When countless hours have been tirelessly devoted to a project, everyone’s rooting for its success. Sometimes when it’s so successful, all that hard work is just the beginning.

Why automation matters to project management

What is project automation? At its core, automation is about solving a problem and reducing error by reliably offloading manual work done by a human to a machine. The goal is to reduce time-consuming,  repetitive, and routine work, and to maximize the repeatability and predictability of results.

The fear of automation stems from the false belief that embracing automation would make human jobs extraneous. However, automation in project management does the exact opposite. By automating work that is tedious and repetitive, you’re freeing up time for work that can’t be automated — like innovation and creativity.

How automation amplifies project management

1. Automation offloads busywork

Smart project managers allow their automated tools to do the menial work of assigning job tickets or sending status updates, so that they can focus on more valuable tasks. Such is the case with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The San Francisco Chronicle is one of the 10 largest daily newspapers in the United States. Like any big organization, their marketing department's creative design team grew and began to struggle with a request system that wasn't built for efficiently assigning work to multiple designers.

Graphic Designer Paul De Leon shared: "We had to investigate and find if there were new projects or not. There were no daily reminders or notifications for us at that time, which made it hard."

Instead, they had a coordinator who manually entered and de-duped requests coming in via email and their Google Forms into a single spreadsheet.

When looking for a better solution, De Leon found Wrike, a project management tool with built-in automation that could manage inbound requests by sending it to all designers. Wrike now also automatically notifies requesters of any change in the status of their design requests.

Added bonus: Approximately 40% of the team's work is managed by duplicating templates. Why reinvent the wheel when you can build templates in Wrike?

2. Automation connects systems together

The average enterprise now uses over 900 cloud applications to manage its processes, and 59% of workers say the number of tools they use to work has increased in the past year, according to Symantec.

While this explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools have made organizations more efficient when compared to a decade ago, the sheer number of options may now be leading to a decline in productivity.

“Workflow fragmentation leads to workers spending more time searching for, and aggregating, information than actually working,” says Andrew Filev, Wrike CEO.

New technologies are created to help employees work smarter, but since the tools don't exist in a vacuum, they’re only helpful when they integrate with one another and free your work data from silos. If employees spend their time searching for information, or copying information to a different tool, or even toggling between apps, all the gains are lost.

"I predict that automation will play a crucial role in helping IT implement and integrate multiple SaaS tools in the months and years to come," Filev says. "When information and the right data remain accessible to everyone, from anywhere, your workforce can truly work smarter and not harder. But when data is siloed, and when our applications don’t work together, technology can’t do its job."

For example, at the San Francisco Chronicle, Paul De Leon and his team of designers organize their creative assets (Photoshop and InDesign files) in Dropbox. Then they use Wrike to manage the workflows, attaching those assets to the relevant tasks and projects, thanks to a native integration within Wrike.

There are many more tools that Wrike integrates with, from Gmail to Salesforce to Jira to Slack. The point is that your automation tool must work well with your existing technology stack to maximize its value.

3. Automation streamlines feedback

An area where project management typically runs into of bottlenecks and delays is the review process. Communications get misplaced, stakeholders don't realize the project is waiting on their approval, and various versions of deliverables are attached to multiple email threads.

Smart project managers use automation to optimize this process so that all approvers are notified they need to review something. And when feedback is given, the original assignees receive it all in one place, organized chronologically.

De Leon recounts how they used to do it at the San Francisco Chronicle: "A copy editor would print out the PDF, take a red marker, write up his comments, scan it in, and then email it back to me."

Nowadays, his team captures the comments directly within the PDF in Wrike. And his designers are alerted automatically that an asset has been reviewed. Feedback and approvals are clear and time-stamped. And there's much less waste all around.

What can automation do for you?

In the end, smart project managers aren’t afraid of automation. Instead, they wield it to do the following:

  • Help keep work consistent and minimize errors at scale, so efforts are focused on strategic decision making
  • Seamlessly tie your most loved tools together to minimize the stop and go productivity
  • Make feedback and approvals cohesive and clear so projects are always moving forward

How are you using the wealth of automation available to you? Let us know in the comments.

For further reading on automation, check out these articles: