4 ways automation can deliver better project management

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4 ways automation can deliver better project management
By spending time and effort at the outset, a project manager can ensure activity and resources are correctly allocated.
Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

Effective project management is all about keeping a number of critical balls in the air simultaneously.

These moving targets range from budgets and timelines to resource allocation and staffing.

To achieve this, the skill of multi-tasking is an essential one to master. All must be kept under control and heading towards the final desired goal in order for a business to maximise on its investment in resources, time and tools.

For this reason, defined processes are a valuable resource for the project manager. While they take time to document and manage, they ensure consistency and efficiency throughout the project’s lifespan.

Once good process management is in place, process automation can then be brought into the picture. Automated tasks reduce repetitive actions for staff, allowing them to focus on value-adding activities, while also reducing the potential for errors.

There are four key ways that process excellence and automation can help to drive the success of a large project. They are:

1. Understanding the big picture from the beginning

Planning for a project begins well before work actually starts. The scope, deliverables, and stakeholders all need to be identified, then the proposal approved before a detailed plan is assembled.

All of these activities can be captured in processes. Everything from establishing a timeframe and budget to identifying the costs, materials and human resources form part of procedures that can be documented. Those processes will then identify where potential risks, roadblocks and bottlenecks could occur.

Process maps provide a visual guide to the procedures required for the project and where they interconnect. Managers can get an overview of who and what will be affected by any variations, thereby ensuring only the right changes are implemented.

Well-managed processes are also easy to track when automation is applied. Instead of actions like approvals slowing down the workflows, multiple digital signoffs can occur simultaneously, saving time and eliminating bottlenecks.

2. Delivering better reporting

During the execution phase of a project, significant time is devoted to reporting on progress. Overseeing the work includes a variety of organising tasks, from tracking resources and communicating the progress to stakeholders, to arranging meetings with both supporters and workers, and problem-solving issues that arise.

Most of this reporting and organising is data driven, and project managers can make this information visible within relevant process maps. Being able to generate reports automatically provides project managers with superpowers, ensuring less time is spent in data collection and more on analysis and response.

To aid this, digital forms can be used to eliminate extra manual handling and input. Clarifying requirements allows for automatic data routing from online forms, which lets workers quickly and accurately submit information, regardless of their location.

3. Sharing changes in real-time

In every project, the monitoring and control phase is an ongoing activity that runs simultaneously with the execution phase. It focuses on the performance of the project against the established goals, and the course corrections that might subsequently be needed.

As a result of this monitoring, project managers may need to make changes to the project plan, adapting to new developments or changing conditions within and outside of the project.

The benefit of a cloud-based process management suite is that those changes can be made and shared almost instantly. By updating online process content, users can see the revisions in real-time, proceeding with the confidence that they have the latest information available.

Reporting provides much of the momentum for the monitoring and control phase. Automated reports can reduce the lag in information being available, allowing project managers to respond quickly and with agility as conditions change. Continuous process improvement also ensures the project is optimised for efficiency and effectiveness.

4. Gathering learnings after project completion

Once a project has been completed, all activity and results are subject to a review. This is important to determine whether goals were achieved and what lessons were learned along the way.

The wins achieved in a project are not just for that limited exercise. Rather, they should lead the organisation to better outcomes across the board.

In closing a project, the project manager needs to communicate the final status, considering success in the light of the scope and goals, weighing the effectiveness of the team performance and resource use, and allocating what resources remain. There’s a significant amount of data that needs to be shared with a variety of parties to tie up a project.

Data drives improvement, and the closure of a project provides a plethora of valuable insights into the effectiveness of processes. Operational metrics give a great overview of things like productivity, budget, and efficiency. Use that data to identify bottlenecks, breakdowns, and process delays that automation could eliminate or smooth out.

Achieving better project management

Taking a process-driven and structured approach to project management greatly increases the likelihood that goals will be met. Adding automation to the mix boosts outcomes even further.

By spending time and effort at the outset, a project manager can ensure activity and resources are correctly allocated and work in unison throughout the project’s life. Keeping all the balls in the air will be made just a little easier.

Christian Lucarelli, VP Sales Asia Pacific, Nintex.

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