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The VoIP Report

How VoIP Improves Project Management
May 31st, 2017

How VoIP Improves Project Management

Ian Linton

Effective communication with all stakeholders is the most crucial success factor in project management. Learn how VoIP can help.

Effective communication with all stakeholders is the most crucial success factor in project management, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). The Institute’s Pulse of the Profession report found that effective communications lead to more successful projects.

However, the report also noted that an average of two in five projects fail to meet their original goals, and half of those unsuccessful projects are related to ineffective communications.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) provides advanced communications and collaboration tools that help project teams meet their goals. VoIP makes it easier to set up and hold team meetings, share information and maintain efficient day-to-day communications. Combining VoIP with project management techniques such as Agile or DevOps helps teams reduce project timescales and deliver results faster.

Rich communications tools

VoIP is a cloud-based communications system that has the essential tools project teams need. With one VoIP system on deskphones, smartphones, PCs, tablets, laptops or other mobile devices, project professionals can make and take voice calls, send and receive texts and instant messages, or hold audio, video or web conferences. That makes it possible for team members to communicate and collaborate from any location on any device.

VoIP also provides other features to improve communications. By using the Presence feature, for example, project professionals can quickly find out if colleagues are available for a meeting or call by checking their status.

Integration with business applications such as calendars or project management systems simplifies meeting scheduling and notification. File sharing capabilities make it easy to exchange content for review and approval.

Meet anywhere

VoIP removes the barriers of distance. Team members can work from any location and participate effectively in project meetings. VoIP’s video or web conferencing features are available on softphone apps, making it easy to join meetings from the office, at home or while traveling.

Formal team meetings don’t have to be restricted to conference rooms with dedicated video equipment. They can take place in any convenient meeting area using small form-factor screens and video equipment that allow attendees to see and be seen by colleagues in other locations.

The versatility of VoIP’s collaboration tools make it easy to set up teams from different sites around the country or anywhere in the world. Global teamwork is no longer an expensive luxury. VoIP’s long-distance and international call rates are very competitive compared to charges on the public telephone network, and calls between connected sites are free.

Extend the team

Project teams typically consist of core members with specialists joining when needed. A product development team, for example, might include engineers, product managers, designers, and marketing and sales executives.

As the project progresses, the team might invite purchasing, manufacturing, and production engineering executives to offer input on production requirements. Project teams can also bring in outside experts to provide additional knowledge or expertise. The product development team might bring in materials specialists from universities, technical experts from major suppliers or executives from marketing and research agencies.

VoIP provides a consistent communications platform that enables all permanent and temporary members to participate in meetings and share updates and other information. The project team can also use VoIP to keep other stakeholders such as finance directors and senior executives informed on progress.

Finding resources

Project management teams may need to find other resources with relevant skills or knowledge. VoIP can integrate with internal social networks where team members can post requests for support or search employees’ profiles.

Employees can view progress reports on social network sites and add comments or suggestions that may help the team. This can be a useful way to source ideas for innovation or solutions to problems from employees who are not directly involved in the project.

Schedule meetings

VoIP makes it easy to schedule meetings and invite participants. Integration with Microsoft Outlook or other calendar applications lets organizers check members’ availability for meetings and send invitations and reminders.

Team members can also set up ad hoc meetings directly from Microsoft Office 365 applications while they are working on project activities. Team members may want to discuss content for a presentation or report or get feedback on a proposal without having to wait for the next main meeting.

They can check a colleague’s availability by using VoIP’s Presence feature and launch meetings from any Office 365 application without breaking from work, improving productivity and achieving faster decisions.

Share meeting content

VoIP supports file sharing, making it easy to share content with team members who cannot attend project meetings in person. Presenters can launch material directly from their applications and share a rich variety of content, including documents, reports, presentations, charts and graphs, models, photographs, sketches, project plans, spreadsheets, and videos.

This improves the meeting experience for all participants, particularly remote members, and helps the team reach informed decisions quickly. Members can review content on-screen and make live amendments during the meeting.

Keeping teams informed

Project teams need to keep all members and stakeholders informed on progress and other relevant information. They might need to update schedules, report changes to a program or discuss next actions.

VoIP provides a number of different ways to distribute information. Members can send text messages or instant messages, leave voicemails or emails, or post information on internal social networks. These communication channels are also useful for informal communications between project meetings.

Team members can automate distribution by using VoIP’s notification feature for updates of general interest, or set up targeted distribution lists for information that is confidential or only relevant to certain members.

Recording project communications

It’s important to document progress, decisions, feedback and changes throughout a project for reference, analysis, and compliance. If problems occur at a later stage, the team can analyze earlier communications to look for any contributing factors.

By using VoIP, teams can record all calls, messages, and conferences. VoIP handles recording automatically and members can access all messages, voicemails and other recordings through a single unified inbox. They do not have to change devices to access different types of messages, improving productivity and information management.

VoIP also provides a feature that transcribes voice messages to text, so that recordings can be attached to reports in a convenient format.

Supporting Agile project management

VoIP supports the latest project management techniques such as Agile by streamlining communications.

Agile replaced traditional techniques, including Waterfall which saw projects progressing in large, fixed stages. Teams completed each stage and tested the results before starting the next stage. Any faults they found resulted in rework before the next stage could begin, which could lead to significant project delays.

Agile techniques deal with the risk by structuring the project in small stages known as iterations. After testing, they can deal with any problems and progress to the next stage quickly because the faults are likely to be smaller.

VoIP ensures that communications match the pace of Agile development. Teams can exchange information quickly by text, chat or instant message, and they can set up and hold meetings quickly to resolve issues and speed up decision-making.

Iterations are short, taking two weeks or less, so it’s essential for team members to remain in contact at all times. VoIP’s Presence feature lets members post their statuses and availability, while a Follow-Me feature rings a series of designated phone numbers simultaneously so members don’t miss a call.

Creating a collaborative culture

VoIP has transformed collaboration, making it easy for all employees. Conferencing features on PCs, tablets, smartphones and high-end deskphones mean that collaboration is no longer restricted to the conference room or to a small group of executives and employees. That means project management can take on a wider role in the business.

Businesses can adopt project management techniques and use them to encourage and support teamwork throughout the organization. This can help to break down barriers between departments and ensure that businesses can focus a wider range of skills, knowledge, and experience on solving problems or driving innovation.

Teamwork does not have to take a formal project management structure. The millennial generation, that represents an increasing proportion of the workforce, favor a collaborative working style and build teams naturally as an integral part of their approach to work. They can use VoIP’s collaboration tools as a familiar part of their working day.

Effective project communications matter

Project management can help businesses bring new products to market faster, introduce important organizational changes, or speed up the deployment of new IT initiatives. Project teams with high levels of collaboration, communication and flexibility are likely to achieve better project outcomes than teams without those attributes.

VoIP plays an important role in helping teams achieve those goals by streamlining communications and providing tools and resources that simplify and speed up collaboration.

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