In the digital world, tech, tools and techniques change so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up. Which makes any attempt to predict the future somewhat futile. But, looking back in a year or so, perhaps we’ll find we got it right. History has a way of repeating itself, and there are clues that point to what's next.
We'll likely see more remote teams, more AI. Less time taking orders, less tedium. More strategy and value delivery, a continued focus on healthy teams and relationships. And, most certainly, the emergence of some new technology and media. It's time, we're due.
So what does the future hold for our projects and products and, as importantly, our people who lead them? Short answer, we don't know. But we do know the people who are most qualified to speak to the question. We asked industry DPM pros and Digital PM Summit speakers to weigh in on the future of digital project management. Share your own thoughts with the world by adding a comment below.
Ready to get to it? Alright, don that radiation suit and climb into the Bureau DeLorean…
The Future of DPM: 3 Predictions
1. More Strategy & Specialization
“Digital PM will evolve to be the hub or ‘General Contractor’ for IoT and experience design projects and services. The skills and responsibilities of the role will continue to both expand and specialize. Digital PMs will need to be knowledgable to experts in hardware, firmware and AI tools. As organizations continue to learn how to leverage digital to create connected products and services, Digital PMs will be managing the space in between hardware/firmware teams, data science teams, product managers and end customers.”
— Ian Cox, EVP of Services at Cantina
“As the PM role continues to evolve into a strategic, consultative and marketing position, rather than ‘just keeping track of budgets and stuff,’ we all have to keep our skills sharp and our minds open. This change is great for project management, but it requires all of us to rise to the challenge. I think what we have to remember to do is keep the job description, the actual job duties and the salary we command all in line. I think the actual duties are far outpacing the others.”
— Patrice Embry, Digital Project Manager
“One of the biggest trends we're starting to see is the shift from focusing straight in on the build phase of a project, and now having a laser-focus on strategy. This means PMs have to adapt to how they are running projects. There are more unknowns during a research and strategy phase, and you can no longer put together that perfect plan. What you're delivering isn't always something tactical, and you have to pivot the conversation with teams and clients to validate you're all on the same page.”
— Tera Simon, Delivery Director at PointSource
2. Robots Rise, but Humans Prevail
“As more and more of the world becomes automated, DPMs remain important and relevant individuals who champion our human stakeholders to benefit our human audiences. It is our responsibility to remind our teams that we are not using tech for technology's sake; we are using technology to cater to the needs and desires of the people we care about. We employ ethics, research and careful thought in our work. I believe that in the future of DPM, the importance our role as champion of humans will only become more and more critical.”
— Lina Calin, Digital Project Manager at Foster Made
“I expect and hope that voice user interfaces and artificial intelligence can take over all the tedious, repeat tasks that need doing. Imagine if updating a project plan was done by asking Alexa, ‘Update this project plan to accommodate for these vacations, that extra half-day meeting and make sure we have some time to decompress between workshops.’”
— Shahina Patel, Project Manager at Sigma
“The future of teams, building products digital or otherwise, is rooted in creating human connections in moments that matter. Pretty sure that is the optimist in me, but we have an incredible opportunity to use our work for positive outcomes.”
— Aaron Irizarry, Head of Design for Commercial Card at Capital One, author
3. The End of Agile (as We Know It)
“There’s been a focus on Agile and Agile styles of delivery over the last few years, leading to a slight snobbery around projects that aren’t run this way. I think there needs to be less of an obsession on fitting to an exact process, and more thought given to creating our own processes that work for specific organizational and project needs, using a blend of different frameworks and styles.”
— Suzanna Haworth, Digital Project Director
“I still believe that for Agile practices to take root in the DPM space, we need to see a new form of Agile emerge that is established to cope with all the constraints of agency-focused work.”
— Dave Prior, Agile expert, certified Scrum trainer, author, podcaster
“The future of digital project management is how we go beyond paper pushing and note-taking...to implementing and evolving process in a way that optimizes the opportunity for collaboration between client and vendor. A DPM can try to adhere to the box that is traditional project management...but there is so much more to it than that. A DPM is working in the digital space, an industry that's constantly evolving faster than any traditional project management textbook series could try and publish alongside. How insane (and awesome)!”
— Kelly Suter, Technical Project Manager at BI WORLDWIDE
The Future Is What We Make of It
The future of the industry—and digital project management as a profession—is ours to mold. There's a strong desire in the DPM community to elevate DPMs’ status, and better communicate the benefits a strong DPM brings to both digital agencies and in-house teams.
“Our exact future is unclear because our role in digital is so new; that’s what’s so exciting! This community has an opportunity to define who we are and how we will impact the digital space long-term. I personally hope to see the role become something that has less boundaries.”
— Lynn Winter, Project Management Consultant & Founder of Manage Digital
“I would like to see digital project management have the same resources, role models and profile as the other disciplines we work with, such as development/coding and UX. As DPM matures, I think we’ll see (more) standardization of tools, practices and job roles…
When I first became a PM, I often raised when I needed support for my team or project and that worked some of the time. It was only when I started a new job and had a really incredible PM as my manager that she told me, ‘The way to get anything done in this place is to talk money.’
This piece of advice was gold. The more I spoke to senior managers in a way they were interested in, cared about and related to the company’s performance, the better my outcomes. Being able to speak confidently and competently about money and finances can really set you apart as an outstanding PM. I’ve also found it offers one of the quickest routes to promotion and salary increases.”
— Peta Kennett-Wilson, Founder of Digital Rev
Project management can be a lonely, stressful gig. But it doesn't have to be. Join fellow DPMs at Digital PM Camp.