Project management has undoubtedly been helped by the march of technology over the years and has become heavily reliant on software which automates and streamlines much of the slog of controlling a project. In fact, nowadays we find ourselves in an era in which portable devices and data held in the cloud make it possible for project managers to effectively administer a project from anywhere in the world with an internet connection present and still have all the details of a project available.
Does this mean that cloud computing is especially suited to project management? Or has it also thrown up challenges to established project management methodologies. Let’s take a closer look.
Why the Cloud?
We often talk about ‘the cloud’ as though it were a physical entity. But of course, it doesn’t actually exist. What you’re doing when you store files on Box or create a document in Google Docs is simply borrowing time and space on someone else’s computer. You need to be aware of that because of course, it raises issues surrounding security and privacy.
But the cloud has many advantages. Not least that provided you have an internet connection, you can access it from anywhere. Whether you’re in the office, in a different office, at home, abroad, or even on the train, you can access your project. This is great for today’s diversified teams because it means that everyone has access to the latest project data, making collaboration easier and ensuring that as schedules change, everyone is up to date.
Another advantage of using software in the cloud – software-as-a-Service or SaaS – is that it’s easily scalable. With a traditional solution installed on an in-house server, adding extra staff may mean an expensive and time-consuming upgrade to systems. With a SaaS solution, you can simply log in. Pricing is usually by the number of users so it’s simple to expand your team and still stay in control of your costs.
There’s no need to worry about having enough storage as your project grows either. Plus your data is backed up by the cloud provider, making it more secure.
Why not the Cloud?
Which brings us nicely on to the potential downsides of cloud use. As with any system, there are potential drawbacks that you need to consider. We’ve already made the point that the cloud is just ‘someone else’s computer’. That means you need to take appropriate precautions, making your own backup, for example.
Cyber security is also a major concern. It’s also vital to carry out due diligence when choosing a supplier. Where will your data be stored? How is it protected? There’s no point finding the perfect software fit for your project management methodology if there’s a risk that your information could be leaked or lost. Just because someone else is processing your data, you are not absolved of your data protection responsibilities.
As with any system there’s a risk of downtime too. If all of your information is in the cloud, then a failure of your internet connection effectively stops you working. Having a reliable service provider is therefore vital and if it’s a super important project, then you may want to look at alternative access arrangements to keep you going in the event of a problem.
The good news is that cloud service providers are aware of the potential pitfalls and, since their business model relies on delivering a reliable service, they will have appropriate procedures in place to cope with problems. It is nonetheless important to check out your chosen supplier carefully and talk to other customers if you can to gauge their satisfaction with the service.
The Case for Project Management in the Cloud
If you’re a global corporation, then it’s likely that you will have your own in-house data centre and along with it, the ability to run your project management systems in-house. You may even have a private cloud to give your staff all the advantages of a cloud solution but run entirely within your organisation. For you, the external cloud is probably not the right solution.
For start-up businesses and small and medium enterprises, however, the attractiveness of project management in the cloud is much greater. For one thing, you will have access to software that is more powerful and comprehensive than anything you could afford to run in-house.
You will have access to the latest updates as soon as they become available and as your business grows, you can easily scale up your software to suit. It also means that people in the organisation can access the software wherever they need it. This is an advantage if you don’t have your own project management team and are relying on freelance contractors too.
Yes, there are some potential issues, but provided that you are aware of them, cloud project management can help you to deliver your projects more effectively and can save you time and money.