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The Digital Workplace solution for a Digital Project Office

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 11:17 -- Fredrik Svensson
Today it is time to dive deeper into the Digital Workplace of organisations that run large scale document driven projects and maintain highly valuable assets like power utility plants, power networks, buildings or roads.

All these entities represent high values and objects that needs to be treated in an efficient and timely manner. The key word here is digitalisation. By digitalising project resources and valuable assets, it is possible to create efficient (even automated) processes around them, share selected information to a selection of stake holders (independent of organisational and/or geographical borders), create traceability and restrict access to information. If you can do all this in one tool it will make your own and the daily life of your organisation simpler and more efficient.

The ultimate target is to improve project flow and control and to establish your brand new Digital Project Office!

Digital Assets

A Digital Workplace solution for project collaboration and maintenance starts with digitalising assets. An asset in this sence may be many different things. It can be your power plant drawings, project management plans, contracts, tasks or a representation of a physical asset like a factory (or parts of it), a building, a vehicle, a power distribution network etcetera. When making assets digital you can assign various metadata and properties to them (as in real life). These can then be used to automate processes, control access, group information or other operations based on these properties. When information is digitalised information can be shared and is not contained to a certain individual or function. With efficient support for access control, process support and automation of processes, the efficiency and control of your organisation will be improved.

To improve workflow throughput, organisational efficiency, legislation control and cooperation beyond organisational borders – you will need to digitalise your assets, and remember - all assets can go digital and be utilised in you Digital Project Office! 

Flow

The key to an efficient Digital Project Office is to focus on the flow. This concerns the flow of information, documents, decisions and activities. With a focus on the flow of these entities you will be able to transform your business and create an efficient digital workplace and projecy office. You will need to do 2 easy things: 

  1. Analyse the flow
  2. Support and improve the flow by going digital and implement the tooling to support a digitalized flow. 

What does all this mean then?

With bullet 1, I suggest that you review the flow of projects, processes and information with a digital view in mind. What can be improved or automated if assets (physical objects, drawings, documents etc) can be made digital and easily shared between project members? I bet you that you will have a new view on your project processes with a digital perspective in mind.

Once you have reviewed your processes with a digital perspective I am sure that you will have a number of efficiency improvements at hand. To implement these you will most certainly need new tooling to assist you and your organisation to reach the desired future Digital Project Office. The chosen tooling should support a digitalised view on your assets and flow. The business case should be easy to present, taking the desired efficiency improvements into account.

Control

Once you have identified and specified your desired flow and found the assets that you want to digitalise, you are ready to choose your tooling to support the new Digital Project Office. The tooling will give you a chance to control your flow at the same time as it should provide your organisation with means and inspiration for innovation. With control you can identify potential bottlenecks, individuals or functions in need of an improved support or just increase access control on data that you want to protect. Maybe you have increased legal requirements or legislation that you need to take into consideration.

Control leaves a bad taste in the mouth for some, but for someone who manages or is supposed to keep track of a project budget of several millions (or even billions) easy control and overview is of essence. Reach is another important word for these managers. To control a project with a size like this, they will need a Digital Workplace solution that covers all aspects of the project and keeps all important information easy accessible in one place, not allowing or requiring project members to use additional supporting tools or subprocesses. Subprocesses will have a negative impact of your flow and create undesired deviations that decreases the efficiency of your flow and Digital Project Office.

Tooling

To chose the right tool(s) will be vital to your Digital Workplace initiative in general and for the Digital Project Office in particular. The trick is to find a tool that provides an ability to improve your flow and increase control, without limiting the innovation of your organisation. If you do it right you will have a flexible tool that you can control and develop to suit the needs of your organisation with control on the data. If you choose the wrong tool you will end up with a tool that is unflexible and locks you in to a certain technology or makes it hard and expensive to adapt the solution to improve your flow.

Here are some hands on tips :

1. Don’t choose between on site or cloud – Go Hybrid! 

On site solutions gives you control on usage and data, but limits flexibility. Cloud gives you flexibility and easy access for all users, but you can’t control data. This is why over time or for different projects you probably will need both options – that is why you should go for a hybrid solution.

2. Don’t get locked in – go for an Open Source based solution! 

If you manage large projects, I can bet you that over time you will want to be able to adapt the Digital Project Office tool to your specific project requirements. If you choose a closed source solution you will be tied to the supplier of that tool or a selection of their partners to assist you with modifications. These tend to be costly and unflexible on delivery. With an open source based tool you will have access to the source code and can use the consultant of your choice or internal resources to do desired modifications. This will give you flexibility and probably turn out to be cost efficient in the long run.

3. Save time and money!

With the above mentioned parameters, it will be possible to find solutions that fulfill these criteria and yet have been customised or adopted to meet the needs of organisations similar to yours. This means that you will have a lot of the functionality you require out-of-the-box and will only have to modify the details to have a system fitted to your employers, requests and suited to improve your flow!

If you wonder where to find a solution like this to improve the flow and control of your Digital Project Office, I sure know someone to talk to….

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