Fighting fires to finely tuned: Project Management Solutions for smart businesses
There’s an oft-quoted adage in business that may ring some bells: people are promoted to exactly one level above their innate ability.
The results of this situation are pretty obvious – the tasks required of said person aren’t carried out adequately, or at all, with consequences that may result in disciplinary procedure and ultimately, in termination of employment.
Businesses too, however, suffer from the same syndrome. Perhaps an organization takes on a project or client that’s beyond its abilities or commits to a project too many. Resources are limited, expertise is lacking, but, the clients have been won, and the work needs to be completed. The results? Missed deadlines, poor execution, patchy results and unhappiness in all quarters – staff, contractors, clients, suppliers and so on.
Sometimes, organizations continue at this level for many years, often performing badly, but somehow always managing just to stay afloat and keep its reputation, often at the expense of employees’ peace of mind and health.
However, one would hope that an organization placed in a situation that would be a stretch on available resources & ability would quickly equip itself with the tools required. (Tools could mean new people, new expertise or indeed, actual physical tools.) In today’s world, the astute business knows that the application of a little computing muscle can make the difference between maintaining a tenuously-held level of mediocrity and achieving continuously improving standards.
This is where the right project management software becomes the right tool to employ.
Any new project requires planning: in fact, time spent at the planning stage pays exponential dividends. Project management applications allow an organization to identify sequential and dependent tasks and objectives, on levels ranging from establishing significant waypoints down to the single tasks.
But even the finest plans go awry when confronted with the frankly unpredictable real world. And this is where data in the digital domain has the advantage of our forebears’ use of paper documents, plans, chits, purchase orders, invoices and time sheets.
By inputting real-world data against the overarching plan (the original theory, if you will), the plan will be altered gradually, accommodating day-to-day alterations. This means new priorities can be set, new tasks assigned, expectations managed, all parties kept on track, and – especially important – informed.
In this way, modern project management software helps organizations manage the inevitable differences between reality and theory. Additionally, it provides tools to ensure that all parties know about changes as they happen and those changes’ repercussions as the inevitable divergences from the ideal take place.
Realtime updates at managerial level allow for better strategy deployment. Source: Shutterstock
As in most areas of business-oriented software, there’s a great deal of specialist nomenclature and jargon employed by software suppliers, but, put simply, effective project management software helps in the following ways:
Better organization – see and control workloads based on tasks being accomplished. To-do lists, discussions, file storage and calendar features.
Improved communication – improvement in communication channels between management, teams, and clients. Thought processes are evident, as is task assignment and feedback.
Access to resources – allowing pertinent access to what’s needed, by who, when it’s required, easily and quickly.
Collaboration – conversations on specific areas can be easily arranged and managed, logged and referenced by new participants and used as audit trails.
Increased accountability – each body knows what needs to be accomplished and by when, and the expectations are clear to all. Nothing falls through the cracks and there is a clear schedule of events to accomplish goals and keep a project on track.
Project oversight – snapshots for clients, suppliers, managers, supervisors, and stakeholders, from meta views to granular reporting.
Flexibility – the ability to alter any aspect of the project when reality inevitably changes the best-laid plans.
Here at Tech Wire, we’ve examined just four of the multitude of project management options out there:
Realization Technologies was founded in 1997 in San Jose, California and introduced the first software for managing multi-project environments
In consulting, Realization has achieved significant improvements in the delivery of over 5000 projects worldwide. In India, it has delivered over 50 infrastructure projects with 30+ clients including L&T, BUIDCo, Vardhman Group, Welspun Group, Kalpataru Power, JMC, and Hyatt Hotels.
Drawing from its vast experience of executing complex projects in the field, Realization Technologies has introduced a real-time project management system – Concerto – to address the practical challenges that project teams encounter in medium and large infrastructure projects
Concerto uses intelligent prioritization algorithms to automatically synchronize all stakeholders, provides real-time visibility to senior management and generates work-schedules, dynamically, for the frontline.
The following features set it apart from conventional software:
- Intelligent Zooming – project plans that ‘fit in your pocket’ but still have all the execution-level details.
