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PDA’s for Program and Project Management Productivity
By Gary Hamilton, Gareth Byatt, and Jeff Hodgkinson

The three of us embrace new technology, though it is fair to say that none of us can claim to be mobile technology experts. For that reason this article, in which we discuss some of the current initiatives in mobile devices and apps for project management, is written with a project management rather than technology focus.

Nowadays, it seems everyone has a cell or mobile phone. A recent survey estimated that globally, there are 4.1 billion cell or mobile phone users, and that number is expected to climb. More and more cell/mobile phone users have a ‘Smartphone’ which, depending on the product, may be called a ‘PDA’ (Personal Digital Assistant) or a ‘Smartphone’. Tablets are increasingly popular as well. For the purposes of this article, we refer to all devices collectively as “mobile devices”. Devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Droid, Galaxy, Blackberry, etc., allow us to connect to the Internet and have data storage for Applets or ‘Apps’, programs accessed by touching the on-screen icon that provide information and/or services from GPS Navigation to playing a game of Solitaire. There are 60+ million ‘Smartphone’ or device users in the USA alone. As of this writing, there are close to 400,000 applications available for various devices with prices ranging from free to over $400.00 USD for special Medical and unique Apps; most cost between $2 to $10. Each device has the memory to store hundreds of apps which, in most cases, can be upgraded to expand the storage capability even further.

As professional project management practitioners, it is incumbent upon us to embrace new methodologies and technologies to improve our productivity and effectiveness to our customers and stakeholders. That statement can translate into numerous actions and the use of a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), or Smartphone, or Tablet can be one of them. Let’s mention some of the obvious benefits these mobile devices offer to project managers:

  • As a mobile phone user, you can make or receive a call from anywhere; several also have phone conferencing abilities. The speakers on many modern cell/mobile phones are good enough to use in a conference room with multiple people. These devices also have the capability to store 1000’s of phone #’s, speed dial, or use voice commands, but please don’t do that while driving a motor vehicle.
  • With an Internet-connected mobile device, you can send and receive either text messages or email including, with additional security (required by most companies), the ability to receive your company / business email. Therefore, you can respond to an inquiry immediately. Attachments can also be downloaded and viewed for immediate changes and/or approvals.

  • With access to the Internet, you can search for information when needed.

  • A recent trend is the notepad or notes applications and, now, word processing and spread sheets on mobile devices, with which one can perform the same functions on a “roaming device” as with a laptop or desktop computer. As tablets provide a larger keypad than a Smartphone type of device, we see them being efficiently used more and more frequently in meetings in lieu of a laptop. As most weigh less than even the slimmest laptops, they are quite convenient.

We are particularly interested in the applications or ‘Apps’ that are available for purchase and download by you, the device owner – assuming you have a mobile device that can use them. As we mentioned earlier, there are 1000’s, with new ones coming on stream every day. In our research, we found many applications that are of interest to project managers.

Below is a screen shot of a few Apps that we found – there are more; this is just to give a “picture”:

Project and Program Management Apps

Figure 1: Project and Program Management Apps

We are intentionally not providing the App name, description, or price as it is not our intention to advertise or endorse any of these; rather, we wish to advise on the diversity, type, uses, and benefits of using them. We have categorized these mobile Apps into three types:

  1. Information & Reference
  2. Interactive Informational
  3. Tools

Information & Reference

Essentially, this is information (words, diagrams, and pictures) made available in the app. This is information logically data-mapped for quick access and reference. These apps are usually available in color and repaginate themselves to fit into the size of a typical screen size for a mobile device. Whilst there is a variety of content available in the “Information and Reference” category of apps, some of the best are designed to assist in exam preparation for various Project Management certifications/credentials. Overall, we found them to be ‘good’ as a convenient way of getting information and honing up on your PM basics. We look forward to seeing how they develop.

Interactive Informational

Although these are really tools, their overall use is currently akin to ‘flash cards’ where one reads a question and then provides the answer. Some of them provide a ‘test format’ that responds to your answer with an explanation of why it’s correct or incorrect. Basically, they are similar to “Information and Reference” apps with added interactivity or a condensed version of many online exam prep sites. Overall, ‘fair’, and great if you are travelling.

Tools

Some of the tools for mobile devices are very good and are ‘handy’. The level of sophistication will no doubt increase with time. For example, some are already able to provide PERT information with calculations and Standard Deviation. It’s a given that using any complex processing tool such as a scheduling tool requires time to calculate and input the necessary data. (Using the scheduling analogy, for example, we need, at a minimum, data such as Start, Finish, Type – task or milestone, Task Name, Duration, Predecessor and Successor link.) Be aware that for these apps, it is necessary to be patient and trial their usage on a mobile device to see how you get on with it. With a mini-HTML cable, you can upload your schedule file to your laptop or desktop just as you would a photograph. These complex apps are still works in progress and worth reviewing as they progress technologically.

