So why is this?
1. Digitisation has ramped up the pace of change
The first reason is that companies large and small are trying to rise to the challenges of the rapid pace of change arising from the increasing digitisation of the world. The long lead times associated with developing new hardware products are being replaced by increasingly short timeframes for developing digital products. Threats to a company’s business model can appear at alarming speed and in fact project management tools themselves are a case in point. As little as 5 years ago, Microsoft Project dominated this market, but packages based in the Cloud, using its built in collaboration ability have rapidly shrunk Microsoft’s market share.
Keeping up with this pace of change needs better organisation and co-ordination. Businesses of all sizes have started to see project management and collaboration tools as an important step in this direction.
2. Businesses are becoming more distributed
The second reason is the opportunities that ever improving communication, including high speed internet, a myriad of messaging and video conferencing technologies provides to allow businesses to become less centralised and more distributed. The typical workplace might have staff working in several countries and others from home. Staff may also be on the move between these locations with dead time spent on public transport.
I ran a home-working pilot for a Forbes 50 company around the turn of the millennium. Much of the internet was still working at snail’s pace and the Cloud hadn’t even been imagined, but the trial turned out to be very successful, loved by staff who not only threw the yoke of commuting for a couple of days a week but also increased their productivity.
However it was abandoned by both middle and senior management who felt that they didn’t have sufficient control over what their employees were up to. On-line project management software and collaboration tools directly address that issue. The progress of a geographically distributed team becomes much easier to monitor and communication easier to enable and manage. Information becomes easier to share between team members and progress data is available to all levels of management to give them comfort that their team is making progress and not watching daytime TV!
3. Increase in Outsourcing
The third reason is the increase in outsourcing. Even the smallest companies can now outsource work to the four corners of the earth. Sites like Freelancer, Upwork and Fiverr make it easy to hire individuals and teams on all seven continents.
These teams need managing and these packages offer an excellent way of achieving that. Many packages offer the ability to restrict user permissions, so you don’t need to worry about your contractor on the other side of the world knowing about work you are involved in that doesn’t concern them.
4. Better communication with customers
The fourth reason is better communication with your customer. Whether they are an internal customer or an external one, these packages offer the opportunity to share information with your customer and usually an informed customer is a happy one. Again most tools will offer the facility to regulate what your customer sees.
On-line Project Management and Collaboration tools are here to stay. A piece of software that allows your staff to plan work, share discussions and documents and share their progress really should be a no brainer.