Modern project management has been around since the days of Henry Gantt. But Gantt and his famous charts never faced the challenges of managing the simultaneous rollout, operation, and maintenance of hundreds or thousands of 5G towers, EV charging stations, or Wi-Fi kiosks. Fast forward more than a century and you’ll find popular project-management solutions aren’t up to the task, either.
These sorts of systems are good at what they’re designed to do, of course. They manage discrete projects: a marketing campaign, the erection of a new office tower, the construction of the Hoover Dam (an early Gantt-chart success). Managing multiple projects with maximum efficiency presents a new challenge, and new challenges call for new approaches. The goal should be to maintain a single source of truth (SSOT) in real-time, one that field staff on up to top management can contribute to as well as tap into. While different solutions pursue that goal in various ways, the aim should be to unify project management data and turn it into information you can act on. Here are five ways to do that.
1) Go with the cloud
When trying to manage a portfolio of projects involving all sorts of documents, maps, permits, and photos spanning wide geographies (and, perhaps, national borders), a unified cloud solution delivered through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is really the only way to go. Bolstering this imperative is the reality that multisite projects generally involve suppliers, partners, and customers whose access and contributions are often indispensable to achieving the single source of truth required to optimize management of high-volume buildouts. Plus, you get the scalability, upgradability, and other benefits of cloud-based solutions – not to mention the ability to run forecasting, asset-utilization, financial, and other analytics with the confidence that the outputs will be based on concrete, up-to-date inputs.
2) Create tailored, streamlined workflows
The easiest way to unify data is to unify the capture, format, and storage of that data. A cloud-based system takes care of the last of those; capturing and formatting data is another matter. Look for systems that standardize data capture through the use of common workflow templates based on industry best practices – but which also enable configuration to your specific requirements and provide the flexibility to capture the idiosyncrasies of a particular project site.
Streamlining workflows pays dividends far beyond data standardization. Doing so enables collaboration, speeds up processes from permitting to project closeout to operations and maintenance, and empowers less-experienced project managers to perform above their pay grade as they grow into their roles, among other benefits.
3) Connect your crews
Usability may seem a distant relation to data unification, but the utility of a project management system ultimately rests on its ability to capture ground-truth data across the portfolio of projects being managed. Field crews and other line personnel must therefore embrace the system and its streamlined workflows.
One good way to ensure strong user adoption is to make a user’s job easier. Connecting crews to mobile solutions they like using (and, by extension, feed with vital data) has other benefits in terms of improving worker efficiency and job satisfaction – both important considerations given the tight labor market.
4) Automate with intelligent reporting
High-quality reporting and analytics are the difference between a sea of data and actionable information. Look for systems that let end users from job sites to the executive suite easily configure reports as well as dashboards featuring advanced data visualization and offer embedded machine learning. If you’ve got 500 projects going, you may want to get predictions on overall performance – or you may want to know which ones are falling behind or are over budget. Such insights can uncover trends based on such factors as project stage (are permitting delays bogging down a particular jurisdiction?), materials availability, or vendor performance.
5) Look for end-to-end solutions
The last thing you need when managing the complexity of a slew of projects is the complexity of a slew of spreadsheets and ad-hoc project management tools feeding – and feeding off – scattered, cloudy puddles of data. Today’s SaaS solutions for the management of high-volume projects harness shared data updated in real-time. They combine project management, the management of a portfolio of projects, field services, and asset management into unified deployment-operations solutions.
Project management has come a long way since Henry Gantt’s day. But had he had these modern tools, it’s safe to say the old master would have embraced these steps – as well as the underlying notion that, to manage a complex portfolio of projects, you need actionable information derived from a real-time, single source of truth. That truth derives from unified project management data.
The views of this guest author are solely that of the respondent, not ODM digital or any of its brand companies.