The Focal Point Blog // Business Strategy // Dave Annis // May 26, 2022

Unlock your Project Manager’s Full Potential by Integrating your Tools

A talented project manager is one of the most valuable resources for a digital services company. Set them up for success by integrating your tools and platforms for better visibility, insight, and action. 

Project managers are the central hub and backbone in almost every professional services ecosystem. They’re also incredibly underappreciated and overworked! PMs have a ton on their plates between managing the various elements and requirements of their projects and ensuring that they’re all executed on time and on budget. And since their work could touch basically every aspect of a business, project managers need to be well-versed in platforms used for forecasting, time tracking, task management, billing, and reporting. When these tools aren’t integrated and talking to one another however, it becomes a complicated and time-consuming task to make sense of all the data and to make actionable, strategic decisions. A disconnected array of tools creates signal noise and keeps PMs from being proactive and inhibits these talented collaborators from doing their best work. 

Spreadsheets only go so far

In order to collect data from different platforms, spreadsheets often become the de facto solution for project managers. But as we’ve covered before, spreadsheets only get you so far and can inhibit real, actionable insights. They’re a great asset for young companies just starting out because they’re flexible and easy to set up. But as operations mature and scale, spreadsheets become time consuming, labor intensive, and easily broken. They can become a liability with no data governance. Plus, static, siloed information locked in spreadsheets is almost immediately out-of-date and limits reporting, especially to leadership teams who rely on project managers to provide a sense of team and project health. For valuable project managers who need to interact with and report on data across platforms, clunky spreadsheets do little to provide real-time updates on the vast network of resources and teams that project managers must address. 

Disparate data and tools = 😵‍💫

Consider this all-too-familiar pain for PMs. Resource planning is on one platform. Assigned tasks and project management is somewhere else. Project actuals live in time tracking and project accounting is over in finance. Future resource needs are locked up in sales and inaccessible until the last possible moment. All of this data is needed to assess project and team health and use that to adjust plans on a regular basis, and it’s a project manager’s job to sift through disparate platforms to gather the necessary insight. A familiar project management workflow begins, and project managers toggle between tools to:

  • Adjust project timelines and milestones as things evolve and change almost daily
  • Update resource plans and review and reconcile timesheets weekly 
  • Compare actuals to the budgeted work

They do this so that when clients or management ask the familiar question: “Is this project on track?” They piece together all of the different data inputs in spreadsheets to generate insights from all of the disparate systems the company uses. It’s…a lot! 

Untapped potential 

Despite the fact that project managers are hugely valuable resources for digital services companies, their job can often feel like that of a professional babysitter and (mad) data scientist, chasing down teams to provide input and updates, and then having to cobble everything together for myriad reports – again and again. This was a consistent theme and pain point when we hung out with a couple dozen PMs at our latest Parallax Product Advisory Council meeting: Underappreciated, overworked, and swimming in data from too many tools that don’t communicate. And this cycle of data entry and wrangling is keeping project managers from reaching their full potential and value. 

Integrate tools for better insights and reporting

A core tenet of the Parallax philosophy is that the tools your shop uses hold incredible value and insight – if only they would talk to one another! Parallax is an integrations first professional services automation solution that creates a shared perspective on organizational health and performance. Project managers are focused on proactively adjusting project and resource plans to successfully deliver work and proactively avoid risks. They’re watching for indicators like using too many (or too few) hours, not having resources available when they’re needed, delivering late, or over delivering and eroding margin. Left to their own devices, they could easily manage against these issues. However, other team members and other tools can be unreliable, making the life of a PM difficult which detracts from their full potential. 

Parallax connects data across systems and combines all your project data so it’s accessible to everyone who needs it, and generates real-time insights and reports. So, rather than trudging through endless spreadsheets and making PMs bounce through an array of disparate and unreliable tools, Parallax becomes a single source of truth for project managers, providing insights like: 

  • Planned vs. actual expenses
  • Resource demand compared to capacity
  • Projected utilization based on resource plans
  • Profitability of in-progress projects

Parallax also unlocks the true talent and value from project managers, enabling them to be a strategic resource for an organization and its clients. Clients benefit by relying on project managers to provide quick and accurate information on project status. Organizations save time (and money) because PMs don’t have to manage multiple spreadsheets and jump around different platforms for data, reports, and insights. They have one place to look for answers in a place that’s pulling accurate, real-time data. And they can quickly make adjustments, pull reports, or fix small issues before they become time consuming and costly problems. 

Legacy PSA solutions or project management tools that have light PSA functionality will necessitate significant change for project managers unrelated to the best practices they can deliver for capacity planning, project accounting, forecasting, and revenue recognition. It begs the question: do you want your project managers spending the next 12 months learning all new tools or adopting best practices to become SUPER project managers? Parallax enables the latter. 

This combination of better visibility and connectivity among tools, plus positioning project managers as strategic guides rather than just data factories, will not only unlock their true potential and ambition, but it’ll help your organization operate healthier and happier. Let’s hear it for our indispensable PMs!