Project Manager; The Next Great Citizen Developer

Co-Authored by:
Roger Moffat, Director of Global Channels and Alliances at TrackVia
Rich Weller, Director Program and Portfolio Management at MI-GSO|PCUBED

Managing a project is inherently filled with different items that must be planned, tracked and controlled. Budgets, actual hours worked, resource allocation, risks, issues, changes, status reporting, and sign-offs at different stages are items we track to help understand the performance and progress to meet the objectives of our project. Many Project Managers do this with spreadsheets, emails and electronic documents and even paper documents. The larger the project, or the faster the project moves, the higher the likelihood of items falling through the cracks. This risk becomes greater when leveraging manual processes and archaic tools. PMI reports an average of 11.4 percent of investment is wasted due to poor project performance. Poor performance dramatically increases the potential for project failure.

Business process improvement projects abound as we continue to cope with sudden digital transformation brought to thousands of organizations during the initial months of the pandemic. Today’s project managers must master new technology-based processes, and conquer challenges while working from home. They have to improve communication skills and learn how to assess projects remotely. This means staying ahead of technology trends and discovering new ways to increase visibility and manage hybrid projects.

There is also a drive for capable project managers in this new environment. It has been stated by PMI that the project manager labor force is expected to expand by 33% globally through 2027, creating approximately 22 million jobs worldwide. This means demand will be high for project managers who can showcase they can manage these hybrid teams and demonstrate they can streamline operations.

Disruption can cause organizations to make big changes. What has changed in the world of IT? Siri, Alexa, and Google change how the average consumer interacts with technology. Self-driving cars run on software and silicon, not gas. Technology is disrupting every profession. As this article is being written, the project management profession is being disrupted. You have a choice. You can either be disrupted by it, or you can take the lead and help drive this needed change. By leveraging technology tools you can radically improve processes in order to better manage, track, and communicate with nothing falling through the cracks!

Today’s project manager now has a new tool in their toolbox. It is something called “Low-Code / No-Code” (LCNC). No longer does the project manager have to use archaic tools. No longer does the project manager need to wait in line, or get turned down by IT to build a solution. Even better, using LCNC, a project manager can quickly build an app(s) that would have a strategic impact and help reduce churn, without taking coding classes! Imagine: easy input, easy task and resource assignment, automated tracking, auto reminders, reporting, analysis and easy sign-offs. Making a custom app could not only be helpful but potentially be a necessity for you and your teams.

Every solution that we implement involves People, Processes, and Technology. Our profession has long been able to define the processes and leverage the people who need to give input and go execute. In recent years, agile principles have been added to the overall process design to allow for frequent iterations. But we have never tackled the technology ourselves. Why not? “Because I am not a programmer!”

Citizen Development is not about learning a programming language but harnessing visual tools to create the database, workflows, notifications, and buttons to quickly build an easy to modify solution that includes analytics. So build your own app in a day, share it with the team and quickly automate reporting. A new project that is completely different—no problem, build another app or copy the existing one and modify it. If you’re juggling multiple projects, you could use one app interfacing with different groups. The PM should be a citizen developer for your own sanity and to mitigate that 11.4% problem!

Though some of these LCNC tools have been around for years, it has taken the recent surge in digital transformation to push process reimagining to the forefront. Some of those associated tools have been improved to enterprise-grade levels. Citizen Development enables us to transform our job description. We have often toiled to add PMP, Agile, Scrum certifications to our resumes. But these improvements in the process have only incrementally improved the success rate of projects. Those codified process improvements aligned to the job description. Citizen development could move us to redefine the job description or how we execute the existing job by huge leaps. This paradigm shift is exactly what it needed for the project management profession. It needs to be “digitally disrupted”!

Satya Nadal and Gartner both estimate that 500 million applications will be created for businesses in the coming 3-4 years, and citizen developers will write 450 million of them—there are not enough IT personnel available globally to meet the demand. Millions of citizen developers, PMs, analysts, operations people etc. are harnessing these tools to become more effective in their roles and bringing new productivity to their companies—shouldn’t we do the same?

Now that we have built the case for change, here is your call to action: