By Tobias Manolo
When working within a project management team, particularly a small team, collaboration and the sharing of documents/data between all participants is a high priority, if not essential for the project manager! Without access, it becomes more difficult to meet deadlines, adhere to budgets, achieve goals, and monitor the project’s progress. So, having an effective document storage solution is a tool that is a necessity, not a luxury. But it’s not just a case of here’s the solution, let’s implement it and start using it. It takes planning to not only ensure the right solution is deployed but that it does what you need it to do, and all members know how to use it.
Here are some tips to ensure the right plan, and the right document management solution, are implemented for your project.
1. Create a plan. Develop a project management plan and put it into a document that can become the master to which all relevant documents to the project can be linked. Don’t forget to include details on the key phases and/or milestones, allocated responsibilities for elements of the project, which can be expanded to show individual tasks. The plan must also include a risk assessment plan and quality assurance. This step will generate a lot of documents, before the project even gets started, so use them as a guide to the right storage solution.
2. Choose your document storage solution. An easy way of sharing documents between team participants is by using social tools and the cloud. Tools like Basecamp and Dropbox allow project managers to share documents, which can also be accessed by all members from any location. Dropbox may have the edge as they are demonstrating a lot of growth at the moment, plus it has the capability of automatically syncing the online storage folder with documents stored on the hard drive, ensuring that the most recent document is available at any time, even if another member of the team has been working on it. Another online cloud-based collaborative tool is Google Drive which provides a document storage option, but it is restrictive in that documents can only be viewed and changed online.
3. Don’t forget your back-up plan! No matter how comprehensive your project management plan is, or how effective your document management solution, you will always need a back-up plan which should be incorporated into the risk assessment element of your plan. The back-up plan should ensure that you still have access to your documents should your online storage fail. Some managers will choose to store hard copies of the documents, but this takes up time and space. An alternative is to outsource to an external document storage service, or to scan and digitise documents and files that can be stored online, but in a different, secure location.
As with all projects, the planning is in the detail. An effective project manager is able to choose the right document management and storage solution, assess the potential risks and implement the necessary back-up plans. With the abundance of online and social tools available, many of which include cloud storage and collaboration capabilities, project managers are able to ensure the initial planning phase for new projects is far more thorough than in the past.