The popular piece of wisdom states that bigger is better. While that may be true to a certain degree, what often goes unnoticed by the casual observer is the string of problems and challenges that arise as...
Software houses and IT consultancies usually have to be able to manage several projects at once. To that successfully, you need proven project management processes and, of course, reliable project managers that know how to run IT projects.
Still, even with great PMs on board and best practices of project management at your disposal, you may find yourself noticing some optimization opportunities. Perhaps project managers can’t reach their full potential as they’re stuck working on time-consuming reports every week? Or maybe your team members get frustrated by having to juggle data between multiple apps? Fortunately, you can use automation to solve these and other challenges.
You can understand project management automation as the process of automatically completing tasks connected to project management. We’re not talking about delivering projects automatically, for instance, building software without human intervention. No, your team will still have to use their expertise in this area. Instead, automation in project management can help them achieve better productivity by, e.g., avoiding double data entry or utilize more effective communication workflows.
What are the benefits of automation in project management?
One of the more obvious benefits of any workplace automation is better productivity: your teams won’t have to waste their time on some time-consuming, mundane tasks. On top of that, automation can help your employees make better, more informed decisions. How is that possible? Automation can support project management processes through real-time reports, early warning systems, or notifications. Such mechanisms help your project managers and other team members react promptly when something goes wrong. They are also handy when one needs to analyze the project’s state and decide if any optimizations are needed.
Additionally, PM automation helps make sure that your employees make the most of the tools available. Integrating them and taking advantage of automated workflows will give your teams full visibility into different stages and aspects of the project software development lifecycle. You can also likely imagine that automation supports your efforts to improve team morale. After all, when people feel more productive and empowered at work, their engagement is also higher.
6 steps to automating project management at your software house
Define areas where you can use automation
You probably won’t be able to automate some very challenging aspects of project and resource management. For instance, imagine that project requirements in one of your team’s projects change significantly. Having to reallocate resources, alter the project’s timeline, and perhaps even rethinking whether this project is worth continuing business-wise is not something you would be able to automate effectively.
So how can you identify processes where automation makes much sense? Think of areas that are well-established at your software house and repeated regularly. A good example would be the process of kicking off the project, where you usually have several tasks that need to be scheduled every time a new project is launched. By setting up a project kick-off template or workflow in your project management software, you can save time and let your project managers focus on other things than setting up the same tasks over and over again.
Educate your team about automation possibilities
In the previous point, we advised you to analyze areas where your team could benefit from automating their tasks. It’s a solid first step, but chances are that you won’t be able to spot all automation opportunities. It’s valuable to encourage your project team to come up with ideas of their own. To do that, however, they need to know—at least in general—what automation possibilities there are.
Explain to them that there are built-in automation features in different tools they use daily, but there are also dedicated apps (e.g., Zapier) for creating automated workflows. Say you have a project manager who makes notes in Evernote during client meetings, including writing down potential team tasks. When this project manager realizes that they can use Zapier to automatically turn their notes into tasks, they’re likely to implement such automation. Before, they might not have even been aware that such a workflow is possible to build.
Set helpful alerts and take advantage of notifications
Automatic alerts are beneficial—just ask your development team. They probably have alerts set up for when the server is down, or one of the systems fails. When it comes to project management, you can alert the project team when they are approaching the limit of the planned budget.
Email or Slack notifications can act as alerts but also as helpful reminders. Consider the following scenario:
Most software houses use time tracking to monitor the costs of their projects. Unfortunately, it is not rare that employees forget to fill out their timesheets on time or turn on an automatic time tracker. Instead, they add their time tracking guesstimates at the end of the week or, worse even, the month. Obviously, an analysis based on such imprecise data will not be reliable or could even be misleading. An automatic Slack reminder to fill out a timesheet every day can help you handle this problem.
Think about how you can make the life of a project manager easier
A project manager is obviously a crucial role in your project teams. Accidentally, it’s also often a person who performs activities that could be optimized with project management automation. For example, many project managers spend hours writing down project status reports for the clients every week. You might think: it’s essential that our clients know what’s going on in their projects. Sure, but the process of writing down project reports tends to be very inefficient. How can you automate it? Using auto-updating project reports that you configure once and then only check the current status would be a smart choice here. Such reports are available in many PM apps as well as resource management tools.
Select project management software that supports automation
Speaking of apps, you need to make sure that the tools your teams use offer automation options. Otherwise, you will need to create custom workarounds. Sure, it may not be a great technical challenge for a software house to build a personalized integration with a given tool’s open API, but it is an additional cost for your company you should be aware of.
Look for tools that offer custom workflows and triggers, automatic status updates, powerful reporting options, etc. It’s also a good idea to ask specifically about PM automation possibilities during a product demo. The team behind the app you’re considering is likely to give you interesting ideas on how you can automate your team’s tasks.
Don’t forget about resource management!
Effective resource management is an essential strategy for a software house that wants to plan and manage projects with ease. You need to pay attention to resource scheduling, mind people’s availability, and try to maintain a balanced workload. For that reason, many IT companies use a dedicated resource management app on top of their project management software.
An interactive resource calendar makes planning and monitoring projects much easier.
Keep in mind that resource management tools also come with helpful automation features. Teamdeck, for instance, offers Slack/email alerts and notifications, auto-updating reports, built-in integrations, and powerful API. You can use these features to set up alerts or reminders, make sure that project managers can prepare project reports quickly, and connect Teamdeck with your PM software of choice. Sounds like a solution you could use at your software house? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a call with Aniela, our customer success specialist. We will be happy to show you around Teamdeck and give you insights on how you can use this app to make project management processes at your organization more efficient and effective.