Over the years, I've done a lot of jobs. One thing that's remained constant: Effective project management - especially in a team-oriented project - can mean the difference between success and failure.
Once the project and budget have been approved, the real work of project management begins. Tracking the project tasks and communicating with the team are ongoing efforts that every PM faces. For some time, a PM has had to rely on the same set of tools. With the latest cloud technology, software as a service (SaaS) solutions are available to help the PM stay more organized and connected with the team.
According to PR Newswire, Gartner research states that almost 50 percent of manufacturers will be using some form of SaaS by 2015. Netsuite is a cloud-based resource management system that provides leaner manufacturing and resource planning to stabilize your company. It gives you visibility across the business in real-time. With this level of visibility to the various processes, you have better manufacturing resource planning and management. You can pay close attention to forecasting and inventory management. Netsuite gives you demand planning capabilities to create a more finely tuned forecast. Using sales projections, trends, seasonal fluctuations and historical data, you can come closer to your on demand inventory needs.
This tool provides a lot of organizational flexibility. The PM has various ways of slicing-and-dicing multiple projects and teams to allow better collaboration and communication. The PM has control over how workspaces, projects and tasks are organized for visibility and easier tracking, according to lifehack.org. Workspaces are work areas that can contain one or more projects and tasks. They can be shared with multiple people. Multiple workspaces may be created to reflect different areas of focus. One workspace could be created for a new-product development effort and another for marketing campaigns for an existing product.
Projects are created within workspaces and can be either public or private. A public project may be accessed by everyone who has access to the workspace, like when you need the entire team to access smaller projects for only a subset access.
Tasks are the work units of a project and they also can be created as public or private. The comment system within tasks allow a greater collaboration between the team members without relying on email. A project history of task communication can be stored this way.
Once a project manager understands how to set up workspaces and projects in Asana, it can become a tool to make collaboration, communication and tracking easier for the PM.
Smartsheet is structured like a spreadsheet with rows and columns and is flexible and customizable that integrates with Google Docs. This is a good choice for specific project management needs that other solutions don't offer. Spreadsheets can be organized in folders or workspaces. Each sheet can be shared with multiple people. The reporting capability is more than just formatted output. Reports can be made to be drilled-down into or used interactively, such as in what-if scenarios. Smartsheet is supported by a number of articles, videos and tutorials. There are webinars available to learn more about how to customize the product to meet your needs, according to reviews.com.
If you are on a limited budget, or if you need a minimal project and resource management system, Google Docs may have enough capabilities for you and your team. This is a hybrid office automation system with word processor, spreadsheet, graphics capabilities and the ability to collaborate on documents. While not organized specifically for the PM, the pieces manage a small project. Just don't expect automatic Gantt chart creation or resource leveling across tasks, according to lifehack.org.
Project managers have dealt with tools that came out 20 years ago or more. Even updated, they don't take advantage of the features that the cloud offers. These tools give the PM more flexibility and choices on how to set up and manage their projects.
Those are a few options, in a nutshell. If you're using something different that you absolutely love, or you have real-world feedback on any of these options, please leave a note in the comments..