Effective project management is never conducted in a vacuum. Successful projects have always involved input from and coordination with a variety of stakeholders searching for win-win outcomes in a constantly changing environment. Clear communication must always be a goal because it facilitates feedback and buy-in from all team members, which increases the likelihood that the project as a whole will be completed on time, within budget, and with its quality objectives met.
In many organizations, project management involves professionals who are not formally trained in planning. By providing these professionals with access to information, planners can more clearly convey goals and gather the necessary input from everyone involved. Just like computers, the Internet and related technologies are changing the way we do our jobs. These technologies are also making it easier for us to communicate goals and to plan collaboratively, especially with those who have different backgrounds.
Managing aspects of a project
Although collaborative communication is essential to all phases of project planning, technology is proving effective in the areas of time, communications, risk, procurement, quality, and integration management.
Time management. Traditionally, planners would provide printed reports to team members who would, in turn, check off the appropriate items and return the list to be keypunched into a system. The drawbacks to this process, aside from the inevitable data-entry errors, were limited flexibility and lack of timeliness. Team members depended on planners to generate reports, and if the data wasn’t sorted or organized the way they needed it, the only choice was to request a new report and wait for the next reporting cycle.
Now, schedule data often is available on line so authorized users can access it remotely. New browser-based interfaces that are platform-independent or even run on hand-held devices support various departments within an organization. Having electronic access to up-to-date project data, milestone charts, and “to-do” lists means everyone on the team can get relevant information sorted, filtered, and organized to fit specific requirements. Clearly, electronic collaboration on scheduling means more flexible, accurate information and more timely feedback from team members and stakeholders.
Communications management. In project management terms, communication means the effective dissemination and retrieval of current project data, as well as related corporate information such as notices of company meetings, OSHA inspections, etc.
In the maintenance and shutdown arena, on-line communication can translate into large savings. During a shutdown, which can range from a few days to several weeks, planners must retrieve scheduling information daily. Each reporting cycle involves collecting data and entering, analyzing, and reporting on it to produce task lists for the next shift. One company saved more than $1 million last year by exporting plant information to hand-held computers so managers could check off items and upload data back into the schedule as they toured the facility. As a result, shutdown time was cut by several days because of more accurate reports and a shorter communications cycle.
Risk management. Identifying the risks that are likely to affect a project and documenting the characteristics of each risk is difficult. Depending on the situation, it is often impossible for a small number of people to identify all the risks involved in a project. One of the benefits of on-line collaboration is making this information available to more people, especially to those actually doing the work. This provides input risks that might not be obvious to management and can also empower team members at all levels of the organization, providing better overall morale, productivity, and more informed decision making.
Procurement management. In the past, printed lists of required items were distributed to the suppliers that planners knew about or had worked with previously. Today, companies can use the Internet to make procurement needs available on line and get competitive bids from previously unknown vendors. E-commerce is also a way to reduce inventory costs with just-in-time delivery. Online collaboration also facilitates communication between the planners who actually define the materials and the buyers responsible for procuring them.
Quality management. The project manager’s most formidable challenge is to balance time, scope, and cost elements effectively while maintaining quality. Doing so requires that project managers manage change, a phenomenon that is universally acknowledged to occur constantly and usually without warning as part of any project. The earlier in the project life cycle that alterations are made, the easier and less costly the process. Therefore, time spent collaborating with other stakeholders at the beginning of a project is well worth the effort.
Defining a high-level quality statement can, to some extent, be a collaborative effort, but communicating detailed quality goals to the team is collaborative and essential to staying on top of potential problems. The first problem-reporting systems were paper-based and probably not coordinated with other project management deliverables, or in the case of manual data collection, were too time-consuming. As technology developed, the process evolved and can now be conducted on line.
Quality management is similar to risk management in that the more qualified the input on the issues, the better the odds are for success. Modern on-line techniques give more opportunities for timely access to many more team members at various levels of the organization than did paper-based methodologies.
Integration management. Although this process has always been addressed informally, it has only recently been formalized. By its nature, integration deals with coordinating different contractors, systems, components, and other disparate elements. Thus, it permeates all areas of project management.
Developing and managing a project information system is the largest task of integration management and supports every phase of project management from beginning to end. The accessibility and accuracy of an electronic system offers enhanced project awareness and decision making.
The virtual project office
Today’s projects demand a higher level of collaboration and communication than ever before. With the new generation of browser-based project management tools, everyone on the team can access a single portal for the dissemination and input of project planning information. In addition to their low administrative costs and ability to link geographically dispersed team members, these flexible, platform-independent applications run on the Internet, corporate intranets, and LANs and integrate with leading ERP applications. They offer a virtual project office fully equipped with the tools to ensure the timely collaboration and consistency to complete complex projects successfully.
TouchBase is an industry-based project management software. It not only provides higher level of collaboration, communication and other features like timesheet, procurement etc as mentioned in this blog but also give complete insight to project financials along with real-time reports & analytics. This helps a Project manager to take an effective decision. Also, it gives a seamless experience across mobile devices, apps and web platforms.