Project Management Information Systems
Do you need to make faster decisions on your projects? Perhaps better involvement from the project stakeholders is required? Would you like to work on current information rather than out-dated information? Could increased monitoring – even real time monitoring – help manage the project closer? Would you like to spend less time producing status reports? Then you need a Project Management Information Systems for your Project!
During a project a significant amount of data is produced, collected, analysed, and transformed. Communication is the biggest reason why projects fail. This data needs to be interpreted and disseminated to the correct stakeholders.
When data is organised it becomes information. If we apply that information to a situation, we may get some knowledge out of it.
Example: Selling products on Amazon. The data is the numbers on how many we sell. Information might be the age groups we sell most to, and popular buying times. Knowledge is then running a campaign to promote to these age groups at these times to increase sales.
Project Management works best when information is available and able to follow quickly and freely between all phases. When everybody has the same (correct) information. We need the PMIS to provide us with knowledge about the project rather than raw data.
What is and why do we need a Project Management Information Systems?
Large and complex projects are often difficult to manage. Projects might be VUCA. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguos.
The major advantage of a PMIS is the ability to share information, track assignments and keep the team involved and informed of the overall status of the project.
A Project Management Information System (PMIS) is one or more software tools used for a project’s information storage and distribution.
A project management information system (PMIS) is how information needed to run a project is organized. It collects and uses project information through one or more software applications. What these programs do is help project managers to plan, execute and close their project. It’s a way to organize that flood of information, so you don’t drown in data.
A PMIS is an information system consisting of the tools and techniques used to gather, integrate, and disseminate the outputs of project management processes (PMI BoK)
A Project Management Information System (PMIS) is generally a single or a collection of computerized software applications, which provide easier, efficient, and integrated methods for managing project from their inception through to their completion.
A project management information system (PMIS) is the logical organization of the information required for an organization to execute projects successfully. A PMIS is typically one or more software applications and a methodical process for collecting and using project information. These electronic systems “help [to] plan, execute, and close project management goals.” PMIS systems differ in scope, design and features depending upon an organisation’s operational requirements. (WIKI)
For my projects I might set up a folder on my computer. In there will be the WORD documents, links to websites, MS Project Files, EXCEL workbooks to manage the budget, image files etc. When I need help, I might share my information via Dropbox links/sharing. Large organisations might have access to SharePoint or TEAMS for collaboration. What do SME’s use – something in between is required.
None of the above are directly for project management. They are generic file and collaboration tools.
Software applications are considered an indispensable item in a project management information system. So, you need a software system – that will bring it’s own problems.
What are the problems with software systems?
- Commercial systems will cost.
- Bespoke systems will take time to deliver.
- Users will need training.
- Back-ups will need to be performed.
- Extra duties/capacity/processes for the data centre
- System has to be available when required.
- The system needs reliable data.
- The software has to be stable – no crashes or freezes.
Can you think of more problems?
A software based Project Management Information System
At the center of any modern PMIS is a software. Project management information system can vary from something as simple as a File system containing Microsoft Excel documents, to a full-blown enterprise PMIS software.
Organizations around the globe are increasingly relying on software applications to automate their project management processes. A lot of emphasis is also placed on improving the accuracy of data based on which key performance indicators and reports are generated. Major project management responsibilities, like maintaining different registers/logs and documenting the lessons learned, get a lot easier to fulfil by deploying a suitable application.
What about Quality for the Software System?
Just as in project management there is a dilemma and misunderstanding about ‘Quality’ regarding software.
For Project Management ‘Time’ and ‘Cost’ are easily defined. But does ‘Quality’ mean the number of functions or how well those functions work? For a software project, quality might mean a stable piece of code with few functions, or a bug-ridden piece of code with many functions (Grade). Quality is always more important than grade.
Software developers often refer to software quality to mean the software fits system specifications, runs efficiently, does not blow up, follows standards, uses current technology and techniques, and can be modified easily.
This is not the interpretation of quality that others have. Users and managers often refer to software quality to mean the software does what needs to be done properly, performs satisfactorily, runs consistently and reliably, it is easy to use, is maintained quickly and correctly, and is delivered on-time and within.
Manager and users might feel that software developers are not attentive to these things and thus do not care about quality. Software developers often feel users and managers do not concentrate on the things they care about and therefore do not care about quality.
Here are some indicators regarding the quality of a PMIS.
Availability: Being operational when required, and accessible from devices.
Comprehensive: Have the correct tools and features.
Relevance: The information is appropriate at the time it is delivered.
Precision: The information is correct and accurate.
Reliability: The right information is delivered.
What features does a Project Management Information Systems need?
These are the features we are looking for when we are specifying a system for purchase or development.
|Activity Assignments||Budgeting and Accounting||Collaborative Tools||Charts and Graphs (customisable)||Discussion Forums|
|Earned Value Tools||Email Notification of assignments, changes||Instant Messaging||Portfolio Management||Programme Management|
|Resource Allocations||To-Do lists||Template Storage||File System||Archive and Back-up|
|Calendar Editing||Multi-Currency Support||Version Tracking||Configuration Management||Web-Access|
|Authorisation system||Dashboard Production||Data Import / Export||Report Generation||Scheduling Tools|
|Links to Pay-Roll, HR etc.||Mobile version|
What is the function of a PMIS?
