Don’t Be A Squirrel: Digital Project Management

Don't Be a Squirrel: Digital Project Management

Digital Project Management

By Andrew Foy, O3 Solutions VP of AWP & Construction

The thing I remember most clearly was the sense of dread. You are sitting in the bi-weekly action tracking meeting with the whole project team, and suddenly you see your name on a task that you had totally forgotten about. As soon as the person running the meeting clicks down to that line in the spreadsheet, you know that all eyes will be on you and you scramble to think of a convincing explanation.

I used to loathe those spreadsheets that sit on Sharepoint and you have to remember to update in the few minutes before the meeting. (Hilariously, you could see that there were typically half a dozen people in there at the same time, all scrambling to make changes before we all traipsed into the boardroom). The good news is that there is a better way.

Digital project management is not intended to revolutionize how projects are managed. You don’t need to send everyone back to school to tell them that everything they have been doing to date is wrong and they need to start all over again. It is simply the ability to digitize an existing process.

Take that terrifying “bi-weekly action meeting” for example. The meeting itself still needs to be done, and the critical internal communication between the stakeholders still happens. The key difference is in the mechanics of how you manage the tasks. Get rid of that old spreadsheet with all its filters, and replace it with a digital tool like O3’s ONTarget.

  • New actions can be created on the spot, and assigned to a named individual within the team along with a due date.
  • The assignee will then get regular reminders from the system about the action, meaning there are no excuses for forgetting.
  • Actions are completed and then closed out in the system, so status updates are very simple.
  • Dashboard reporting can provide important analysis of all the outstanding actions to ensure that the process is driven to action and that the team’s attention is focused on the right areas.

Essentially, it’s a checklist on steroids, housed in an environment intended for collaboration. (I cringe every time I hear someone use the term “Excel database”).

Then you can extend this concept of digital project management to other critical areas, which become especially powerful when there are multiple stakeholder groups involved. And again, you aren’t changing what is done, you are just digitizing how it is done.

  • Requests For Information (RFIs) – No more emailing documents back and forth. No more forcing the contractor to maintain a spreadsheet RFI log, remembering to record dates for when each RFI was closed out. No more chasing responses through a string of people to see whose desk it is sitting on. Just a fully digitized system where anyone with access can get an instant understanding of the status of all RFIs, and focus their attention on the ones that will impact the project.
  • Risk Management – Again, for too long this was a spreadsheet that got stuck on a digital shelf and just dusted off when you were coming up to an assurance review. In the digital world, new risks can be easily added and mitigation actions tracked to the assignee and due date to ensure that they get done.
  • Project Goals and Objectives – Identify goals for the project team (or any subset team) and create an action plan for how to reach those goals. Manage the plan using a team board, where everyone can contribute and you can quickly measure progress with accurate weightings.
  • Monthly Project Health Check – Create a standardized and repeatable process for running monthly health check meetings to give your management team a clear view into the status of the project and areas for focus.
  • Phase Deliverables – Many projects have to perform the same tasks for each phase. You can now create a standard checklist of all tasks and just copy/paste it for each new project in your portfolio, ensuring consistency and repeatability. Each deliverable is assigned to a person and tracked to a due date, so everyone knows what they are responsible for.

None of these tasks are revolutionary on their own. But by digitizing your processes, especially in the early project phases, you get your team used to working in a collaborative online database tool and you simplify the early change management. Then, when you’re ready to move on to executing Advanced Work Packaging (AWP), you are already part of the way there.

Ditch Excel. There is a better way.

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