- Field Updates – project plans are automatically updated as frontline people check off their to-do’s, or, update their respective systems
- Real Time Executive Reports – Managers have real-time view of issues, tasks or resources that are slowing projects down
- Intelligent Scheduling Adjustment – as reality changes, task schedules are intelligently re-prioritized to keep everyone perfectly synchronized and working on the right tasks
- Accessible anywhere – web-based design to enable access even on the move
- Integration capabilities – automatic data flow from existing systems, avoiding duplication of updates
For keeping project time and cost under control, Concerto combines instant communication capabilities and intelligent algorithms to provide real-time visibility that is sorely missed in the construction industry today. Read their full profile…
Level35’s OneViewPPM (project portfolio management) application started out life as a business intelligence tool as developed by its founders who, at the time, were working in in different industries and project environments.
By encompassing and aggregating data from different sources, the business intelligence tool code provided “one view”, or a single source of truth for project data. From this, the OneViewPPM was developed.
As enterprise and government organizations move towards larger portfolios of smaller, agile projects, it’s a challenge to keep on top of growing volumes of project reports. Ensuring complex, inter-dependent programs stay on track is where the company’s solutions excel. OneViewPPM is designed to be a portfolio management system, not just a project management solution.
OneView differentiates itself from its competitors due to its use of IBM’s Watson Artificial intelligence (AI) software. Using IBM’s Bluemix cloud, Watson helps evaluate the tone of status reports, from multiple projects. This helps stakeholders evaluate a project’s ‘sentiment’ and when run against Level35’s proprietary algorithm, flags are raised when a project requires intervention.
Level35’s view is that cognitive computing opens the door to rigorous analysis and optimization of project processes that are inherently human – from writing reports to gathering data and negotiating between multiple stakeholder deadlines. Working on IBM Cloud gives Level35 users the flexibility to scale at will.
OneViewPPM is a product that can be quickly trialed by interested parties with minimal configuration, thereby reducing overall risk and potential cost. Read their full profile…
Zoho’s application portfolio extends to its Projects offering, which is used by many large enterprises throughout the world: with clients like Daimler, Jaguar, Times and Netflix, potential customers will be in good company.
Key to Zoho’s success is its presence at all levels of organizations, with its free and low-cost offerings inveigling small businesses into its environment.
Zoho integrates with a host of everyday tools, including Github, DropBox, Slack, and Outlook, plus all the standard feature boxes are ticked by Zoho Projects: project planning, Gantt charting, timesheets, reporting tools, collaboration channels built-in and document management.
The most expensive Zoho Projects option won’t break the bank, with around €80 (US$95) per month allowing unlimited simultaneous projects to be managed and 100GB of document storage. There’s also an option to add on Issue Tracker, which lets teams concentrate on solving ongoing issues such as bug tracking and beta testing.
There are native apps for both iOS and Android, so users can use project management facilities even where traditionally they wouldn’t be accessible.
For integration into other systems, Zoho offers a full RESTful API and there’s a strong user community that uses, and contributes to, the Zoho environment.
Zoho has recently joined a host of other online providers who have removed the far-right site, The Daily Stormer from its client roster.
Deltek is a large, US-based company with offices across North America and Europe, plus a presence in the Philippines and Australia.
The company’s project & portfolio management (PPM) software is designed to manage workflows, costs, and risk. The suite of available products includes PM Compass which offers a single portal that allows users to manage changes to project scope, schedule, and budgets, as well as macro and drilled-down views.
Each of the various project management modules (Cobra, Acumen, and OpenPlan etc.) ‘plug into’ this portal and ensure that all teams in an organization can use a single place to “serve all project process needs.”
Predictive analysis algorithms allow real-time monitoring of performance and can alert management if performances differ from requirements. The “winsight Analytics” analysis module uses the same technology as major search engines, namely associative data modeling, to produce results beyond what would be available by manual extraction and collation.
Deltek’s client base includes some major US Government contracts, so scalability is built into their solutions, and the company boasts a global network of partner providers, so help with deployment can be sought locally.
*Some of the companies featured in this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia
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