In conclusion, we believe the availability, use, and application of project management tools for mobile devices are a great productivity gain – when used effectively. We look forward to seeing how they progress, particularly those used as ‘tools’. They are tending to be free to $10 USD and seem to be a good value. We advise that you first try the free version if one is available and, if usable, then purchase the pay-for version/licence. If you are studying for a credential or certification and need to optimize your study time, the availability of a mobile device can be convenient while waiting or travelling. We will continue to scan for new PM type applications and monitor the volume and diversity of them as a demographic of the app market.

Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson are experienced PMO, program, and project managers who developed a mutual friendship by realizing they shared a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management (collectively termed PM below). In February 2010 they decided to collaborate on a five (5) year goal to write 100 PM subject articles (pro bono) for publication in any/all PM subject websites, newsletters, and professional magazines / journals. They have been translated into Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian and published on websites in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, UK, and the USA. Their mission is to help expand good program and project management practices by promoting the PM profession, to be a positive influence to the PM Community, and in earnest hope readers can gain benefit from the advice of their 60+ years of combined experience and expertise (and the expertise of co-authors who write with them on certain articles and subjects). Although all three are well credentialed, together they have the distinction in particular of being 3 of only 25 worldwide that hold the Project Management Institute’s PMP®, PgMP®, and PMI-RMP® Credentials. Gary and Jeff have all five (5) of the PMI ‘Family of Credentials’. As of December 31st, 2010, PMI confirmed we were the only two having these.

Along with writing articles, each also champions a role in the overall writing program collaboration process:

  • Gareth manages all requests for additional guest author collaborations
  • Gary manages the article development tracking and readership metrics
  • Jeff manages the article distribution and new readership demographics

Each can be contacted for advice, coaching, collaboration, and speaking individually as noted in their bios or as a team at: Contactus@pmoracles.com

Gareth Byatt is Head of the Group IT Portfolio Management Office for Lend Lease Corporation. Gareth has worked in several countries and lives in Sydney, Australia. Gareth has 14+ years of project, program, and portfolio management experience in IT and construction. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Gareth holds numerous degrees, certifications, and credentials in program and project management as follows: an MBA from one of the world’s leading education establishments, a 1st-class undergraduate management degree, and the PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, & PRINCE2 professional certifications. Gareth is also the APAC Region Director for the PMI’s PMO Community of Practice and chairs several peer networking groups. He is a Director of the PMI Sydney Chapter for 2011.

He has presented on PMOs and program and project management at international conferences in the UK, Australia, & Asia including PMI APAC in 2010.

Email Gareth: gareth.byatt@gmail.com.

Gary Hamilton has 17+ years of project and program management experience in IT, finance, and human resources and volunteers as the VP of Programs for the PMI East Tennessee chapter. Gary is a 2009 & 2010 Presidents’ Volunteer Award recipient for his charitable work. He has won several internal awards for results achieved from projects and programs he managed as well as being named one of the Business Journal’s Top 40 Professionals in 2007. Gary is the 5th person globally to obtain the six PMI credentials PgMP®, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®, PMI-ACP®, and CAPM®. In addition to these, Gary holds numerous other degrees and certifications in IT, management, and project management and they include: an advanced MBA degree in finance, Project+, PRINCE2, MSP, ITIL-F, MCTS (SharePoint), MCITP (Project), CSM (Certified Scrum Master), and Six Sigma GB professional certifications. Email Gary: Gary@PMOracles.com or contact him through LinkedIn.

Jeff Hodgkinson is a 31 year veteran of Intel Corporation, where he continues on a progressive career as a program/project manager. Jeff is an IT@Intel Expert and blogs on Intel’s Community for IT Professionals for Program/Project Management subjects and interests. He is also the Intel IT PMO PMI Credential Mentor supporting colleagues in pursuit of a new credential. In 2012, he earned an IAA (Intel Achievement Award), Intel’s highest recognition, with the team for work in implementing an industry-leading private cloud solution.

Jeff received the 2010 PMI (Project Management Institute) Distinguished Contribution Award for his support of the Project Management profession from the Project Management Institute. Jeff was the 2nd place finalist for the 2011 Kerzner Award and was also the 2nd place finalist for the 2009 Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award TM. He also received the 2011 GPM™ Sustainability Award. He lives in Mesa, Arizona, USA and volunteers as the Associate Vice President for Credentials & Certifications for the Phoenix PMI Chapter. Because of his contributions to helping people achieve their goals, he is the third (3rd) most recommended person on LinkedIn with 590+ recommendations, and is ranked 33rd most networked LinkedIn person.

Jeff holds numerous certifications and credentials in program and project management, which are as follows: CAPM®, CCS, CDT, CPC™, CIPM™, CPPM–Level 10, CDRP, CSM™, CSQE, GPM™, IPMA-B®, ITIL-F, MPM™, PME™, PMOC, PMP®, PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®, PMW, and SSGB. Jeff is an expert at program and project management principles and best practices. Jeff is currently focusing on gaining expertise in energy efficiency and home energy alternatives.

Email Jeff: jghmesa@gmail.com

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