Automation of Project Management: Success or Failure?

Many times, most of us would consider automating a process would mean it is doomed for success. According to a new article posted in CMSWire, automating a project gives it a higher probability of failure. This is in part due to major emphasis on the automation of certain processes, making projects’ outcomes very difficult to comprehend, very time consuming and extremely costly. Barry Shaeffer, author of “Successful Automatiom Project Planning, Implementation By the Numbers,” wrote, “While technology has raced ahead, our ability to deploy it has lagged. Indeed, we are scarcely better at successful projects than we were decades ago, a sad fact often obscured by organizations’ natural reticence to talk about their failures (”
So why is it that our workforce is becoming more educated, organizations are investing significantly larger amounts of capital and our technological infrastructure has evolved immensely, but we are still not successful with the majority of projects taken on by corporate America? Shaeffer has analyzed this question and has come up with six crucial caveats which could help organizations, large and small, increase the chances of successful completion of most projects:
1. Starting Right: You can’t win if you don’t know your team
2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: What works, and what really needs fixing
3. Automate the chaos and you end up with … Automated Chaos
4. What you get depends on what you ask for; RFI or RFP
5. Find the Vendors that can really help you
6. Do Your Technology with a Full Hand

Although I was extremely surprised to find this information to be true, I looked back at the last few projects I had worked on in my previous organizations. Starting with the most recent, Cigna is holding a financial review for a group of doctors. There are approximately 13 provider groups in this “POD” and I was in charge of compiling and analyzing the financial metrics for this group to present at the monthly financial overview. I thought this would be a no brainer since I have been working closely with this region. However, when I began my quest for this information, I quickly realized that this would not be an easy feat. It took me almost an entire working day, approximately six hours, just to retrieve the needed metrics. I had to go through several separate departments, all of whom pointed fingers at one another, indicating that the other department was in charge of that information. I could have compiled the spreadsheets and analyses the information in a much shorter time if our system allowed this information to be tracked in one location. Also, as it turns out, there is a great misconception about the duties and daily responsibilities of each department. In addition, Cigna spends 3 million per year on IT issues and implementation. However, it seems like they have just used those fund to automate more chaos.

Article information:
Shaeffer, “Barry. Successful Automation Project Planning, Implementation by the Numbers.” June 12, 2013.

6 thoughts on “Automation of Project Management: Success or Failure?

  1. This is an interesting perspective on the automation process as it relates to project management. I’m sure there are also several articles that we could find that suggest automation substantially improved the results of a given project. I find one of the biggest issues with automation is that the users of the technology don’t fully understand its value or its capabilities. In other words, the project team doesn’t really know how to use automated process to their advantage. Without proper training, I can most certainly see how automation can lead to the demise of a project.

  2. The idea behind the automation of the project management is to improve the quality, increase speed and reduce errors of the project . I believe automation can help project to achieve these objectives. Automation requires specialized approaches, the project manager needs to have the essential skills and knowledge to implement these approaches. More importantly, the PM has to motivated and accountable to lead the team to accomplish those tasks.

  3. I am a firm believer in human ability and person-person interaction. In some cases automation can help expedite a process or make things more efficient, but in my opinion automation should be left to these peripheral processes. The value in any project of having a “go to” person is invaluable and the ability for people to listen, confer and adapt are ideas missing from the automation equation. Today, people are too focused on doing things fast and just getting the job done as cheaply as possible rather than focusing on quality or even the potential for a long-term relationship. The future is just as, if not more, valuable than the future and automation I feel takes away from this a little bit.

  4. Very interesting and relevant topic for many firms today. I also believe that too many organizations just assume if you automate a process, you immediately make it more efficient. Not every process lends itself to being automated, and it takes people, research, and strategy to define which ones do and do not. As with anything else, it’s critical that there remain a balance between human decision making and automation to really draw out the efficiency in any process.

  5. Seems to me that this another way to say “work smarter, not harder”. This motto has been around for decades, and many of us have lived by it. The end result is that machines (computer and software are machines too!) are really good at doing repetitive tasks with consistent quality, but they are not good at making intelligent decisions in a dynamic environment. Management need to keep their heads up and keep the big picture in mind, otherwise project will fail. Period.

  6. Automation does not necessarily = efficiency. I struggle with this with all of my projects. People assume that if you take an inefficient process and make a computer do it, it automatically becomes more efficient. There is huge potential in automating portions of project management – but it’ll only work if the process is re-defined to be efficient and THEN programmed into an application.

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