March 12, 2024

Project Management: can digitalisation unlock the keys to success?




It may come as a surprise, but only 35% of projects undertaken globally actually deliver success [1]. This is a staggeringly low statistic in a scenario whereby globally, companies of all sizes and from every industry are basing more of their work around projects [2], and this is fuelling a growing Project Economy that is expected to be worth US$ 20 Trillion by 2030 [3]. Looked at another way, unless we improve the success rate in project delivery, then (taking the 2030 projections), some US$ 13 Trillion worth of value and innovation from our projects will be left on the table each year.

There are many factors that influence the success of a project, not least how the project plan was designed, how it was budgeted, the level of expertise and motivation of the implementation team, external factors that may arise, the project management procedures and of course the leadership, communication and analytical skills of the Project Management team.

While the elements influencing success may be varied, some of which are unknowns and uncontrollable, there is one aspect that can be controlled and known: Project Management. Project Management is such a critical aspect for project success, that an expert and experienced Project Management team will have the ability to compensate for any failings or shortcomings that might have occurred in the project design phase, they will be able to motivate and bring about the necessary changes to drive the best project implementation team, will continually scan for and mitigate risks, and will have the ability to quickly pivot to contingency against the effects of a sudden curve ball. So, an expert Project Management team will know how to steer a project towards a value output. However, on the flip side, poor Project Management can have a negative impact even on the best designed projects. In short, Project Management, in as much as it can be the veritable enabler for success, it equally has the potential to be the element that pulls a good project down.

It is really important in project management, and in particular in the management of research and development projects, to strike a balance between procedures and flexibility. Effective project management procedures should provide the necessary structure and frameworks to keep the entire implementation team within scope (and scope is essentially time, budget and expected outputs). It is equally important to allow sufficient interrupted runway for creativity to flow, for brainstorming, problem solving, trial and error; here is where innovation and value generation occur.

Given that ‘Projects’ are a concept that have been with us since ancient times- history offers numerous examples of colossal projects that were successfully completed, such as the Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China, and Coliseum [4]- and given the huge relevance of project management as an operative model in today’s modern economy, there is an opportunity for us to dedicate time and focus to analysing what constitutes best practice in successful project management in different contexts today.

One excellent place to start is looking at how digitalisation can and should be an effective enabler. Never before have we been more digitalised, and we believe that here is a key opportunity to deeply analyse how the effective use of digital tools can help us in clawing back some of the success and value that is currently being lost in projects today.

In the recently launched Horizon Europe IS2H4C project, 34 universities, institutes, industry players, SMEs, regional authorities, have come together, and over the next 4 years and with a budget of just over € 23 Million, will drive forward an ambitious initiative to develop a series of innovative solutions for the development of Hubs for Circularity (H4C) in diverse industrial areas of the process industry. The project includes four industrial Hubs that are surrounded by rural and/or urban settings in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Turkey. This is a large scale, interdisciplinary complex project, which if successful promises to reduce the energy use, waste emissions, and carbon emissions in these Hubs by at least 10%, 20%, and 30% respectively, as well as pave the way forward for the development of additional H4C across Europe.

Uniquely in this project, a European startup called Workdeck, has come into the mix, to adapt its enterprise software to provide an effective tool that will be purposely co-designed for the management of collaborative R&D projects. As we move along the process we will analyse what currently works, what hinders, what gaps exist and how we can leverage user-centric design principles, cocreation, user testing and feedback to guide us towards a fit for purpose digital tool that elevates the use of digital beyond a central document repository, that unifies the experience for both users from the Microsoft and Google camps (to make the experience frictionless for all), that gives us an equitable balance between structure, processes and control, while assisting us in collaborating and communicating across a large multi-disciplinary group that is distributed over Europe. Our goal is to leverage a ‘Made in Europe’ software to shape how we digitise project management in the European innovation ecosystem.

…watch this space.

IS2H4C has received funding from Horizon Europe’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme under Grant agreement ID: 101138473.


[1] Harvard Business Review (2021). The Project Economy Has Arrived.

[2] Harvard Business Review (2021): The Future of Work is Projects – So you’ve got to get them right.

[3] Project Management Institute. PROJECT MANAGEMENT Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027

[4] Seymour, Dr. Tom & Hussein, Sara. (2014). The History Of Project Management. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (IJMIS). 18. 233. 10.19030/ijmis.v18i4.8820.