Automation is all around us. You can use voice commands to look up a product on your smart home speaker like Alexa or Google Home, and you probably get your electric bill automatically deducted from your checking account. The more repetitive manual tasks we can delegate to machines and algorithms, the more time we have to do really difficult tasks (or really fun tasks, if that’s what you’re into).
Workplace technology has also improved as more people saw the value of automation and instead of continuing to repeat manual tasks started to say, “There’s got to be a way to automate this.” As companies began adding automated features, businesses started asking for more of them, which caused more workplace products to include automation. Beyond just being a fun added benefit, automation has become mandatory if you want to raise the level at which your employees work.
Automated tools are fundamentally changing how we do all sorts of business, including project management. Project Managers keep the product plates spinning, an exhaustingly detail-oriented job filled with manual processes--exactly the tasks best suited for automation. Look for these 4 benefits when you use automation to elevate your project management:
So much of project management in documenting: what’s been done, what tasks need work, and next steps. All of this documentation lets teams learn from their mistakes and improve, but ensuring all those notes get shared with the right recipients should happen automatically.
Most project management tools have already moved feedback out of email and face-to-face meetings and into in-app notifications and alerts. Some tools integrate with communication programs like Slack to even further consolidate communication. Instead of documenting in one tool and updating all of your team members in another, the tool sends out updates for you, which saves you time spent switching back and forth between programs and rewriting your comments in each system.
Project management tools work to bring real transparency into projects. They give team members access to the scope of work, what’s assigned to each team member, and how many projects each team member is currently juggling--all in shared dashboards that give real-time progress. And everyone can check the progress of the team on their own time, which reduces meetings.
It’s hard enough to keep everyone on the team aware of a project’s progress. Triple that for other stakeholders, who have less time, attention, and insight into the nuts and bolts of the current project. C-levels don’t know what development is doing, and sales and marketing sit in adjacent pods with an ocean of miscommunication between them.
You could hold periodic meetings where everyone shares their current project and asks for the help that they need, but these meetings quickly bore the majority. Instead, siloed teams have started gathering around centralized dashboards and reports.
Periodic reports show progress towards business goals. Dashboards give real-time information that managers and c-levels can use to correct course. If you make these dashboards and reports public to all stakeholders, you start using the collective knowledge of the group to spot trends and draw attention to oversights that affect other teams before they become real problems.
The hardest part of planning a future project is understanding what resources you have available, especially your most important and expensive resource: humans. Project management gives you more control over your resources by letting you track how quickly humans work on particular tasks so you can plan for the future.
Ensure that employees track their time spent on each task, and then analyze those data points. Perhaps Jim takes longer on deep work, but switches easily between light tasks. Pam, on the other hand, can get a deep work assignment done quickly if you budget time for her to tune out all distractions, but can’t switch quickly between high level tasks. Understanding how your teams work best and what’s the best use of their time proves useful when planning future resources.
But resource management doesn’t end at hooking employees up with the types of work they excel at. It also gives you a clearer picture of who’s working and who’s free to do more jobs. Project management tools allow you to visually represent your human resources, which keeps you from overloading your reliable resources. Which brings us to our next point:
Good teams are made of members with different strengths, but even better teams are built around learning to correct weaknesses. Project management tools give you access to tons of data about how your employees work, the kind of work they do really well at, and the kind of work they need to get better at. By tracking progress, you’re able to understand trends, pinpoint outliers, and give your team members manageable learning goals without decreasing production output.
Combine the feedback you get from the project management tools with employee interviews and one-to-one meetings where you discuss trends and personal goals and set some professional learning goals based on the data you’ve collected. When you spend less time on the nuts and bolts of communication, you can spend more time on the types of communication that grows amazing team members.
Project Management tools are about more than logging hours and assigning team members to jobs. They are communication tools that are fundamentally changing the ways that we do business because they allow us to take a step back from the daily grind and look at our work from a higher level. Companies that use project management tools effectively become more efficient, better informed, and more innovative.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Scott is the Research and Content Manager at TechnologyAdvice. She lives and writes in Nashville, TN. Follow her on Twitter @T_Scottie