Give 'em what they want

 

GIVE ’EM WHAT THEY WANT

Moving to an on-demand model can help solve the great data deluge.

BY LYNDA BOURNE, DPM, PMP

At a time when everyone in business is buried under an information avalanche, adding routine reports to the data mountain may no longer be useful.

Project reports originated in the days of typewriters and carbon paper. And while today's process usually involves PDF files and email, the fundamental information structure hasn't changed. Project managers are still creating a lot of reports—many of which are outdated by the time they reach stakeholder inboxes.

Maybe it's time for a new approach. After all, most of us expect instant access to our bank account details; why should project information be any different?

Intranets and cloud computing have made real-time, on-demand information a reality. By linking various project information sources to a shared data environment with a simple-to-use dashboard, you can save some time—and do your part to lessen the information overload.

Of course, to maximize value, you need to keep project information current. That means:

  • Issues should be opened, escalated and closed as their status changes.
  • Weekly schedule updates need to be regularly processed, checked and uploaded to the project portal.
  • Monthly cost data must be imported and reconciled.
  • An audit trail of updates and changes should be maintained so everyone can see what information has changed and when.

In addition, you'll need to train your team members and contractors to update their information and read other relevant data.

A well-designed project information system should also include alerts for individuals at all levels when a defined event or condition occurs. For example, team members could be notified if a change has been made to the documents they're using.

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From Push to Pull

Moving project information to an on-demand environment for all stakeholders does require work in the initial setup and training, as well as in ongoing maintenance. Done well, though, it can provide enormous benefits. The primary advantage for project managers is the time saved by not having to compile monthly reports using old information. Other benefits include:

  • Less unwanted data flooding in-boxes
  • Greater visibility and accountability
  • Increased ability to identify and resolve problems sooner

Plus, shifting the bulk of the project information into a “pull” environment opens up your organization's communication bandwidth for effective “push” communication. Important messages can now be sent to stakeholders when necessary, either as stand-alone communiqués or by linking to key information in the project portal. Clearer communication channels mean the message is more likely to be noticed and acted upon.

That just leaves one question: With effective real-time communication, what's everyone going to do in those boring monthly meetings? Perhaps we can save even more time for useful work! PM

Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, is the managing director of Stakeholder Management pty Ltd. and director of training at Mosaic Project Services pty Ltd., both in Australia. Dr. Bourne graduated from RMIT as the first professional doctor of project management.

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PM NETWORK SEPTEMBER 2011 WWW.PMI.ORG

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