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Navigating the Evolution of Project Management Tools

Unpacking Efficiency in Digitised Workplaces

James Huang | 2023.10.10

Back in my analyst days at a bank, our workflow was efficiently mapped out with Microsoft Project. I later moved onto a consulting firm, where a PRINCE2-based, in-house management tool linked our work with the billing software. But despite the sophistication, we still had project updates flowing through an entirely different system. More frustratingly, the constant transition between project management software (PMS) was often blamed for efficiency losses. While leaving the firm, a new buzzword was echoing around the corridors - Total Cost Management (TCM). It promised to replace and outshine our PRINCE2 systems. Returned a few years later as a contractor, that big change was merely a facade. The enchantment surrounding TCM had vanished, making way for another debutant - Team Foundation Server. 

Working as an “individual contributor” in the digital age – be it as an engineer, copywriter, designer, data analyst, or marketer involves jumping from one project management tool to another. Onboarding may lead you to myriad collaboration invites from Smartsheet, Notion, Udemy, ClickUp, Projectworks, Wrike to Height; the endless list continues to burgeon. The market is filled with various proprietary apps etching their claims of maximising productivity, easing workflow, and boosting agility. Through multiple transitions between job roles and teams, the realisation finally dawned - no single PMS tool is a magical elixir.

Each project management tool stems from the age-old obsession with workplace efficiency. Since the second Industrial Revolution, the focus has been to enhance workforce productivity. 

In the 1900s, workplace management transformed into project management, propelling the quest for maximising prosperity for both employers and employees. Project management principles graduated from machine-based manufacturing floors into sophisticated digital workplaces. Manufacturing output was ruled by project schedules physically engraved on charts. Work completion was mechanically linear; each part was fabricated independently of the chart. However, today's information-rich work practices challenge this method.

Modern-day project handling involves complex layers beyond simple execution, extending into feedback, debates, approval stages, revisions and stakeholder interactions. AI-centric tools are beginning to replace traditional project management structures, freeing up valuable workforce capacitors. This minimises friction, roadblocks, and external 'management' controls; taskmasters steadily evolve into self-governed contributors.

Despite the shifts in technology, there's been a lack of marked improvements in workplace productivity. Projects continue to be handled as standalone entities rather than dynamic, collaborative tasks. Digitised options that measure effective efficiency are cluttered, distracting individual contributors, overshadowing their primary roles.

So, where does the solution lie? It begins with individuals wearing an entrepreneurial hat and shedding traditional workforce etiquettes. The modern workspace revolves around tonnes of software, each promising productivity. They might make coordination easy but necessarily do not yield better productivity, especially suited to the job specifics. Instead of a linear, top-down methodology, focusing on individual skillsets and strengths might be the way forward. 

In summary, working efficiently in the 21st century no longer means adhering to a ladder of tasks driven by complex company structure. Professional growth aligns more with the personalised choices of what works best for each self-made, entrepreneurial individual. Some may adapt better with A.I., while others may function better off it. The perfect software yet does not exist, with all boasting some degree of imperfection. Despite the digital revolution, efficiency loss can't be entirely eradicated as well-made schedules and goals can still fall short due to incomplete communication. However, keeping an entrepreneurial mindset and exploring the power of digitisation might steer you clear of the old-school rigidity and gradually pave the way for maximising output with minimum disruption.

Navigating the Evolution of Project Management Tools
MERCURY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION, James Huang 10 October, 2023
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