In one of its simplest definitions, project management is managing a movement from one state to another. For example, the goal of a project might be to build a house. Managing this project would mean managing a movement from not having a house to having a completed, livable house. What actually helped in the completion of the project is a discipline involving a set of specific skills that enabled a person, the project manager, to perform a sequence of tasks. Some of these tasks include defining the scope and goal of the project, breaking the project to tasks and subtasks, setting schedules and milestones, identifying resources and assigning tasks, computing the cost, presenting a budget, managing risks, tracking progress, and giving status reports.
For project managers to do all these tasks well, they need the support and approval of stakeholders, of course. Furthermore, they need a place and time to do these tasks. They need equipment and information to help materialize the ideas and plans into actual project plans and reports. They also need productivity tools to perform and manage all these tasks more efficiently, so that the project will accomplish its goals, within schedule and budget, to the satisfaction of all involved. Among the newest tools that are now driving change in many aspects of the business process is the mobile device. Does project management also need the mobile device?
Mobile Device Trends and Statistics
A mobile device is usually a computer or a smartphone that is smaller than a laptop or a notebook but has more features than an ordinary text-and-call cellphone. These devices may include Android devices, Apple’s iOS tablets and phones, devices running Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry phones. Recently, BlackBerry announced that its BlackBerry Messaging service will be available for free on iOS and Android, a cross-platform event. Some are calling 2013 the Mobile Year, where sometime in the middle of the year, the count of active mobile subscriptions will match, and shortly surpass, the world’s population of 7.1 billion. In the US alone, the average subscriber owns 1.57 devices. Google reported that 90 percent of Americans start one task on one device and complete it on another device.
Presently, more consumers are still spending time on desktop, twice as much in fact, than with mobile. However, the growth rate of time spent with mobile is increasing 14 times more than with desktop, so pretty soon, they will be equal. Another increase seen is Internet traffic coming from mobile devices. Companies and products are now coming up with either mobile sites or mobile applications. Many productivity tools are now offering mobile-capable features or integration with existing mobile apps. Cloud-based products and software-as-a-service providers now also offer mobile project management functionality. Project managers may ask, are mobile devices really helpful in performing project management?
Change and Mobility
Certain driving factors cause the creation of projects. It can be from competitors, prompting a business or organization to start a project to remain competitive. It can be from customers, demanding from businesses to be more flexible with their products or services. It can also be from coworkers, presenting new ideas to expand an existing product line or capture a niche market. Whatever reason that initiated a project, it all comes down to the need for a change, a movement from one state to another.
To stay competitive, to please a customer, to come up with a brilliant idea, people are often required to get away from the desktop and get out into the field. That is the reality of it. And yet, they cannot be out of the loop or remain disconnected for so long, because many things happen in such a short amount of time. Nowadays, the practice of bringing your own device (BYOD) is gaining acceptance. It may pose some problems with security, but it also shows great potential in terms of productivity.
Advantages, Challenges, Solutions
For project managers, tools that will allow them to manage one or several projects at any time they feel the need to, because of some change or update, are valuable. Devices that will allow them to manage scope, check dependencies, track resources and progress, receive and give status reports are extremely helpful, whether they are checking the competition out in an event, clarifying an issue with customers at a remote site, or giving instructions to a team member while commuting.
Aside from the benefits, there are also challenges being introduced by mobile devices in project teams and the workforce in general. Aside from security problems, compatibility and standardization issues are also present. Businesses who want to standardize may end up spending more. The practice of BYOD is more economical, but compatibility, especially in communication and collaboration, may be problematic.
A technical solution includes the use of mobile application interface layers, now being referred to as mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAP). Also, many web-based PM tools have mobile project management features. Likewise, cross-platform events may be announced more often in the future.
Project Management and Change
Nothing is more constant than change, and today, that change is being brought about not only by economic factors but also by adaptive technology. Project management is a mature discipline that has remained consistent and relevant across time and industries. The reason why it is done is well established and unquestionable. However, the way it is done is not set in stone, and mobile devices offer a handy way of accomplishing tasks and functions more conveniently. While managing movement, project management itself should be open to change.
This article was provided by guest expert Daniel Raymond from Project-Management.com. Project-Management.com is dedicated to provide PM articles, detailed project management software reviews, and the latest news for the most popular web-based collaboration tools.