(Application of Blockchain in PM)
Interviewee: Lubomira Mihailova/ Luba
Interviewed by: Ciro Sbarra
Luba is an independent PM consultant, trainer and speaker. She researches the application of disruptive technologies in project management.
I had the pleasure to talk with her on a fantastic topic: blockchain and its application in project management.
Ciro: Luba, the last time we saw you, it was at the PMFair last year. You were asking a question if a machine could become PMP® certified. Did you find an answer?
Luba: This was a hidden open question. My target never was to provide a definitive answer. Instead, I kept on asking questions. I continued exploring disruptive technologies – in Smart Cities and Blockchain. My latest research is about the application of Blockchain in project management based on PMBOK v.6, where I built on top of my previous case study on Artificial Intelligence.
Ciro: When Blockchain is mentioned, people often think of Bitcoins. Are the two the same?
Luba: Cryptocurrencies are only one of the potential applications of Blockchain. It is considered a technology with general purpose meaning it can transform many aspects of our lives, similarly to the electricity or internet. The potential use cases are innumerable and so far, the most successful was indeed Bitcoin.
Ciro: Actually, what stays behind this plain name – Blockchain?
Luba: I admit that the name is not sexy, but it is simple and easy to remember. Every transaction or a piece of digital content (personal data, digital assets, IP rights, etc.) is stored on blocks which are then linked in chains. The records are immutable meaning that once put on the block, it is nearly impossible to alter their content. There is no central intermediary to govern the system and to gain benefits from it. Based on the permissions it can be open to everyone, which removes barriers to entry. Imagine it as a self-governed open ecosystem distributed among all participants where records are permanent and everyone can consult them at any time without additional cost and friction.
Ciro: You just described a perfect world but what is the benefit for Project Management? And where is the catch?
Luba: This was my starting point – what might be the benefit for project management. First, I applied Blockchain to the Knowledge Areas in PMBOK®. Then, I mapped the Processes Groups to the processes best served by the new technology – settlement and reconciliation. Further, I zoomed into the respective processes that can be automated. And yes, there is a catch. It is related to the bridging between the physical and the digital world or as it is known – the last mile problem. Here IoT devices can help to some extent.
Another great benefit is the possibility to automate contracts. Ethereum is the second most popular blockchain and it represents the opportunity for enacting smart contracts. I also explored their impact on Procurement Management. I analyzed the potential for automation of the different contract types and came to very intriguing observations and conclusions. Again, smart contracts are not one measure fits all kind of cases.
Ciro: In other words, reducing PM’s work by automation. Is this the new fashion in procrastination?
Luba: Thank you for this amusing perspective! I have not looked from it before. My goal was to analyze how the new technologies will disrupt the PM profession, how the PM role will change and what will be the necessary skillset. Indeed, many of the technical skills will become obsolete, as machines would be able to perform them much faster and with greater precision, and accuracy. But tell me seriously – do you know a person who loves making Gantt charts?
The automation of the technical tasks will allow human PMs to dedicate much more time to leadership and strategy assignments. My view is optimistic. I believe that machines will help us to increase the maturity of the profession.
Ciro: When we are talking about new technologies and their impact on the PM profession, it is fair to say that most industries are currently experiencing a disruptive moment due to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. How do you evaluate the impact of COVID 19 to the ways projects are managed and how could Blockchain be helpful?
Luba: Indeed, all industries are impacted by the pandemic to a varied degree. Project Management, as a knowledge work, is less impacted and proved to be a virtual profession. Stakeholder and Communications Management, facilitated by collaboration tools, increased their value in fully virtual teams. All processes in the other Knowledge Areas can be further enhanced by the application of AI and Blockchain technologies. I am trying to re-imagine the current reality if disruptive technologies were already in place.
From practical perspective the funding of many initiatives is cancelled right now, and they remain only on whitepapers. I believe that in this period many business needs will arise, and new ideas will be generated. After the initial slowdown, I expect a boom of valuable projects making use of disruptive technologies. I think this will be the time when Revolution 4.0 will materialize.
Ciro: In the beginning, you mentioned that your research is based on PMBOK® v.6. Have you not heard that v.7 is coming soon?
Luba: I even kept my deadline to review the draft exposure – 14 February. I could recognize Nader’s signature in the Principles. I think they have a great added value and make a bridging between the Knowledge Areas and the Code of ethical conduct.
What I missed in PMBOK v.7 is a thoughtful analysis on the impact of disruptive technologies and their application. Innovation is just vaguely mentioned as a cause for disruption. I would expect to see these topics covered in v.8.
Ciro: Thanks a lot Luba for discussing with me about this very interesting topic.
Luba: Thank you for the opportunity Ciro! See you soon.
Note: Credit for the cover photograph goes to www.jimdesitter.be.