Pro­ject Man­age­ment: Not Just for the Big Guys Any­more

Af­ford­able—even free—tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions give smaller busi­nesses ac­cess to crit­i­cal pro­ject man­age­ment ad­van­tages.

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Busi­ness own­ers know that the fail­ure rate for projects can be as­ton­ish­ingly high. This not only cuts into profi ts, it can spell dis­as­ter for a com­pany just get­ting off the ground. Pro­ject man­age­ment so­lu­tions can pro­vide a host of ben­e­fits—and, just as im­por­tant, mit­i­gate glar­ing risks—for busi­nesses that im­ple­ment them. Larger en­ter­prises have been reap­ing pro­ject man­age­ment’s re­wards for years, but its ad­van­tages have been out of reach for many small and mid­sized busi­nesses due to cost, com­plex­ity, and other fac­tors. Now, a new gen­er­a­tion of cloud-based so­lu­tions is chang­ing all that.

A com­pre­hen­sive pro­ject man­age­ment so­lu­tion is vi­tal to suc­cess be­cause it di­rectly im­pacts the bottom line.

“Pro­ject fail­ure rates are as­tound­ingly high,” says Michael Fritsch, vice pres­i­dent of pro­ject man­age­ment at Con­foe, a pro­ject man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm. Only eight out of 100 or­ga­ni­za­tions have a pro­ject suc­cess rate greater than 80 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to re­search from the Pro­ject Man­age­ment In­sti­tute. On av­er­age, less than 70 per­cent of projects met their orig­i­nal goals in 2016, 57 per­cent fin­ished within their orig­i­nal bud­gets, and barely half fin­ished on sched­ule.

Among the most sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits Fritsch says pro­ject man­age­ment so­lu­tions can pro­vide are greater pro­ject suc­cess and re­duced risk of fail­ure; bet­ter vis­i­bil­ity for pro­ject team mem­bers and man­age­ment, lead­ing to bet­ter de­ci­sions; reduction in “busy work,” emails, and meet­ings; and keeping ev­ery­one in­volved in the pro­ject on the same page.

The fail­ure to adopt a pro­ject man­age­ment so­lu­tion leaves any busi­ness vul­ner­a­ble to sig­nif­i­cant down­sides. For smaller com­pa­nies, it’s “death by email, files, and spread­sheets,” quips Steve West, co-founder and CEO of Pro­ject In­sight, a de­vel­oper of pro­ject man­age­ment soft­ware and so­lu­tions. In larger or­ga­ni­za­tions, lack of a cen­tral­ized pro­ject man­age­ment tool leads to the creation of work si­los and em­ploy­ees be­ing walled off from each other. “That makes it in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult and time­con­sum­ing to roll up the in­for­ma­tion for the de­ci­sion-makers. Man­age­ment has dif­fi­culty see­ing what’s go­ing on.” Look for multi-task­ing so­lu­tions

The best pro­ject man­age­ment tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions are those that sup­port col­lab­o­ra­tive work man­age­ment, Fritsch says. A good platform should per­form mul­ti­ple pro­ject man­age­ment roles, such as col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pro­ject sched­ul­ing, au­to­ma­tion, and re­source man­age­ment. “They must be cost-ef­fec­tive and easy to use,” he stresses.

For growth-ori­ented SMBs new to pro­ject man­age­ment, the best way to get their feet wet is to pick their three big­gest chal­lenges and go from there, West sug­gests. For ex­am­ple, a com­pany chal­lenged to know how busy its team is, be­cause it has so many si­mul­ta­ne­ous projects un­der­way, might ben­e­fit most from a tool with strong re­source-al­lo­ca­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ro­bust time and expense track­ing fea­tures might top the list for an­other busi­ness. Re­cently, Pro­ject In­sight re­leased PI#team™, a free SMB ver­sion of its fea­ture-rich PI#en­ter­prise™ so­lu­tion. PI#team pro­vides ba­sic pro­ject man­age­ment func­tion­al­ity along with a li­brary of paid ad­don tools for com­pa­nies, al­low­ing them to scale as they con­tinue to grow. It also up­grades seam­lessly to the PI en­ter­prise ver­sion.

Pro­ject In­sight is also rolling out Vir­tu­alPM™, a “pro­ject concierge” that lever­ages AI to fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, up­dates, and in­sight de­liv­ery in cor­po­rate IM ap­pli­ca­tions. Ini­tially avail­able for Slack, Vir­tu­alPM will also be avail­able for Mi­crosoft Teams and reg­u­lar text mes­sag­ing in 2018.

Fritsch ad­vises that first-time SMB users fo­cus on cloud­based pro­ject man­age­ment so­lu­tions that let them “kick the tires” be­fore they buy. “Cloud-based is im­por­tant for ease of im­ple­men­ta­tion and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness,” he says.

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