It’s hard to think of an aspect of society that’s quite as transient as the field of emerging technologies. It’s a sector that is evolving and expanding at an ever-increasing rate. 

With the developments in technology relating to things like 3D printing, artificial intelligence and blockchain, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the science fiction books that you read as a child were actually rather understated. 

 

Complex projects need efficient, goal-setting managers

 

Given the complex nature of research and development involving emerging technologies and the number of stakeholders involved, it’s unsurprising that project management now plays a central role. 

"Set specific goals, create the strategy and outline clear KPIs. Then you can measure if you are accomplishing your mission.”

Dr Larissa Suzuki, a Multi-disciplinary Computer Scientist and Project Manager, is currently conducting research at London’s Global University. While attesting to the crucial nature of the role of project management in the process of technological advancement, she notes that it’s not without its challenges.

“You have to bring a lot of experts and stakeholders together,” she says. “You also have to involve the ‘customer’, like patients if it’s in the field of medicine or people who will be using this new piece of technology in their line of work. It has to be done in a very efficient way so that you can establish a timeline, set specific goals, create the strategy to achieve them and outline clear KPIs. Then you can measure if you are accomplishing your mission.” 

 

Multifaceted projects need united stakeholder management

 

Despite the far-reaching societal implications of emerging technologies and their potential to change society for the better, current project initiatives haven’t always got it right. They have mainly addressed data platforms as single and disjointed ICT development projects. 

“Project managers working on important technology have a responsibility to ensure that the right questions are asked at the beginning."

The problem with this approach is that it disregards stakeholders, data and crucial technology needs. Consequently, such initiatives are susceptible to failure due to inadequate stakeholder input, information fragmentation and overload.

This can leave projects at risk of limiting themselves both in scalability and future-proofing against technological, commercial and legislative change. Which, in the world of tech, seem to occur every other week. 

Suzuki believes that the tech industry needs to reflect on these past pitfalls to create a more multifaceted approach going forward. Effective coordination, systematic system design and established project management frameworks must now come to the forefront to ensure the effectiveness of future projects in this fluid field.  

 

All stakeholders have a role to play; project managers must encourage this

 

“You need to not only coordinate materials and methods well but coordinate stakeholders well,” she says. “Everybody needs to be part of the process at all times; everyone has a role. A lot of uncertainties can emerge during the execution of projects involving emerging technologies; by the nature of the field the stakeholders could change at any time.”

“Project managers working on important technology have a responsibility to ensure that the right questions are asked at the beginning and [that they are] stuck to: What do we want to achieve? When do we need to achieve it by? How will we measure success? It can be easy to get distracted during the project. To get caught up and make decisions without thinking, ‘Is this really contributing to our goal?’”

 

The future lies in project mangers’ hands

 

As science broadens our understanding of the world, new technology shapes our lives more and more. A future in which we could make clean energy from safely-extracted natural gas, use advances in stem cell research to help us regenerate healthy tissue after an injury and use machine-learning tools to accelerate education, is within our grasp. 

How long we will wait for these advances will be down to the success of highly scalable and interconnected technological projects. The effectiveness of these projects will, by all accounts, depend upon project managers and their ability to create the perfect equilibrium between the needs of experts, teams, managers and all other stakeholders.