What is the Real Value of Computers in Project Management?

The real value of computers is communication, not computation.

Natasha Kalatin

I see this quote all the time in project management. Blogs, articles, even on Power Point decks proceeding the many webinars we watch as part of advancing our knowledge in project management. I think if you break down the quote a bit you can come in on either side of it, in other words, you either agree with it or not. I wanted to make a point–counter-point on the quote today to better understand just how much value computers bring to the field of project management.

Point

Geographically dispersed workforces are significantly better able to communicate, IMs, emails, Skype, and just having a shared, collaborative workspace is a benefit.

Answers are always within reach, be it an article or blog, or simply the ability to reach out to our experts. Our projects not only survive on information, they thrive on it. We can provide up to the minute reporting, and better guide the project along with the amount of insight we have to our projects.

This allows us to officially document our communications. As project managers, we often have to use “CYA” methodologies in order to properly protect the project and bottom line. We now have written, time stamped documents that are almost as good as affidavits in a project library.

What used to take days or weeks, now takes seconds. Time is money, so inherently this is a significant savings to the bottom line. Project communications can speed up and more can be accomplished. This is a win.

Counterpoint

Constant interruption is a struggle we have when managing project teams. The over availability of the resource can be strangling, the need to read the emails, IMs, regular Skype calls, etc. can lead to missed deadlines and a highly distracted workforce.

Sometimes it is hard to differentiate the needed information from the amount of data we have. This has caused an almost inability to determine what should, and what should not go into a project report, or used for status calculations. It’s like that quote from a famous movie – “60% of the time, it works every time”. Yes, it is meant to be humorous, but we see statistics such as this frequently in our business.

It allows us to officially document our communications. Yes, I’m repeating myself. This is a double-edged sword. In a fast-paced world of communications, we sometimes lose the tone or intent of it and make commitments at face value. These can sometimes come back and bite us. You may agree, for instance on a price for software only, but the client interprets it as software and support. We just have to be extremely concise in communications.

Rapid communication leads to a less personal touch on our conversations. We now fire off an email for any topic, for any reason, many times just to respond. How many times have you received a text or email, only to respond with the shortened “K.” We don’t even use the full “Okay” anymore. If you think about pre-internet, pre-fax, pre-computer, if someone wanted to respond to a communication, they had to pull out pen and paper, or get out the typewriter, draft out the response, seal it in an envelope, address and add a stamp. It took time, and every communication had a higher level of meaning. I bet there were very few letters sent out in response with “K” in them.

Does Natasha Kalatin’s statement hold true for you? Email your responses to jchamberlain@ktlsolutions.com, I am interested to hear what you have to say.


JEFF L. CHAMBERLAIN, PMP | Project Manager

Jeff comes to KTL Solutions with an extensive background in healthcare IT, technical consulting, and telecommunications. He has been a project manager for almost 20 years, holding certifications from the Project Management Institute as a Project Management Professional, from the Management and Strategy Institute as a Six Sigma Lean Professional, and he holds a Scrum Master Certification from the Scrum Alliance. He has managed both hardware and software implementations for both the government and private sectors, in industries such as healthcare, insurance, telecommunications, staff augmentation, supply chain, and shipping.

Jeff has provided training for clients globally, working in Europe, Russia, North and South America on various topics from system optimization to wireless theory and design. He possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Writing from the University of Baltimore.