By Steve Sawyer, Divisional director for professional services, Access Group

Technology is transforming the way projects are managed. One of the most fundamental advances technology has made in relation to project management is its ability to provide access to real-time data. This ultimately provides increased visibility of a project to enable it to be managed more efficiently.

One of the most common mistakes that can lead to an unsuccessful project is failure to keep control of capturing time and costs. Businesses can only ensure a project is successful and profitable through both current and forward visibility.
Businesses need to instil the building blocks to effectively monitor projects, in terms of both time and workforce arrangements, in order to grow. One way technology achieves this is by using integrated software to ensure the right tools are available to track project change.

Having access to real-time information is absolutely vital to a successful project as it alerts a business when things are going wrong. It is therefore easy to review and react instantly, by changing tactics or strategy if necessary, whilst being able to closely monitor spending and save on unnecessary costs. Having the ability to track progression, around the clock, also means good results can be easily presented to a customer or client or used to help explain any changes that have occurred.

There are resolutions that all businesses can make in 2015, to ensure they reap the benefits of effective project management.

Five top tips to managing projects this year:

1. Make your software easily integrated

Choosing software with the technology and capability to slot easily into existing working practices could save valuable time, which could be spent on expanding a business.

It is also important to consider how this could help with long-term business goals. Cross-departmental integration could increase visibility over HR, credit control and document automation data whilst making it easier to track project progress and manage finances on a regular basis, across the entire business.

2. Remember that you’re not alone

Project-based businesses should identify the levels of technical support available before deciding on software, particularly when looking to implement a technology to suit both immediate and long-term project needs.

3. Steer clear of paper documents – project enemy number one

Paper based approval processes are a key challenge to businesses, not only taking up time, but hindering collaboration.
British Pipeline Agency Ltd. needed to streamline its internal workflow for recording timesheets, expenses and absence, as the previous manual system of form filling was cumbersome and extremely time consuming. Adopting effective project management software has eliminated the need for manual form filling by employees, who can now submit their timesheets, expenses and absence forms online. This information is made visible to the management and finance teams, without any extra administration needed to re-input the data, saving hugely on time and costs.

Automating document management like British Pipeline Agency Ltd. could mean eliminating rekeying, clerical errors, chasing of handover documents and the need to re-request information from clients. Every time a document is amended, the latest information is also made instantly available to all project stakeholders, making sharing information easier than ever before.

4. Visible projects make life easier

Having the ability to access real time information and WIP (work in progress) management are still major problems within many organisations, whilst nearly half lack visibility on project control data.

By implementing software that offers businesses instant access to vital information, key stakeholders can take early action over any problem and performances can be analysed at virtually any stage. By using effective and reliable software, companies can ensure project delivery lives up to expectations and those of their clients.

5. Find true value in numbers

Capturing time and costs to measure against project timescales is still a challenge many businesses face but having the ability to track change could result in saving on expense. RSK, a UK-based multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy business, adopted software that allowed them to see, in real time, if their projects were coming in on budget. Since adopting more efficient software, RSK have been able to gather information to consolidate all its records into one centralised system, providing a 'helicopter' view of financial data.

Organisations like RSK could have a critical advantage in 2015 if they choose a system that can place tangible and measurable values through every step of each project, capturing time and costs. Rewarding those involved in projects will also become a whole lot easier using this data, to identify top performers and ultimately drive employee engagement and productivity.

There are a multitude of technology solutions available for specific business needs. Integrated software technology is essentially removing the potential constraints of project management by enabling real-time business insights to be shared, while also allowing people to easily and efficiently work on multiple different projects in the same online space. This not only creates both time and cost efficiencies, but it ultimately means that businesses have the ability to operate, and grow, on a global scale.