We may have a huge list of features, however what do we want the PMIS to do? There are many different functions required from a PMIS. The components of a project management information system are:
- Scheduling – breaking the project into tasks, estimating the duration of the tasks, task dependencies, network/Gantt/critical path, resource levelling.
- Estimating – Durations, Effort, Budget, Materials, Labour, Expenses, Justification for expenses
- Resources – list of resources available, assigned to tasks, access to organisation calendars, shift patterns,
- Project documents and data – Charter, MS Project Plan, EXCEL files, PowerPoint Presentations, Engineering drawings, software code, images, designs, graphics, marketing copy, sales brochures. Data – dates, progress, quantities, costs, actuals, differences, variances, earned value information.
- Portals and dashboards and reporting – There are many web-based project management software tools that provide a centralized dashboard for the project. Their features includes many of the other categories, like scheduling, documents, and project team messaging. . project stakeholders often require information dissemination tools such as web sites and project portals. For example, governmental regulatory agencies often have department-specific document upload and project information sites. Graphs and charts
- Collaborative work management tools – Chat rooms, messaging apps, confidential communication, recorded communication
- Social media – For example, project Facebook pages or Twitter accounts can be used to rapidly communicate project information to stakeholders, but they are dependent on the stakeholder checking for new messages. Hence, critical messages should probably be communicated via a “push” method rather than social media, which is a “pull” method.
- Project control. Project control involves the following components:
- Schedule: Ensure the project is on track to complete on time.
- Cost: Ensure the project is on track to complete within its budget.
- Scope: Ensure the scope has not changed, and that additional, unauthorized work is not being performed.
- Quality: Ensure the quality of the products being produced is according to the specifications within the plan.
- Resources: Ensure the resources are still available and they are not overextended.
- Procurement: Ensure the required subcontractors, suppliers, and materials are still available and are performing their work as planned.
- Risks: Ensure the risks to project success are still being adequately mitigated. Risks that occur may become Issues. An Issue register is required.
- Communications: Ensure the stakeholder communications are conforming to the communications plan.
- Change: How many changes, recording change requests, authorising changes, and communicating approved changes.
- Integration with Payroll, Inventory systems,
Add the features to the functions and the PMIS can become very complex.
Barriers to a PMIS
So, what might the barriers be to implementing a PMIS?
- Price tag and ROI considerations: How long might it take to develop, purchase, and implement, and how can you directly measure the benefits of the system. The benefits are often intangible.
- Management overheads: Maintenance and back-ups will be required. The system needs to be available and managed in the data centre.
- Learning Curve: All uses will need training, and all users must use it. They must want to use it and be able to use it.
- Multi-Currency support: Required for international projects, and multiple language support (date formats, weekends in the middle East).
- Mac, Linux, support: The system needs to be available on all hardeware, and operating systems.
- Hardware/memory requirements – mobile access: All devices need to get access to the system and ideally for all features.
- Disagreement on what off-the-shelf tools to use.
Can you think of other barriers?
Quality of a PMIS
This is how a Project Manager uses the PMIS to manage a project better.
|Planning and Scheduling||Storage of documents, and tools to help create project schedules. WBS, Dependency Charts, Gantt Charts|
|Monitoring||Measure the progress of the project, identify variances from the baseline|
|Resource Management||Effectively and efficiently use project resources to assign to tasks based on availability|
|Communication||Efficiently pass information to project stakeholders|
|Reporting||Generation f reports in standard formats to help with decision making|
|Evaluation||Provision of past project information and project audits/reviews of historical projects|
The PMIS must provide reliable and accurate information that will enable the project team to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively. It is not the complexity of the software that matters but the quality of the information generated by the system and the ability of the user to use the information to manage the project. This information helps the users/project managers to perform their tasks in a much professional manner. It is recommended that organizations should adopt the use of PMIS in the management of their projects. PMIS guarantees better management of project since it generates quality information needed for the management of the project.
Quality Requires Quality in all Areas.
Information Quality: Accurate and up-to-date information at the right level of detail
System Quality: Ease-of-use, time to access, robustness of the system.
Service Quality: Back-ups, ticketing system for faults, availability
Computer Self-Efficacy: Users want to use the system, can use the system, and can access it from required devices at the right times.
If you can get these four aspects of quality correct, they can leads to both ‘Intention to use’ and ‘User satisfaction’. In turn that leads to perceived net benefits from the system, and perhaps real net benefits. If users are reluctant to use the system, and it is a difficult system, then there can be no return on the investment.
Final thoughts on a PMIS and considerations.
- Is this a dedicated system or a collection of off-the-shelf tools?
- Use of PMIS through a life cycle. How might the system usage change through a project life cycle? How quickly do your projects move through a life-cycle in your industry?
- Do you develop a company system or use an existing online PMIS?
- Will the PMIS be geared and suitable to your industry type?
- Could the PMIS help deliver your Project management methodology?