The advent of web and cloud based tools has made the project management process virtually unrecognizable from a couple of decades ago. These tools have eliminated some of the disadvantages of offline systems and they have also made real improvements to the way we do business. Here are six of the key benefits of online project management systems.
Improved Resource Management
Human resources – your employees – are key resources in getting any project done efficiently. In the old days, staff could easily become overwhelmed as different managers loaded them up with a range of responsibilities all on the same due date. Online project management tools potentially eliminate that issue. Human resources managers and staff can block out vacation days and other time off, as well as regularly scheduled meetings. That means line managers can easily identify who is available to work on particular projects and for how long. That also makes it easy to group people into project teams so you can manage their workflow as a single unit and use forecasting tools to help you set more accurate deadlines. This is a clear advantage of using an online project management system.
Communication and Integration
With online project management tools, fragmented communication gives way to integrated communication. With all project communication, documentation and resources in a single workspace, then it is easy to ensure that all project team members and managers have access to all the information they need to do their jobs well. Chasing missing emails and files becomes a thing of the past as everything is stored and backed up – and instantly accessible from wherever team members happen to be. Add to that the ability to attach media files, presentations, spreadsheets and documents and you have a remarkably efficient project workspace.
In addition, most online project management systems integrate with the other systems you use for your business, keeping the learning curve short. For example, a good system will work with Outlook or Exchange for calendar management, Salesforce or another program for customer relations management, your chosen accounting package, Google Docs for editing – and more.
Distributed Team Management
This brings us to another advantage – easing the process of working with widely dispersed teams. In the old days, team members had to wait for short windows when time zones overlapped so they could phone each other to make decisions or progress the project. Alternatively, they could fly half way around the world for project team meetings. While face to face meetings still have value, an efficient online project management tool makes it easy to work with distributed teams.
With all communication in a central hub, all the information is there so the project keeps moving no matter where – or when – team members are located. This means that team collaboration is not held up by time zones, leading to greater efficiency, task management and productivity. Team members also spend less time sending reports and updates – and in many cases have the chance to link into the project space via a mobile device – a real boon for off-site meetings.
Real Time Information
Online project management tools also mean that for the first time, team members and project managers can work with real time information. The key to making this work is to have all communication take place within the project management system and recent social media developments can help show the way. In their personal lives, employees are used to posting status updates on Twitter and Facebook; integrating a similar system into the project workspace will make it easy for them to do the same for tasks and projects.
Once this happens, there is no need for people to chase information – everything they need is right there in front of them. This cuts down on unnecessary communication, at the same time empowering team members to work on their part of the project with the most up to date group knowledge. It also helps managers with decision making.
When it comes to costs there are two major benefits of using an online project management system. Software as a service (SaaS) is scalable. You pay a little bit for the licensing, scale up or down as needed and in return your software is always up to date. There’s less for your IT department to do – in fact, you may not need as many IT technicians or analysts. There’s also no need for complex infrastructure to manage projects. That keeps your overall IT and software costs down. And the ability to communicate globally without the need for frequent face to face meetings keeps your travel budget under control too.
The other cost benefit relates to the individual projects. Many of the benefits already outlined – better resource management, streamlined communication, real time information and an integrated project workspace – help you to run projects more efficiently. There is less wasted time and employees are more efficient and more productive. That means you get more for your money on each project.
Improved Business Culture and Strategy
One of the benefits you might not anticipate when using online project management software is an improvement in business culture and strategy. The truth is that when you empower employees to take control of their share of the project and provide updates on the parts they are most familiar with, you begin to move away from a top-down management style. And by giving everyone access to the project workspace so they can see where they fit in, you are accelerating that process. The good news is that generally that results in more creative and innovative solutions to problems.
And there’s one final aspect to consider – a correctly configured and customized project management application allows you to create visual representations of what’s happening with projects and with key aspects of your business. That makes it easy to get an overview of what’s happening (such as whether you are on target, where bottlenecks are and how to improve them) and plan for what you need to do next. That can lead to strategic business improvements, which is another good reason to implement online project management software.