Advances in technology have reduced many manual project management tasks and, in many respects, have made our lives more efficient.
It is easy to presume that true technology solutions theoretically should shrink project management time for service-based industries. But the ugly truth of many technology solutions is that they have the opposite effect, actually complicating processes and leading to more project management time. Volume, innovation and lack of adoption can hamper a technology’s true efficiency value.
Imagine having to send correspondence within your company in the old inter-office envelopes delivered by a mailroom employee wheeling around a cart. This was some pharma companies’ main method of inter-office communication, as recent as the 1990s.
Today, we would not consider handwriting, printing and/or inter-office mailing a quick correspondence to a work colleague in another department. Consider volume for a moment. How many inter-office envelopes did the average worker receive daily in 1991, versus the average number of e-mails received in 2014? Do we spend more or less time on inter-office correspondence today, regardless of the efficiency email affords us?
Innovation, which has been the technology buzz word for some time, has led to countless implementations of pilots with unproductive outcomes and many wasted project management hours. Innovation initiatives are on many of our development plans, and more companies have innovation task forces that must find newer and better ways to do things. It is widely known that innovation involves risk taking, and there are no guarantees when you try something for the first time.
However, the return of any successful technology should be measured not simply by the innovative technology that worked. For a true measure of success, you should factor in the time invested in project management hours for innovative technology that fell short of expectations. Perhaps you had a brilliant innovative idea and by implementing it you show a process time reduction of 20%. Ask yourself how many hours you spent developing and implementing the ideas that failed? When calculating your “break even” moment—when the solution time savings outweighs the solution development time—include your prior attempts at failed solutions for an accurate picture.
Maybe your first innovative idea is wildly successful, and you have proven it with an impressive case study. Possibly your technology solution has the potential to revolutionize the industry, but what if no one is implementing it? The efficiency value becomes diminished from lack of implementation. Perhaps the technology solution has been poorly disseminated, positioned as an “option” or has not received the proper stakeholder buy-in. Whatever the case, efficiency can be measured only on the projects on which it is used.
Data-driven insight, agility, efficiency and advanced innovative methodology are keys to building a smarter industry. Lean six sigma process measurement tools and implementation plans also are crucial elements for success. Implementing disruptive technologies successfully requires new project management principles. Technology will never replace hands-on project management, but adaptable project management will become more efficient as more innovative solutions are implemented and more valuable over time.
Ashley Tointon directs patient engagement programs at ePharmaSolutions. She has more than 18 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry.
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