Bridging the Gap: The Evolution of Project Management Tools for Physical Industries

Written By: Ed Jennings
May 24, 2024
5 min read

Let’s face it – work in 2024 is more complex than ever. So, what do we do? We look towards solutions to reduce barriers, break down siloes, and make our work easier. That’s the dream, at least. But project management tools haven’t lived up to that dream.   

Project management means something different to everybody. That’s causing a crisis for companies around the globe – too many tools, and none of them work together. Everyone is picking their own tools, and they don’t work together.

 A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye around this topic. Jeff Sippel, CIO at Northwestern Mutual, summed the challenge up well: “I empathize with our teams...with these tools, people have different levels of familiarity, they’re very passionate about choosing different ones. Each tool has different strengths and different capabilities – leaving organizations stuck with way too many tools to solve the same problems.”

Unfortunately, using multiple tools is failing so many of us. Our own recent research found that 9 out of 10 respondents are overwhelmed by the amount of software tools they use daily.  Let that sink in. A vast majority of people are working at work that’s not working! That same research found that 66% of respondents said their organizations have increased investments in tools/software to enhance productivity, work management and collaboration. Wasted spend on redundant tools.  

This issue is even worse in industries needing to bridge digital and physical assets. In industries like construction and manufacturing, where work is complex and workers themselves have much different needs for technology in their day-to-day, using multiple tools is impossible. These are people in the field who need a simple way to manage their work – they don’t have the time or the ability to filter through multiple systems to find what they need.  

That’s the real crux of the issue - the divide between project management for digital work done mostly in the office, like marketing, and project management for field teams who have much more complex demands, like tracking supply chain logistics. For too long, the tools serving digital project management have simply failed industries like construction and manufacturing that have workers onsite, need to stay in compliance with industry and government regulations, and manage physical materials along with digital assets. So what’s the path forward? Let’s break it all down.  

Digital Project Management: Limited to Digital Domains 

Digital, in-office project management is the kind of work familiar to people in functions like software, marketing, or IT. As the name implies, it happens at a desk or in an office. Think of tasks such as planning and scheduling, resource allocation, communication and collaboration, and reporting and documentation in industries dealing primarily with digital assets, such as IT, finance, consulting, and software. Super important, but not relevant the minute you get into the real world with physical use cases.   

With more physical use cases, these tools become the source of the Gray Work and data sprawl that ruins productivity. Industries needing to manage physical and digital assets cannot afford the disjointed flow of information. In our research, construction and manufacturing professionals said using multiple project management solutions prevents them from sharing project-related information with others at a higher rate than other industries.   

For these industries, the information they deal with results in tangible impacts: revenue, timelines, materials, tons of regulations and most critically safety and compliance issues. Physical industries require solutions tailored to their unique needs, not just repurposed digital project management tools. It’s the age-old idiom of apples and oranges.   

Onsite Project Management: Bridging Digital and Physical Worlds 

What does that look like? Onsite project management demands the integration of digital and physical elements. This approach requires onsite personnel to coordinate operations, solve real-time problems, and manage safety and compliance. Key tasks include supply chain management, compliance checks, logistics management, site assessments, and materials tracking.   

Organizations in industries like construction, manufacturing, healthcare, and others understand this. Unfortunately, specialized solutions remain piecemeal and poorly implemented. Point solutions simply won’t cut it. They leave data stuck in different systems, and the unified view we need for success remains out of reach.    

A Unified Approach to Onsite Project Management 

We've seen consolidation in CRM and ERP systems - yet project management is still stuck with individual solutions for individual problems. Instead of these point solutions that keep work separated, onsite project management requires a new approach that brings both the specialized solutions industries need and the integrated solutions these high-stakes environments require.   

Take any number of examples: field worker coordination, bidding processes, timesheet management, OSHA compliance, and more. Working on one of these challenges in a point solution leaves data stuck and inaccessible.    

This is where Quickbase shines – and these are the industries Quickbase wants to disrupt. As I shared at Empower, our platform offers custom industry solutions that combine the specialization of point solutions with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of AI-powered no-code tools. This gives industries the tailored support they need, without sacrificing integration and flexibility.    

Quickbase can bring you one platform that connects all your existing point solutions and other systems of record, allowing you to see everything in one place and make better decisions.  Couple this with our industry-specific solutions designed for your most critical use cases. This is what closes the gap and brings you a unified view of your biggest challenges such as safety, equipment performance, or supplier management. All done with no specific technical knowledge needed, and at an efficient cost to you.   

Our mission is simple. We want to help modernize these complex industries and allow them to make work work every single day. 

For physical industries, the stakes are too high to rely on disjointed, piecemeal solutions. A unified platform that bridges the digital and physical is essential to optimizing operations, ensuring compliance, and driving productivity.   

The right project management solutions will bridge the gap between physical and digital, and make complex work simple. The future is moving beyond solving one productivity problem at a time in separate systems – it’s managing limitless solutions on one connected platform. 

Ed Jennings, CEO
Written By: Ed Jennings

Ed Jennings is the CEO of Quickbase.