Data-powered project management

While project management has existed for millennia, it really only emerged as a dedicated professional discipline a few decades ago. 

It's technical, complex work that can be extremely high stakes. Good project and program managers know that their work is a combination of art and science. 

They must create order and structure that allows people to complete the right tasks, at the right time, in the right order. They must inspire people to invest in each element, collaborate effectively, and believe in the end result.

Understanding what motivates stakeholders and understanding that each is driven by a unique context, set of responsibilities and expectations is key.

While the motivations of people involved in an initiative will diverge, information is what bridges the gap between their different objectives and perspectives. When data is accurate, available and used well, work gets completed as expected and stakeholder’s expectations are met.

In years gone by, reams of paper would fill project files, with dedicated teams tasked with bringing order to the paper chaos generated across projects, programs and portfolios of work. In the digital age we have the opportunity to be far more efficient in how we organise, store and share information.

 

As I reflect on the year that was 2020 and what we achieved within the project management industry and beyond it, it has reinforced to me the importance of accurate and available data, and the ability of people to share information for quick decisions and rapid action.

Testimonial

As the pandemic took hold, governments, scientific agencies, researchers and policy makers were able to quickly establish programs of work that would protect us in the short term (through social distancing, quarantine and aggressive testing campaigns). And while there were certainly imperfections, here in Australia we are in a state of infection control that many other countries can only dream about.

Similarly, scientific communities all over the world came together to develop and test vaccines, and many private sector businesses adapted their operations or ramped up production to manufacture medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and more.

Open channels of communication and data that was active and usable made all of this possible.

In terms of my team’s work, COVID-19 added a layer of complexity to projects and programs that we could never have expected. Where before we would often be flying interstate to meet with clients and attend to projects, we’ve had to innovate to achieve the same level of control and confidence.

For a number of years, we’ve been using a product called myProjects, originally developed by our RPS colleagues in Norway, to strategically manage the flow of information through all levels and stakeholders of our larger portfolios and programs.

myProjects establishes a framework around how data is carried from the top to the bottom of a program—from the project manager working on site, to the project sponsor who is sitting in the boardroom—and back again. It empowers stakeholders right along the chain to make the right decisions, because it makes data available on demand (not just at the end of the month when all the reports come due), easy to interpret, and simple to act upon. People are confident, less time is wasted, less things go wrong.

Decision-making powered by technology and fed by accurate, on-demand data was what carried us through 2020 in more ways than one. This approach will be just as important for our economic recovery as it has been for getting Australia to our current state of COVID-normal. Infrastructure—both hard and soft—will continue to be a huge focus as we get the economy back on track, and setting these projects, programs and portfolios up for success must be data-led.

What projects should we prioritise? How can we fund and finance programs? How can we mobilise people effectively to get them done? How can we take the lessons learned from a road upgrade project in Perth and apply them to a hospital project in New South Wales?

Answering these questions is the exciting challenge presented to us in 2021. My team’s goal is to put data at the centre of decision-making, to structure information correctly from the outset and use it to create project outcomes that are the perfect combination of science and art.

Learn more about out data-powered project management tool, myProjects here, or meet our team of RPS project and program management specialists here.

 

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