Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of discussion around cloud computing. Some even believe that the advent of cloud computing will be more important than the development of the internet itself. Although this sounds extreme, cloud computing does offer some significant advantages over traditional software, particularly in the realm of project management. Project Managers need to understand the basics of cloud computing and how it will affect professional services software.
Current State of Project Management: Most project centric firms today have some kind of project tracking software, a different resource management software, and a completely different financial system or ERP. These types of professional services software are usually hosted in house by the IT department and can only be accessed on network. For the most part, the firm keeps each of these systems separate and only share information between them as needed.
When sharing does occur, it is usually done via spreadsheet. For example, project managers need to share information with the finance group regarding project completion status. This is done both for billing purposes and to recognize the revenue. As needed, the completed task information is taken from the task management software, dropped into a spreadsheet, and then aligned with the revenue recognition schedule. Resource planning is similar. When resources need to be scheduled, managers download utilization information from the resource management system in to a spreadsheet and share it with the project managers.
Unless some kind of intermediate format like a spreadsheet is used, the three different systems do not easily share information.
Cloud Based Project Management: Cloud computing offers all of the previously mentioned professional services software, but allows these services to be delivered more conveniently, integrates them to work together transparently, and helps firm reduce the overall costs associated with each.
First, cloud computing changes the method firms use to access information. Instead of only gaining access to system resources while on a designated network, cloud based software is accessed directly through a web browser. This allows project managers to conveniently access these tools from anywhere they find a Wi-Fi connection.
Second, cloud based project management software tool offer integrated services by combining tasks lists, ERP functionality and resource management capability. This allows project managers to know current resource utilization and plan project schedules accordingly, without the use of spreadsheets. Everything is done without leaving the system.
Last, cloud based systems are supported by the vendor, not in-house IT departments. Outsourcing these costs may allow firms to reduce the overall IT budget.
These three elements combine to offer some real advantages over the traditional model. For example, with the information stored in the cloud, project information is accessible and updated in real time as it occurs. This allows revenue to be automated and recognized as tasks are completed, not days later when the ERP is updated. In addition, the cloud model enables companies to centralize and standardize their own project management tool kit and roll out updates immediately to everyone. All of this at a fraction of the costs of the traditional model.
At Bi101, we believe cloud computing can help professional service firms become more competitive and more profitable. Please contact us to determine whether professional services software in the cloud is right for you.