What have been the net effects of new technology for project managers?

Friday, June 14th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

As project managers, we're accustomed to working under tight deadlines and accomplishing short-term goals en route to the completion of a task/project.

Advances in technology have provided project managers with ways to work more efficiently and with more agility, but it's also increased the pressure coming from the executive suite.

So, how do we ultimately assess the value of technology to project managers? Has it really made us more productive?

Not according to Seeing Both Sides blogger Jeff Bussgang, whose recent column dissects a phenomenon he calls the "productivity paradox"—even though we live in an age of tremendous technological development, the increase in productivity predicted for these advancements has yet to happen. In the last three years, productivity levels have risen only by 0.6 percent in 2011, 0.7 percent in 2012 and 0.5 percent through the first quarter of 2013.

"Those of us that are immersed in the innovation economy may find this hard to believe, but we are not, as a whole, actually more productive when we are in the midst of an innovation cycle boom," Bussgang wrote. "New technologies take time to absorb, refine and make mainstream. Computer software can be reprogrammed quickly. Humans can't."

Writing for Yahoo Finance, Martin Neil Baily and James Manyika have a similar perspective about the link between technology and productivity. The authors point out we've only seen "middling GDP growth" and high unemployment in recent years, despite a steady stream of new innovations. They also look to the future to see how IT will promote economic disruption in the next decade. They identify four areas with this potential, including:

  • IT and how it's used
  • Machines
  • Energy
  • Next-gen genomics and synthetic biology.

Of course, not all of these advancements will apply directly to project managers. That's why the responsibility rests on business leaders to vet disruptive technologies and think long-term about their possible impact on existing workflows.

Project managers also need to acknowledge that technology will not always save their projects. It's still the responsibility of you and your team to apply the best practices of project management as you work through your project tasks.

Disruptive technologies will affect, for good or ill, existing best project management practices, making timely project management training more important than ever.

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