“Integrations, Integrations and More Integrations – The Importance of a Flexible PSM Solution”

By Mark Engelberg – TimeLinx

Intro

Agility is a popular buzzword and pretty much applies to everything related to the world of software. A business has to be “agile” in its approach to customers, how it runs projects, and how budgets need to flex. And more. In this rapidly changing world, you must be flexible and imaginative when it comes to running most areas of your business. “He who does not bend will break”, and that certainly applies to running businesses and projects.

So, when it comes to a PSM solution, it must reflect your company’s agility in how you plan and execute projects, manage staff, manage tasks, and track hours. In other words, how you plan to grow. For example, an electrical contractor started off servicing residential homeowners until the day a commercial building owner called and needed help. However, the project requirements for these very different market types are vastly different. The contractor’s PSM software needs to be able to deal with those flexible and unexpected requirements. Therefore, the most important thing to remember when purchasing a system is that that your business may be forced into unexpected changes in direction. You will still likely need to be able to integrate every aspect of a project but the projects would now be vastly different. This could include assigning tasks, resources, and schedules to manage the arising conflicts between the different deliverables of these projects. Lack of product flexibility just adds a wrench in your processes at the time you need it least. And can literally kill your reputation.

Multiple Projects, Multiple Problems

When you run multiple projects, you will undoubtedly have multiple problems. So many elements need to be balanced, and balanced correctly, that leaving them up to human decision-making without help from technology is usually not good enough. When you have lots of work on the go, some scoped for only a few days, some for longer periods, some using just one consultant or technician, and some possibly using a whole team, you’ll have your hands full yet still need to be on top of everything. If you’re large enough to have a company that employs multiple project managers to manage a large staff, then your issues are multiplied. Then it’s even more important to have a system that lets everyone work in an identical and consistent manner, rather than each PM creating their own workarounds for a system that’s a bad fit.

One apparently small design change, or resolving a human error in a project, can result in large and unplanned changes in that project’s scope. And that scope change can create a cascading impact on other ongoing projects for the same or different customers. Letting the changes get away from you will result in a multiplier effect of unexpected issues. If your PSM software is flexible enough to integrate all the arising issues, able to help you to assess the situation correctly, and give accurate guidance on where resources can be redirected to avert disasters, then you are already halfway out of the woods. What this means is that your PSM tool needs to cover many areas of managing projects. If, for example, the PSM tool is simply a task manager (as many products on the market are), then the PSM can’t advise on the budget impact because managing project budgets isn’t in its feature set. If there’s an impact on schedules, then scheduling needs to be part of its feature set. If the change could affect two dozen people, then you’ll want to have automated notifications in the feature set or you’ll be notifying two dozen people manually in your “spare” time. If the billing becomes more complex over time and you don’t have ERP integration available, then… And so on.

Man Plans and God Laughs

Anyone who has ever run a project, (or ten) knows the sickening feeling when you realize that all your planning from yesterday has gone out the window today, and the scope of the project needs to change.

Teams are scrambled, ideas are thrown around, and flexibility has never been more necessary. You may need to choose between sacrificing budget for time or time for budget. One project with some issues may now be affecting other ongoing projects and you’ll need to split resources on the fly from many projects to try to contain the damage.

Integration is key. Your PSM solution needs to be able to integrate all these elements, and more, while it tracks the impact on all your live projects. Keeping your head above water while handling changes is not a skill that everyone has but will be so much easier with the right tools backing you up. Don’t short-change yourself with a low-end tool thinking you’ll upgrade later. The busier you get and the faster your company grows, the more difficult it is to implement new software while you’re growing. The path to your goal does not need to be one-dimensional, nor does it need to be set in stone. Those that can adjust and still reach the finish line will ultimately grow stronger, both as individuals and as businesses.

Multiple Industries

Not every company services a single industry either. Then, deliverables in various projects may have different tasks which all need to be recorded and tracked. So what would happen in this situation if your PSM solution is inflexible and can only record or track certain types of tasks. Tasks that are on a pre-programmed list, for example, that you can’t alter on the fly because you chose an industry-specific PSM? Take, for example, a real estate management company. Ongoing projects could include gated residential estates, commercial parks, entire communities and maybe even golf courses. Each of these has varying needs and deliverables. There would be very little point in purchasing any project management system that cannot adjust to accommodate all the various needs of your wildest imagination (“We never expected to need to manage a golf resort!”). Trying to keep track of project requirements will quickly become a nightmare if your staff must create workarounds using your chosen PSM solution. So, make sure that you pick the correct one, right at the beginning.

Conclusion

Flexibility is essential to survival in today’s corporate world. The key to flexibility is being able to address changes and issues before they become major disasters, while consuming unnecessary manpower. Being able to record and track data from multiple projects and perhaps different customer types is a necessity. You may not think right now that your business will require something as complex as a “real” PSM solution with features you don’t need today, but on the day you need it, you’ll wish you had it. Integration needs to be thought of as all the features that you may need in as few software solutions as possible. Though integration is often possible with multiple software products and is the answer for vendors that leave out product features, a fully integrated solution will save time, dollars and minimize your headaches well into your future.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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