depth knowledge about these governance requirements and how to bring the projects, products, and accompanying data into compliance or risk liability. In direct response to these requirements, IIL has created an entire suite of information security courses that meet the critical needs of the practicing project manager, which specifically spot-light the current governance requirements within various industries and strategies to satisfy them. An understanding of information governance requires that we first appreciate data and its architecture, which nicely segues us into the next topic.


Information Architecture

If ever there is one thing that projects of the digital age do consistently, it is that they generate and consume vast amounts of data. To be able to govern and manage data, project managers must necessarily understand how to audit and classify information. As much as it is important to keep data flow within a project confidential and to maintain high integrity, this effort must not come at the cost of data not being available to those who need it, to carry out their activities. IIL’s newest course, The CISSP®, or Certified Information Systems Security Professional, directly drives this point home by empowering the project manager with definitive knowledge about data classification levels and measures to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of information without compromising on its availability, thus giving him/her a distinct advantage in today’s digital age.


Maturity Analytics

The currency of today is data. Some of the richest companies are not simply financially sound, but also data-rich. The strength of these companies is not in their resources or processes but in the terabytes of accumulated data - data, which if utilized correctly yields pan-organizational wisdom. The project manager in the digital age must possess specific skill-sets to understand the transformative nature of data. A  globally renowned IIL product, The Kerzner Project Management Maturity Model has, for over a decade, been helping organizations understand their maturity with respect to project management knowledge and the ensuing wisdom, through the tried and tested technique of benchmarking, both internally and with similar organizations.


Transformative Change Management

A product is only as good as its users perceive it to be. In order for a product to deliver value, it must deliver both utility and warranty; i.e a product must simultaneously be useful whilst being affordable. IIL’s fully accredited change management courses help the project manager manage reactions and develop an understanding of change by identifying the impacts that initiatives can have and learning to address them, thereby creating a project with lasting benefits for the users of the project’s products.


Negotiation and Interpersonal Skills

Technology is making distances redundant. Though the logistical challenges of communication have diminished, cultural challenges have risen. Negotiation and interpersonal skills have been weapons in a project manager’s arsenal since time immemorial;in today’s age, these terms have taken on a whole new meaning and context. Whilst setting up IIL companies around the world, my mind went on to think about the challenges that a project manager might face while delivering projects using a virtual team, distributed across continents. Being able to interpret and leverage communication, given the challenges that the newer mediums provide, is the need of the hour. If a project manager is to thrive and collaborate successfully, a change in mindset and the building of a bridge between dissimilar cultures is required, through awareness.


IIL’s flagship PM Cert on demand course, aims to solidify disjointed, sporadic understanding of project management processes into a cohesive framework that can be used reliably across diverse projects. This course, designed to be consumed at the learner’s preferred pace, is inter-woven tightly around the PMBOK® Guide, a framework that is not only domainand technology agnostic but also internationally accepted and free from cultural bias. It was designed chiefly to:

• Prepare for the Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam

• Gain the critical knowledge and skills needed to effectively perform project management in their day - to day work environment

The challenges of project management in the digital age are complex, but we must face them and become familiar with them. Continuing education is the first step in understanding and overcoming these modern day obstacles, by honestly evaluating one’s skill set and devising a plan to improve on those found lacking.


I am reminded of the words of Dr. Kerzner, a world-renowned thought leader in project management who once said, “Good project managers learn from their own mistakes and hopefully never make the same mistake twice. Superior project managers rely upon project management education to learn from the mistakes of others”.  I whole-heartedly agree; with a firmly grounded knowledge in project management combined with the updated skill set required for the digital age, there is no project that is impossible for the project manager delivering in today’s world, maybe not even the pyramids!

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