The professional environment for a modern project manager is a diverse, multi-disciplined landscape. This complex fusion of information maintenance, personnel leadership, cost containment, and safety management calls for a wide-ranging set of skills.
The need for soft skills like leadership, tact, organization, and personal communication will not change. What has changed and will continue to change is the technology used to implement these skills and bring a project to successful completion.
Technology advancements over the last decade have accelerated changes in society, industry, and business. They have also transformed project management in a multitude of ways.
Communication and Collaboration
Probably no other single aspect of project management is as important as rapid, accurate communication.
According to the Project Management Institute’s 2018 “Pulse of the Profession” report, 29% of project failures result from poor communication. Technology has improved this aspect of project management, from instant messaging to real-time reporting.
Project managers update executives on the progress of a project relative to planning goals in real-time as they receive results from the field. Collaboration software connects team members from remote locations, allowing them to work on the same documents at the same time.
This is an advancement with untold benefits when used to its potential. Designers, engineers, construction supervisors, project management, accounting, and key employees on the ground provide an accurate assessment of overall progress as it exists in reality.
Collaboration technology keeps the project closer to its blueprint, correcting divergence nearly as soon as it happens. Changes to the original plan are easily incorporated into planning and control. Projects are held on track better than ever, improving both cost control and the safety record.
These results might have taken project managers weeks or months to achieve in the past. Now they can handle these matters in days or even hours while yielding results like:
- Keeping the project tighter to guidelines for environment and safety.
- Preserving milestones and holding the line on budget issues.
- Improving the record on timely completion of target goals.
- Providing a documentary trail to trace decision making for process evaluation.
The advent of cloud computing means a low-cost, centralized, scalable method of document storage that offloads IT management and cybersecurity from the project team.
Decentralizing data storage enables remote work for team members. Now the best candidates can be hired regardless of location, not even needing to be in the same country as the firm or the project.
Individual team members and the project manager are potentially available at any time and can provide instant updates, putting perspective on progress or delay.
Cloud computing is also a fantastic driver for team collaboration and real-time reporting. There’s always a current copy of every document available to any team member. Changes to each document happen in real-time, making the very latest version of every document instantly available.
Cloud storage preserves change records in a scalable system. This allows purchasing only the amount of storage needed when starting the project and scaling the amount of storage as you create more and update older documents.
Preserving the record automatically allows later evaluation of the decision-making process and analysis of budget and safety concerns that may arise.
It’s easier to meet regulatory or inspection burdens this way, something that used to be a project manager‘s worst nightmare in the past.
Not so long ago, dedicated project management software was expensive to license, took extensive training and dedicated IT personnel to implement.
Many solutions were beyond the reach of small and mid-sized firms because of hardware and specialist costs, especially when combined with high per-seat licensing schemes.
Now it’s not necessary to bring in high-priced specialist contractors or pay for extravagant hardware. Cloud-based project management software has proliferated, making solutions affordable to project managers in every arena.
Project managers can immerse themselves in completing project goals once they eliminate the additional load of managing software, hardware, and additional IT personnel.
In this way, cloud computing has transformed the realm of the project manager into a more direct process with many fewer distractions involved in documenting progress, information storage, tracking, and report generation.
Safety and Environmental Aspects
Health, safety, and environment issues, or HSE are unavoidable aspects of doing business in today’s world. Consequently, the project manager also needs to plan and track HSE concerns as an integral part of every project.
Perhaps more than any other concern, HSE can drive expenses through the roof due to fines or hospitalization.
Regulatory burdens and environmental violations hold the potential to shut a project down if they aren’t addressed through planning and close tracking of daily goals.
Probably the most influential technology improvements in this area are the Internet of Things or IoT technologies. With measurement and sensing devices connected to the internet, real-time statistics and environment monitoring create an instant snapshot of conditions on the ground and in the workplace.
With reporting stations that monitor access to an area, project managers know which employee is in which area at any time. They can electronically restrict someone who hasn’t received particular training from entering certain zones.
In hazardous environments, it’s possible to track vital statistics like heart rate, respiration, oxygen, and vapor levels. Monitoring sensitive habitats or residential border zones around a project is easy with sensors to detect fumes, dust, chemicals, or people passing into and out of controlled zones.
When the IoT is combined with cloud computing, digital mobile capabilities like phones and tablets, and the potential for real-time reporting, project managers can monitor conditions in the workplace as if they were standing ion-site themselves.
Technology has improved the world of project management, enabling a new world of incredible capabilities.
Not only has it made communication easier than ever, but it also enabled project managers to spend less time managing tedious tasks, and focus more on quality and growth.
For their team members, that means improved safety, fewer margin for error, and heightened collaboration and learning opportunities.
Progressive project managers prepared to take advantage of such amazing, empowering advancements will move their projects and their firms into promising new horizons.
About the author:
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.