Bring on the Bots
Automating Mundane Tasks Can Free Up More Time for Team Engagement
By Priya Patra
My new best friend in project management is a robot. Ever since I started using software programs last year to automate repetitive work, I have more time to focus on analysis, forecasting and building relationships—the things done best by humans.
Before bots, my day would start with coordinating standups, tracking the status of all the tasks the team was working on and collating this data to generate status reports for stakeholders across projects. My week would end with tracking and approving time sheets, feeding the hours expended on the project into a spreadsheet to predict cost and revenue, and tracking the financial health of the project.
But as my team grew and became dispersed globally, these tasks became more difficult. Spending more than 50 percent of my time coordinating and collecting data left me with less time to make the best project decisions. Software programs have helped me automate the following tasks:
Time tracking: The bot we developed with UiPath Software tracks release and iteration planning entries, generates a burndown chart and sends an email to all stakeholders on the progress of each task. It even assesses the most compliant team and publishes a weekly leaderboard, which creates a friendly incentive for teams to comply with time sheet entries.
Product backlog creation: The bot recognizes the category of a ticket—whether it's a production error or change request—and creates issues or stories in the product backlog. This means we spend less time creating a predefined product backlog, because the bot has it ready before the backlog grooming sessions.
Standup call coordination: We can automatically pull team members into a shared chatroom at any time of the day. The team provides updates, and the bot tracks the tasks assigned to the team member, highlighting any impediments.
Root cause analyses: The bot pulls in data, creates a Pareto analysis of the defects at every phase of the software development life cycle and sends out a report. All we have to do is discuss preventive and corrective actions. Without the bots, this prep work generally would take about two days.
Compliance tracking: The compliance audit bot helps to identify open items, sends follow-up emails and documents status. It tracks progress against the project plan or audit checklist and automates reporting, including report templates and audit committee decks.
Because of bots, I'm more engaged with my teams and stakeholders, and I'm able to better understand their concerns and act on their feedback. I realize that some might view software programs as a threat to their careers. But using bots to do my repetitive tasks will only make me more valuable. Having more time for planning and forecasting helps improve project outcomes. If my projects are successful and my stakeholders are happy, I see no way that I can lose my job. PM
|Priya Patra, PMP, is a regular contributor to ProjectManagement.com and a program manager in the IT sector who lives in Mumbai, India.|