Managing projects involves numerous moving parts. Timelines, resources, budgets, milestones, and more all demand time and attention from project managers and team members. Aside from completing project tasks, there is an array of planning, red tape, and other administrative work that goes on behind the scenes. Project managers are turning to process automation to get more done and optimize time management and project outcomes.
Project management is evolving. As more firms undergo digital transformations, there is a growing dependency on tech tools and applications. Project management software helps managers maintain visibility, streamline workflows, and stay connected with teams. Now, project management software is taking it a step further with process automation.
What is Project Management Automation?
Automation is a technology that uses machines to carry out processes with little to no human interaction. Project management automation refers to the technology used in project management software that can complete basic project tasks without help from humans. When an event occurs that triggers automation, the software completes the task on its own.
For example, project management software that automatically monitors resources and sends you an alert is automation. When a team member completes a task and a notification email is sent to you, that is automation. If it's time to submit a compliance report and your project management software knows to send it off, that’s automation too. Automation can be used to streamline internal communication, comply with industry regulations, and check items off your list all on its own.
Benefits of Automation in Project Management Software
In project management, automation is about freeing workers from repetitive, tedious, or basic tasks that computers can handle. These time-consuming tasks ruin productivity and interrupt workflows, but automation checks them off the list in record time. Plus, human error is often the cause of careless mistakes that can be resolved by the predictable and precise actions of machines. Automation enables firms to complete more in less time.
Here are a few benefits of implementing project management software with automation:
Only 15% of project managers work on one project at a time. Some work on as many as ten or more. Automation helps you get more work done in less time so that you can dedicate your efforts to areas outside of administrative tasks.
For example, automation can help you launch new tasks and projects quickly. It can also enable you to pre-populate templates and fields with standard information. That means that your likelihood of typos and omissions is reduced, and you don’t have to acquire more resources to get the job done.
Reduced busy work
Busy work like sending out project reports, reminding team members about upcoming deadlines, and checking in on task statuses are all administrative tasks that automated project management software can accomplish.
Notifications, updates and regular reporting take hours to distribute manually. But automation provides project managers with the opportunity to offload low-value tasks so that they have more time to work on more strategic tasks.
Another benefit of using project management software with automation is the ability to integrate data across your other business apps. Many teams work with several SaaS tools at a time. One for communicating, one for planning, another for reporting, testing out a new product, and so on.
Normally workers have to search for the correct programs and input the same data into separate apps manually. But automation can help consolidate relevant data across apps so that workers don’t have to navigate between six apps to complete a single task.
Bottlenecks and delays are classic roadblocks in the review and approval process. Sometimes documents get misplaced, the wrong attachment gets forwarded, or stakeholders are simply unaware that their approval is needed for the project to move forward.
Automation can streamline communications so that the appropriate personnel is notified as soon as documents are ready to review. Feedback is clear, timestamped, and automatically routed to the teams involved. And executives can also use automation to make better strategic decisions with more accurate forecasting.
Maintain quality assurance
Finally, automation can even help project managers maintain quality work. When there is a high volume of manual work that must get done within a certain timeframe, mistakes are bound to happen.
Automation removes human interference so that no one drops the ball and the overall quality of work remains consistent. And automation templates can help clone tasks instead of starting each project with a blank screen. That way, there is more time and resources available for more complex processes.
The 4 Phases of Project Management
Mapping, managing workflows, improving efficiency, and tracking budgets, resources, and timelines are just a few of the tasks that project managers have to juggle on a daily basis. Not to mention maintaining transparent communication, complying with local and federal ordinances, and assigning tasks and roles to team members. Project management involves an array of processes that must be completed in a specific order and at the correct times.
Project managers will agree that at times it feels like you have 12 tabs open, at least two voicemails to return, 1000+ emails each day, and several teams depending on you. Grouping these tasks into the 4 phases of project management helps leaders focus on one particular project phase at a time. This helps align team members, stakeholders, and resources more effectively. Still, 11.4% of all resources are wasted because of inferior project management processes.
Low and no-code project management tools allow managers to easily capture the manual processes and get a visual of how those processes impact projects from beginning to end. And now, managers can also easily build automated tasks for optimal efficiency.
Here’s how automation can enhance the four primary phases of project management so you can manage teams more effectively:
1. Initiation and planning
The first phase of project management involves outlining the project scope, and deliverables and identifying stakeholders. After a project is approved, a detailed plan is created so that everyone involved can fully visualize how processes will run, who is responsible for which tasks, and when milestones should be completed. This stage also includes processes like establishing a budget, identifying resources, providing training, and forecasting potential risks.
At this stage, automation can help easily track administrative tasks so that everything is in place before the project begins. It can also help streamline the approval process digitally instead of slowing down workflows with spreadsheets and managing documents.
Once the project begins, managers must oversee execution processes throughout the project lifecycle. This includes tracking resources, organizing tasks, communicating with stakeholders, providing updates, problem-solving, and anything else that pops up along the way.
Automation can help improve the execution phase by automatically generating reports in real-time. This ensures that teams always have the most recent version before moving forward. Automated forms allow workers to quickly and accurately submit information without taking up too much time. Plus, document generation can help project managers generate compliant records on a continual basis.
3. Monitoring and control
This stage runs at the same time as the execution stage, adding to the complexity of project management. Tracking and monitoring things like budgets, KPIs, SLAs, resource allocation, quality, and project performance are crucial to ensure that projects run smoothly. This phase requires project managers to make changes at a moment's notice when new developments occur.
Automation can improve the tasks associated with the monitoring and control phase through reporting, alerts, and benchmarking. Automating these processes eliminates the need to enter data into spreadsheets so that project managers can focus on overseeing the execution.
4. Project closure
When a project comes to an end, there are still things left for project managers to do. They need to assess the outcomes, workflows, and deliverables and consider how these things can be improved moving forward.
Automation is helpful during project closure because it can help gather these insights and give a clear overview of the success of the project. Project managers can create reports, close workflows, and close the project, knowing that their decisions were informed by quality data.
Can project management be automated?
Although the role of a project manager can’t be automated, you can still automate manual project management tasks to improve productivity. One of the ways that automation improves productivity is by automating the flow of data between project management software and business applications like banking apps, slack, and CRM.
Here are some examples of project management tasks that can be automated:
Creating new projects and tasks.
Sending task reminders
Project status notifications.
The review and approval process.
How do you plan an automation project?
Project managers know that planning is key. If you’re considering adding automation to your project management workflows, you should ask the following questions:
What are the most time-consuming manual administrative tasks?
Which of our processes are well-documented, mapped, and predictable?
Which processes are consistently repeated with little to no variation?
Are any of these processes basic enough for our project management software to automate without human oversight?
If one of these processes is not completed correctly, how significant is the impact on the project?
The answer to these questions will help you discover where automation can benefit your organization and improve project outcomes.
What is automation in project management?
Automation completes predefined processes and tasks. In project management, that means automating consistent, repeatable processes that can be time-consuming for workers. For example:
Building cohesive workflows between apps
Sending notifications for various events
Project management automation is an essential tool for firms working toward enhanced productivity, streamlined workflows, and consistent outcomes.