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Predictions for online project management software

Jason Westland

Jason Westland

In the first article in this year’s Software September feature, Jason Westland, CEO of ProjectManager.com, shares his predictions for the future of online project management software.

We’re in interesting times, as the saying goes. Online project management software has evolved almost beyond recognition in the last 10 years and it is still evolving. These are the trends I’m noticing already and where I think the industry is going.

More mobility

According to a survey by Computing, 29% of companies have a complete lockdown on mobile working. That means no tablets, no web access and no productivity while key staff are on the road. Senior and middle managers – and that’s where project managers fit – are the two largest groups of staff forming the mobile workforce. And if they can’t access their essential applications and tools while travelling or even working from home, then productivity falls.

For project managers and their teams who need constant access to status information, it’s essential to have mobile access. We’ll see more project management tools offering apps and tablet-friendly mobile sites. Products that offer this are already really popular, and companies that use in-house hosted or standalone project management software will have to reconsider how they make access to those tools available (or change the tools) so that their project teams can operate effectively.

Another part of mobile solutions is the Bring Your Own Device trend. Younger project team members are increasingly expecting to be able to use their own tablets and smartphones at work. That’s the way they run their lives outside of the office, and having to carry around another mobile device isn’t appealing. Companies need to wise up to the fact that employees (of any generation) are now tech savvy enough to get around corporate policies and install apps on their own devices. Project team members could be doing this in your organisation to ensure that they can access the tasks, risks and resource assignments that they need to stay effective while on the go – even if it means ‘bending’ company guidelines.

More security

Online project management tools are secure. But there will be more focus on security in the future, as companies come under more pressure to prove that their corporate information is safe and managed in an appropriate way.

As a result, we’ll see online project management companies talking more about the measures they have in place to secure data – and as a result of that, I think large corporations that have traditionally been risk adverse for this kind of product will start considering online tools in a new light. At ProjectManager.com we already count NASA and Thomson Reuters among our customers.

More interoperability

There are lots of project management tools – not just applications that help manage tasks and schedules, but timesheet applications, calendars, wikis, bug management tools, note-taking and brainstorming software, and a whole host of other things that project managers use to stay organised.

As more and more of our work gets moved from project notebooks into online apps and other software, we become more reliant on remembering lots of passwords. In addition, project teams often work with suppliers and contractors who don’t use the same project management tools as they do.

I hope we’ll see more interoperability – tools that interact with each other, or interfaces that enable you to access multiple tools from one place. This relies on vendors using standards and formats that are in common use, and others coming into the picture to help provide integration options. ProjectManager.com isn’t the only product that is compatible with Microsoft products, but we’re pleased that we can at least make it easy to share files between virtual team members. More and more vendors will build in integration and sharing options to make everyone’s lives easier.

Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but the marketplace for online project management tools is evolving (along with IT in many other areas). The suppliers who don’t keep up will find their customer base moving towards applications that are fully mobile, do make them feel secure and that do offer integration and compatibility options.

So yes, we’re in very interesting times – looking back at how much has changed in the last five years it will be fascinating to see what happens in the next five!

About the author: Jason Westland is CEO of ProjectManager.com and author of The Project Management Life Cycle. Find him on Google.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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