Online project management is in vogue today. Actually, online everythingis in vogue today. Our investments are online, our news is online, even our friends are online. Why should business and project management be any different?
However, our project management processes should not go online simply because that is the current fad. There needs to be a reason that helps us meet our key objectives. Here are five obvious benefits of online project management. I say "obvious" because you have probably heard these before, but I find that sometimes what is right in front of us is not always obvious - especially if we have not done it before. In other words, what might be obvious to me, might not be obvious to you or someone you work for. You will need to decide whether or not those are benefits that will help you meet your particular key objectives.
First, what do I mean by online project management? In my context, I am referring to the act of taking your project management processes and information and using an online tool to manage them. An online tool could be a website, a blog site, online project management software, a wiki, a discussion forum, a document repository, etc. The key similarity is that it is online, accessible in some way by everyone. Note that this does not necessarily mean that you outsource to a vendor on the Internet. It could mean you setup your own online repository on your own server(s) and make that accessible via the Internet. It also does not necessarily mean it is online over the Internet - it could be online across your organization. However, much of the value and benefits are greatly increased when it is accessible via the Internet.
#1: Everyone Can Access the Information
I realize that this is obvious, but it still needs to be stated. Sometimes folks do not understand the value in everyone having access to the same information at the same time. Put another way, sometimes we do not understand the drain due to the time it takes to track down the right information at the time when we desperately need it.
#2: The Information is Accessible from Anywhere
By nature of the fact that all information is online, the information can be accessed from anywhere. This means that you can access the information from the in-flight WiFi, hotel room, Starbucks, or client site. With the advent of Smart phones, it also means that you can access the information from your smart phone while walking around.
#3: Information is in One Place
Information is important, we use it all the time. We need information on the latest status of a project, information on a document, information on how we are using our resources, or information on issues that have arisen. We cannot get this information easily if it is de-centralized, such as what happens when information is sitting on everyone's individual computers or individual network drives. The very fact that the information is online means that it should be centralized which means that we can (by definition) easily access it.
#4: Security Can Be Improved
Sometimes information needs to be controlled. Either it is important that certain information is not displayed to everyone for security reasons, or it is important that we know where the information is, or it is important that only certain people access any of the information - period. It is very difficult to do this without the information being centralized and many online project management tools provide for this level of security. In other words, if it is in one place we know where it is and it is easier to secure. I should say that there is a feeling that if the information is not online it is secure. I would conclude that information that is scattered in spreadsheets and documents all around the organization with no control whatsoever can never be secure.
I realize that this somewhat depends on the tools that you use - if there is no security built into the tool you cannot make it secure - however I am assuming that you will implement a tool with security if security is one of your requirements.
#5: Lower Cost
Online project management tools do not have to be expensive. Yes, there are high-end tools that will cost you a bundle. But there are also mid-range tools and simple tools that can be brought online for much lower cost. If you need to experience the benefits listed here, it is far more costly to bring online a fancy client/server based tool in-house such as a traditional ERP system or high-end database.
Next time we will flip this and look at some of the pitfalls or hurdles to cross in online project management.