Let’s take a look at a few innovations that project managers can explore to help manage their projects whilst enhancing user experience and most importantly, providing better value to their customers.
Blending web based collaboration tools
A work colleague recently showcased a new social media app Periscope that allows Twitter users to broadcast live video content to a global audience or simply to a selected few. This had us thinking laterally of new ways we, and others will no doubt use this technology to overcome collaboration barriers out in remote workplaces. Described by the founder as the “platform for truth”, Periscope for now remains a social broadcasting app embraced by teens, however it does demonstrate an innovative use of technology that, if used well could potentially work in conjunction with project management software. Overcoming security issues may be a hurdle for early adopters however it just may be a cost effective solution for bettering communication channels within a project team, or an accessible method of communicating directly with their customers
Business is increasingly embracing new solutions to enable better access to information. Society is also starting to expect more alignment between social and business platforms. With so much innovation developed within the social media realm, businesses can do well by monitoring the robustness and value of these applications before considering where they may fit within their technology strategy. So over the next twelve months we’ll see more convergence between web-based business software and apps that were initially introduced within the social media space.
Greater (and cleverer) connectivity
As project management software relies on so many different technical elements ranging from resource calendars, CAD systems and estimating tools to name just a few, the need to be adaptable and integrate with best of breed applications has grown over recent times. There are many tier 1 and mid- market ERP solutions for business than can provide the financial back end and project features to manage complex project stages however where some do well in resourcing they may lack in estimating, so ease of integration becomes critical. There’s been an emergence of .api’s to allow bidirectional data flow between software, however very few solutions could be considered easy to integrate without considerable cost, time, ongoing risk and operational pain.
Now interoperability and open architecture of ERP has never been more important to tech-savvy buyers. Customers who rely on custom built, specialised applications don’t always look for an all in one approach to business software. Now we see the business software market trending more towards SME’s partnering with ERP providers that feature clever connectivity, or systems integrators rather than vendors that claim they can do it all, within a single application.
Project Managers growing consumption of Big Data
Aggregating and preparing data from many disparate systems and sources has become an enormous discussion point for many project based companies. Reliance on instantaneous information allowing them to make informed decisions has clearly been the key driver when considering an enterprise wide BI strategy. As every project manager knows projects can blow out in very short timeframes. Enabling supervisors with real time KPI analysis that factors in metrics such as deviations of planned budgets and project cash flow forecasting can ensure project managers stay ahead of the curve.
The amalgamation of data feeds from asset fleet tracking software and other sources of what’s known as ‘unstructured data’ is increasing. The magnitude and frequency of data used for analysis is starting to cause headaches for CIO’s who look to normalise this data, then digest it within dashboard views.
Many pre-packaged BI solutions fall well short of the mark. On the surface they deliver a standard sub set of metrics but lack the ability to present long term trends and comparisons over time. Efficient data mining and ad-hoc analysis are features that set sophisticated BI solutions apart from lessor offerings, and ultimately this means that many project managers may be missing out on the real benefit of business analytics.
So as larger project companies continue to integrate best of breed software with their ERP and their big data grows, the need for data warehousing solutions becomes paramount in delivering the mechanism to validate, reformat, reorganise and restructure disaggregated data. Data warehousing is becoming crucial in managing and expediting this time-critical information to anyone that needs it. So expect to see more use of pre-built or partially built data warehouse solutions that improve aggregation and metadata management. These tools need to become easier and more intuitive to use as big data grows bigger.
The maturing of mobile
Mobile applications are nothing new, in fact it seems every software vendor has one that can pretty much handle most features needed for companies to run their day to day field activities. What’s different now is how they’re being used by businesses in the project sector, and how mobile applications have matured and now offer the breadth of features and connectivity the market has been expecting.
Employee and Contractor web portals and service/maintenance delivery applications have enhanced the user experience and whilst drastically improving data feedback from site. Mobile apps have grown in sophistication from offering rudimentary transactional features to delivering technical document management and GPS mapping features.
Much like web based collaboration discussed earlier, mobility apps should be as much about enhancing user engagement as they are about data capture. Lack of user adoption is still recognised as a significant hurdle when rolling out a mobility solution. With this in mind project managers will continue to explore how integrated mobility can help run their projects, manage their contractors and fleets of assets.