As most any project manager will tell you, you can’t manage the past. You have to manage in the Now to have a chance at staying on top of your projects. “Managing the Now” means providing project managers with current, reliable information on what’s going on. The idea of “current” project data isn’t anything new of course, but it’s astonishing how many projects are managed using data from the construction site that’s days or even weeks old. Historical information is interesting – and it does serve a purpose in the final analysis – but it doesn’t help much on a day-to-day basis when snap decisions need to be made to keep things running smoothly.
If you can do anything to help your projects, your business and the mental health of your project management team, give them better information and good tools to report on that information. They’ll hug you and probably never stop.
It’s like moving from print to digital photography. Digital cameras have made all of us better photographers; if only because we get immediate results on the photos we take. If the photo stinks, take another. The moment is still there and you can keep taking them until you get a good one. Back in the day of print film, it was days later before you could see the result, and by then it was way too late to do anything about it. Giving your project managers that same kind of immediate feedback arms them with the power to make informed decisions on the fly.
So, assuming you can equip your teams with current and reliable field data, the next thing you need to give them is good tools to report on that data. I’m pretty sure most people would agree that a spreadsheet – or even a whole army of spreadsheets – is not a great tool for analyzing and reporting on complex projects. Spreadsheets are not only limited in ability, they’re also the greatest time-waster for project managers ever invented. PMs can spend hours and hours every week just re-keying data, and sharing emails around, and fixing formulas, and endless formatting. All for what turns out to be a restricted, weak and error-prone project report. A spreadsheet is merely a system of record to store data points; it’s simply not an analysis tool. Giving your teams spreadsheets to manage projects is not a strategic solution that drives your competitive edge or core capability.
That’s not to say that spreadsheets don’t have their useful place. 4castplus dumps all kinds of reports out to Excel to give users flexibility in reporting and extended analysis. The difference is, 4castplus automatically pulls the report data from many different places; including budget, actual costs, vendor data, schedule, and purchase orders to name a few. It also performs well-tested calculations on the data for earned value metrics and timeline forecasts as a couple examples. The data that’s populating a report is the result of a tremendous amount of rich information that’s being input into the system on a real-time basis.
These are the things you need to get good at to improve the Core of your business and ensure you stay on top of your competition. All the value your business creates is driven by your Core. Strategic decisions around boosting productivity, practice standards and visibility into business KPIs are all vital to maximize your growth. Sometimes making these decisions requires the Long View on your business: making key technology investments in the right places to improve your Core.