Online Project Management
Project management is the process of ensuring a project is delivered within scope, time and cost constraints.
The discipline of project management has been made a lot easier over the past few years with the advent of specialised management software. The addition of online collaboration features has extended stand alone project management software and made it simpler to manage remote teams by sharing project schedules, milestones and objectives so that everyone is brought into the process.
Online project management is often undertaken using web based tools that use a browser to display the project data (for example a Gantt chart) and the Internet to enable access by remote users. The project owner is able to decide who can access the project data and to what level of detail they can view it.
For example you may enable a customer to view the rolled up tasks as an overall project timeline but then allow individual task owners to see their own detailed responsibilities. Most of these project management products enable the addition of shared comments and file versioning, so you can keep track of multiple file versions. Others support advanced features that integrate project reports into email and even key performance indicators used by larger businesses.
By using a browser to access project based data anyone with suitable permissions can review the project progress - they do not have to install compatible software on their PC. The slight downside of this is that the functionality and presentation of the project software may be more limited than with a version installed on a local computer.
Project management basic features are:
- Project status and summary at a glance.
- Customizable and personalize dashboard. Show as much or as little information as you preferred.
- Graphical Reporting Tool
- Intuitive and comprehensive reports.
- Project status, task status and resource status at your fingertips.
- Resource Planning
- Identify resources vs tasks pipeline, helps you quickly build plan and manage bottlenecks.
- Project Expenses Tracking
- Expenses tracking, helps you identify, monitor and report on project expenditure.
- Keeps your project within budget.
- Other Features
- Contact management
- Activities log
- Item-level permission
- Audit trails
- Smart-search for item across the entire workspace
- Event calendar
- Items accessed history
- What's new?
In a small business you will probably be working with project team members based in different locations. You may have some people working on a customer site and others working from home. Maybe one or two are working in a small office alongside you.
The successful execution of a project can be very profitable for a small business. The downside is that an unsuccessful project can have huge cost implications and may, in some instances, severely damage the business.
The old way of managing projects, using a single project plan made life quite difficult for the project manager who had to over communicate with each team member ensuring they were on schedule to deliver against their milestones. This placed a lot of responsibility on the project manager.
By using an online project management system you can enable each team member to monitor their own progress against objectives and start to push some of the management responsibility down the management levels. As a small business owner this can result in less meetings or travel as you can control the project better from a central location - maybe your home office.
If there are any changes to the project these can be reflected in the plan immediately so that all team members can see what the changes mean to their own schedules.
The overall cost of project management should be reduced resulting in higher profitability and less pressure all round.
The simpler web based project management solutions are quite compelling for the small business as they have minimal setup and configuration requirements - you can simply go to a website, log in and access the project. The downside is that this ease of implementation means the application may not be as full featured as one of the more involved solutions.
A more complex, server based project management solution is probably of interest to a small business that manages many projects pulling together a number of people based in different locations. In this case you would use all of the features and be in good control of the project work. The downside is that this solution may require additional hardware to run effectively and will certainly need processes in place to backup and manage the project data securely.
Implementing such a solution will take a while as you will need to get up to speed with the software to fully understand its features. There are a number of courses available that can teach you how to use the relevant products over a few days. Those requiring a deeper insight may wish to attend more advanced training over a longer period – maybe about 10 days.