Information is a key asset for project teams. It drives decisions at every level and enables PMs to not only mitigate risks and sidestep problems, it also gives them the insight to capitalize on opportunities and consistently achieve excellent results. But the turnaround time for team members to retrieve, analyze, and act on data has never been shorter. To maintain forward momentum, PMs need to look more closely at their ability to provide the kind of real-time updates their stakeholders expect.
If you want to enable more timely access to project information, consider what you should have in place to make it happen.
Clean and reliable data. If there’s one priority in supporting real-time project updates, it’s the availability of information that is accurate and current. Just as project teams need a single version of the truth to successfully execute their activities, the same holds true for the information that drives everything your group does. Before launching any program that includes the use of project data, it’s critical that you ensure every record and file is correct. You don’t want data that’s duplicative, out of date, from an unknown or unverified source, or contains unnecessary information. Review and curate your data so you know you’re leveraging the best quality information possible.
A platform to manage and maintain your data. There’s no way your project team members can find the time or resources to manually curate, update, and archive the huge volume of data even the simplest of projects is likely to generate. A data management platform—supported by well-crafted and rigorously applied administration and retention policies—needs to be deployed if you want to be sure you can count on the integrity of your information.
Technology that enables access to the master database. Just as your team can’t maintain your project’s data storage functions without some help from technologies, they also don’t have the time or capacity to prepare and push updates out by hand. Purpose-built solutions are available that provide not only on-demand access to key project metrics, some are also designed to enable deeper functions—queries based on specific projects and resource types, for example, or sorting features that provide visibility into high-priority, high-urgency issues. These next-level platforms are a good option when executives and other senior leaders want to maintain awareness around key project data but don’t want to wade through day-to-day updates.
Timely data coming in from the field. Front-line workers, vendors, collaborators, and other business partners must be committed to providing regular updates on progress, task status, issues, items that have been resolved, and everything else. Begin by setting expectations around information sharing so that everyone who will be making contributions understands the need for timeliness. You should also be ready to provide them with templates or standardization tools, since you don’t want your team struggling to translate multiple types of data into the preferred formats. Some technology solutions designed to manage project data have protocols and prompts built into the system to ensure everyone submits progress reports on time and that new information matches the expected format. Incoming data can then be processed immediately upon entry.
Taking the right steps will often mean working with your IT group to confirm that new systems or tools are integrated appropriately into the organization’s technology infrastructure and that access, device, and data policies are applied as needed. You may also want to partner with a project management consultancy firm experienced in deploying and maintaining real-time updates. They can help you enable the right capabilities and techniques internally to make your transition as smooth and efficient as possible.