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Doing #business in the cloud, part 2: project management

Mar 11, 2016

In our previous post on business in the cloud, we talked about how doing business very quickly boils down to a question of cost. To that end, we explored cloud computing and how it answered two questions:

  1. What parts of my business could I potentially move to the cloud?
  2. What would be the return on investment?

(To see more on that, click here for part 1 in this series)

This week we will take a look at Project Management in the cloud.

The answer to whether you can move your project management operations to the cloud is simple: yes, absolutely you can. The much harder question is how? Like the variety of projects they are meant to manage, cloud-based project management software comes in a wide range of sizes, costs and capabilities.

The challenge with project management is the increased complexity. It is one thing to have a word document that three people are editing at the same time, but throw in multiple documents, extended timelines, larger teams, and a variety of resources and it can start to get chaotic. Projects themselves vary greatly in size and complexity, as does the type and level of methodology required to manage them effectively.

It all comes down to what you need, but even the smallest project management efforts can benefit from a move to the cloud.

If you are comfortably managing projects using Excel spreadsheets and Word documents, you can take project management to the cloud quite easily with a switch to Office 365, and with a pretty immediate return on investment. By making one set of official documents accessible to the entire project team at all times, instead of being trapped on the project manager’s laptop or a server back at the office, you immediately reduce communication time and the risk of someone working from an older version of the project plan. You can eliminate duplication of data and errors caused by the re-entry of data. You no longer have to chase people down or book in-person meetings for status updates. The value of “one version of the truth” goes up with the complexity of the project.

Interested in bringing in a little more cloud computing power? Microsoft has introduced a preview of a tool called Office 365 Planner. Think of it as a team task management platform, designed to help your team organize and assign tasks, share files, chat about what you’re working on, and get updates on progress.

Have you already stepped up to using Microsoft Project to stay on top of things? Microsoft Project Online brings all the benefits of the cloud to Project, including the ability to stream Project Pro for Office 365 to the computer you’re using. Not only are your documents freed from a single dedicated computer, so is the software needed to run it.

Beyond Office 365, the choices for cloud project management software extend far and wide. There are services built around specific project management philosophies and methodologies, and for specific industries.

No matter the specific package, all cloud project management software share similar benefits:

  • Accessibility of information: Cloud is about access. Depending on your needs, look into things like how much control a particular software package gives you over security, edit versus read-only rights, and compatibility with the devices you use.
  • Productivity and Employee Satisfaction: Wasted time benefits no one. By improving communications and reducing data re-entry, more of your employees’ time can be spent actually moving projects forward. Plus cloud-based tools complement bring-your-own-device policies that can contribute to employee satisfaction.

Some others things to consider:

  • Training costs: How easy is the software to use? Will it involve changing any of your business processes? How much resistance to change will you face with your employees, vendors, and customers?
  • The cost of a poor implementation: Poor planning and inadequate I.T. support, whether by in-house staff or outside consultants, can eat into your return on investment. The most expensive, most powerful project management software in the world will still end up costing you money if it is not rolled out well.
  • The cost of selecting the wrong software: What is the “right-sized software for your company? Are some of the flashy features of a particular software package actually things you need for your projects? What specific business challenges do you need solved with cloud project management software?

Next week, in this series, we look at how the cloud can help streamline your business administration. Stay tuned.

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