Streamlining and Optimizing the Monitoring of Projects the Digital Way

In our series of articles, How PMO’s Can Catch the Wave of Digital Disruption, we focused on how technology associated with digital disruption is changing the project lifecycle.

You can view our previous articles to pick up ways how you or your PMO can utilize technology to optimize your project lifecycle:

For this article I want to examine how technology is providing us with new options during the monitoring phase of our projects. As we are all aware, monitoring has always been a key area of focus. From the attempted building of the tower of Babel, to Christopher Columbus’s voyage to find the New World. Throughout history, there has always been the case where someone, somewhere had an idea that they were willing to bankroll but required someone to oversee the endeavor for them.

There is no conclusive date as to when the first project manager arrived on the scene. I wonder how it happened? Did the pharaoh, or someone in authority notice that, “You know, that Bob Smith guy sure seems to be good at overseeing the building of the pyramids! It seems like he has a system…I mean, the last two pyramids he built were completed on time and on budget, so maybe he should do the third one as well?” Something tells me that the kings and queens (in the case of Christopher Columbus) quickly realized that they would rather have someone else worry about building their legacy than lose sleepless nights themselves. I imagine that it was case as I hypothesized above on how the broad need of monitoring was born on projects.

This need is increasing as the demand for Project Managers are. PMOs are requiring more hands-on time, larger teams and greater areas of complexity (reference). For project managers to keep all the balls in the air is becoming more challenging by the minute. The required time to monitor and control keeps growing as projects become increasingly complex. Attached to this is the requirement to document and record what is happening on the projects. We project managers have a love hate relationship with the administration required on our projects. It is vitally necessary but the time it takes is starting to spiral out of control.

Monitoring and Controlling the Digital Way

Project administration is a necessary evil.  Seasoned PM’s will tell you if you don’t dot your i’s and cross your proverbial t’s, that Murphy guy will come and make you pay sometime down the line. He normally uses a lack of administration to catch you.

What is the team working on? How long did it take? Have the developers submitted all their timesheets? How are the costs looking? The list of administration goes on and on. Project managers find themselves fighting with team members, PMOs and stakeholders. This is to make sure the relevant paper work is done to keep the quality assurance correct on projects. Is there not a better way that we can get all of the administration done while still focusing on what is truly important?

Enter digital disruption. The technology is now here to get all of the administration done and it no longer needs to be done by us. Here are some of the ways you can utilize them on your projects:

Unit Testing

As project managers we used to have the keys to the city, nothing got approved without the relevant stakeholders’ signature. While this was great for our egos, it was a nightmare with regards to creating bottlenecks.

Automated unit testing is a way that project managers can ensure that nothing gets shipped or approved without ensuring that the quality of code our teams produce are according to company standards.  Change Authority Boards (CABs) can now see if automated tests have been run and if they have passed. If they have, CAB no longer needs to question the project manager about the quality of the project and they don’t need to provide their signature. They can just watch how many items have been moved to production. Can you imagine Amazon needing a human being to give approval and monitor its code changes that go to production every 11 seconds?  (reference)

Our unit tests can trawl through our code and give the electronic thumbs up that our code meets the required criteria.

Blockchain and the Project Manager

As blockchain is disrupting the financial markets and removing the middleman between people wanting to trade, so too is this technology. This is taking away the burden of the project manager to enforce that the administration is being done correctly on their projects.

Using blockchain technology, all stakeholders can submit information onto the project management platform, be that billing, work hours allocated or quality of work. The algorithm will ensure that the work is correctly logged and free from manipulation.

Project managers will no longer need to be the one’s collating all the information into management reports. The project sponsor or other C-level executives will have this data at their disposal due to the public nature of the block. Stakeholders from inside and outside the PMO will be able to quality assure work on the block. Several industries have started to use blockchain technology to establish trust along the supply chain and work with vendors. (reference) Project managers are looking to do the same.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Alongside these new platforms based on blockchain technology, we can have automated bots and machine learning interrogating the day-to-day operations, picking up fraud where team members on the project are not playing by the rules or alerting us to where there might be future problems with teams taking too long or working on non-valuable items. Currently companies are using AI and machine learning to monitor their project data and predict outcomes. (4)

Value Driven Centers of Excellence and Special Advisor Roles

You may find yourself wondering, what will the Project Manager and the PMO do now if they are no longer the Watch Dogs?

Project managers and PMOs will be playing special advisory roles and focusing on projects that will maximize value. The machines will be able to alert us to a problem, but our C-level suite executives will still lean on us to resolve the problems when they arise. Machines are getting smarter and its amazing what they can do in the modern day. Unfortunately they still can’t take a team member to coffee or meet around a table to resolve stakeholder disputes. That is still the role of the project manager in this digital age and now, because of technology, we can focus on what counts while our digital tools deal with the necessary evil of administration.

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson runs Acuity Training, an IT training business offering classroom courses in London and Guildford, Surrey. A leading provider of MS Project training the UK, it offers a full range of Project courses, from introductory courses through to advanced.

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