"Cloud Computing", the 4th wave of computing seems tailor-made for project managers to surf !

After the "mainframes", client/server, internet, comes "Cloud Computing" which combines numerous facets of the respective advantages of these previous waves.

Gains in flexibility, speed, security, IT costs reduction… such are the attractive promises of this new wave for the surfing project manager. Organizations begin to grasp these potential benefits and PMI, the Project Management Institute, did not miss the opportunity to dedicate an article to this subject in its May edition of the PM Network magazine.

Concretely, for project managers, the first benefit is to spend less time and energy on technical, often mundane and commoditized aspects of the computing they need for their projects whatever the business domain they evolve into. The IT standardization finally happens and in numerous areas, it is more a matter of assembling components that building a solution from scratch. This saved time is much better invested in sessions with the project’s customers and stakeholders, to understand their business, their job, their needs and their problems which the project shall address.

Specifically, in the project management are, the tools of the PM for collaboration, methods, forms, project tracking and costs management become available to all upon request, as long as the team has access to the “Cloud”. Indeed, documentation management, collaborative spaces (wikis, blogs), source code version control, project plans, progress reports, time sheets are as many tools and standard functions which can be put at the disposal of all upon demand on the Private Cloud of the company and which improve constantly with the experience of all and everyone.

Let us take the example of Project Portfolio Management – PPM. It is more and more common to find in projectized organizations very mature tools to manage projects and programs. These often accompanied by strong methodologies. To put these methods and tools at the disposal of all: project managers, projects’ teams, stakeholders, customers… on the “Cloud” enables economies of time, greater transparency and efficiency, and standardization on the best practices. The toolbox once shared on the “Cloud” will grow richer and richer and the project information will be more up to date as well as more visible to all (and often the visibility itself improves the desire to keep it accurate). The project plans, dashboards, progress reports and other artifacts of project management can be directly accessible by every authorized person rather than limited to the sole members of the project team.

Additionally, the very fast progress of this Cloud wave encourages the big names of software, among which those used by project managers, to change their economic model from selling licenses towards supplying services charged based on usage. It also engages them to make their software offers more modular and more open to interface with. This allows the project manager to realize some benefits in terms of speed, flexibility, resiliency and quality during the implementation of these tailored solutions as they are based on components of greater reliability, easier to integrate and available on demand.

Of course, this transformation requires important adjustments in our approach of project management, especially in the area of procurement of services rather than raw materials. The rigor of project management thus remains more than ever essential to make sure that these functions and new processes deliver the expected results: Using Cloud to optimize the costs, shorten the timelines and increase the quality.

At least and starting today, the project managers can gain with Cloud for the collaboration within their geographically distributed teams, for its accessibility to all, also to standardize the project management practices and processes in the organization (common, shared and available methods on the Cloud).

The Cloud also allows them to order, install, test and remove when necessary a variety of IT environments to test and validate any new solution their team produces as soon as possible. It becomes possible to fully embrace some Agile best practices such as delivering as soon as possible a functional product on an environment which will grow easily with the increase of the functionalities or the deployment in a wider audience. If the project requires IT platforms (and what project does not require it?), the Cloud allows the PM to free him/herself from a big part of the problems linked with workload increase thanks to platforms available on-demand. It starts during the initial phases for the development environments, and then continues during the first tests with platforms dedicated to these tasks. Then, during the phases of full-scale tests, "staging pilots", a minimal infrastructure but capable to grow rapidly can be deployed and evolve as time goes by and usage increases.

Thus, dear PMs, in this summer period, put on your surf suits and jump on this new wave.

And you, what do you think?


Photo: Michael Jastremski

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/