More and more people use online, social and mobile tools in their personal lives for things like photo sharing, storing files and chatting to their friends. But when you move into the office environment and talk about using online tools to manage projects, then suddenly you can hear a pin drop.
People can be somewhat old-fashioned in their preference for off-line spreadsheets for work yet they are using Google Docs and online spreadsheets to plan who is bringing what to their kids soccer party next month.
Security is often cited as the reason why project teams don’t adopt online ways of working. Little wonder. Countless news stories about recent hacks have put many people on edge. According to a recent Pew study of Americans’ perception of privacy and security, 91% of adults surveyed “agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.” No wonder many people are hesitant to migrate sensitive company files from hardware server installations to the cloud.
But we do live in a new era. With online project management tools offering bank-level protection and new regulations for industry-specific data security measures required, reputable online project management tools are being used by major corporations and government agencies globally for their secure, even top-secret files.
Beyond security, let’s have a look at some of the other reasons why switching to online project management tools is going to be the best thing you’ve ever done.
#1: Resource Planning
I bet you didn’t expect me to say this first! Resource planning is a huge reason to move to online project management tools. If it was easy to manage project resources across multiple projects, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, even though the textbooks might tell you to create your resource plan at the beginning of the project, experienced project managers will know that resources and their availability change all the time.
You may have people leave the team, or join the team. Resources retire, get sick or take extended breaks like maternity leave. Or another project needs their skills urgently so you can only use them on a part-time basis.
A lot of these changes will happen at the last minute so being able to access up-to-date resource calendars online will be a big improvement against managing resources on spreadsheets. It’s helpful to see an online tool in action, whether or not you use this particular tool.
#2: Task Management
How often have you completed a task but then not been at your PC or desk so you haven’t been able to update your To Do list? Online project management tools often mean that you can manage your tasks from an app on your phone (which you probably will have with you, if you are anything like me).
Adding new tasks is another area where I find my online apps invaluable. I normally do have a pen and paper with me (or can get one from someone else) but then I just end up with lots of scraps with scribbled tasks on. Best case scenario is that I can read my own writing at the end of the day when I come to transfer it to my main task list. Worst case scenario is that I lose the paper somewhere during the day and have forgotten the task by the time I have the chance to add it to my To Do list.
Moving my personal and project task management online has literally stopped these problems overnight.
#3: Project Reports
How much time do you spend preparing project reports for your sponsor? Loads of time, I bet. Project reporting is generally a massive headache for project managers as it can suck up your time and energy and often involves hassling project team members for updates.
Online project management systems draw in real-time data from the project schedule and timesheets to produce the reports for you. Automating the reports frees up your time to do other things (like managing the project!). It’s also really easy to customize templates out of the box and as it is all online your sponsor can access the reports whenever they want.
#4: Document Storage
I spend ages hunting for documents, or at least I did until I discovered online document storage. Cloud-based solutions that let you store your documents in one central repository and then access them from anywhere have really taken off in the last few years and I can see why.
I was forever losing data sticks like USB devices or trying to update a document that was on my iPad and then finding I couldn’t access it. With everything online I can access any project document from any device, whenever I want. And if someone else has updated it in the meantime then I get the latest version, not the last version I downloaded from my email.
#5: Project Tracking
One of the most important things for project managers to do is to track progress. Online tools give you instant access to the latest status by providing efficiency and completion information at a glance. One screen can pull data together from your risk log and show it alongside changes and issues so you immediately know where you should be spending your attention.
As everything is stored in the same system it is all interlinked. You can display the data however you want so there is no need to copy and paste from various spreadsheets to get all your tracking metrics on the same screen. I find this the easiest way to see the health of my project – and to explain it to other people.
When I see how my colleagues who don’t use online tools struggle and then compare that to the streamlined way of working that my project team members and I have adopted over the years, I am constantly surprised. They know that there are better options but they haven’t yet made the jump from archaic spreadsheets and management by inbox to slick online apps. If you haven’t made the leap either, why not? Hopefully these 5 reasons have shown you some of the benefits of switching!
Of course we’re biased, but we do know this: From the smallest of tasks to the largest of enterprise projects, ProjectManager.com can handle everything, store it securely and make it available to you from anywhere.