To be a CIO these days means having projects boiling on every front. Front-line business users need more functionality. Finance wants cost reductions. Legal’s regulatory compliance issues draw in IT at every level, from customer-facing applications to the data center. All of this adds up to projects, projects and more projects.
Project managers are the bridge between what companies need at the strategic level and what gets done in the trenches. Results-oriented CIOs, then, want real managers in charge of their projects, and not paper pushes. The problem is that creating “paper” – or more likely these days, electronic project documents – is a vital part of a project manager’s job. A project manager can produce as many as 50 documents during the typical project cycle – everything from feasibility studies, to supplier contract, to project status reports. This isn’t trivial information. It’s the factual backbone that a project needs to move ahead.
The issue isn’t with the content itself. It’s how the project manager uses it. Robotically forwarding documents to project team members just to satisfy bureaucratic mandates robs the project team of a valuable asset. Without guidance from the project manager and the right technology tools, project team members have a choice between slogging through extraneous content to find what’s relevant to them, or just signing off on the project document and going ahead with their work.
Project managers who know how to mobilize the information in their documents to help project teams meet deadlines, stay within budget, collaborate efficiently, and work toward common goals are an asset to the CIO and the company. Their projects will return more value, either by coming to a profitable conclusion or by alerting executives that they’re not going to pay off and should be cancelled. That’s a strategic advantage in a business environment that puts ever-increasing weight on efficiency and measurable return on investment.
As CIO, you can help your project managers and your company by implementing document management policies that promote effective information sharing, and supporting those policies with the right technology tools. Document management means providing front-line project team members with the means to zero in on the information that’s relevant to their role, then use it to make the process more efficient. Most project organizations, however, don’t have a document strategy in place to ensure that information is consolidated in an accessible repository so it can move among project stakeholders. The basic document management principles, supported by the right software solutions, can be applied to project management with good effect. The principles that apply most directly to project management are: a) document capture – consolidating electronic and paper documents of different formats in a central repository where project teams can easily retrieve relevant document information and archived historical data; b) version control – providing check-in and check-out options and different levels of security to ensure data integrity; c) workflows – designing and applying configurable workflows that map to business processes and approvals; d) reporting and analysis – exchange information between documents, as well as consolidating data in multiple documents for reporting and analysis purposes to provide better visibility across your organization; and e) collaboration – sharing documents among relevant stakeholders, as well as restricting the documents to those who should not have access.
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