In my last article, I wrote the first half of my overview of the benefits and disadvantages of following a document-centric or repository-centric approach to managing project information. This week, I’ll conclude the assessment by covering the pros and cons of an online repository-based approach.
Whether you implement a COTS solution or build a repository in house, there are some clear advantages to this choice including:
- Reduced oversight and reporting effort. If a PMO leader wishes to institute governance and gating over the project portfolio, having key project data captured in documents scattered across multiple folders or sites makes this objective manually intensive. If instead all key project information is consolidated into a repository then standard query capabilities can be used to build reports which can be run with minimal effort.
- Update once, benefit immediately. When an artifact template gets updated or introduced, the effort to propagate it to all project teams can take a lot of time and effort and it is not uncommon to have teams continuing to use obsolete templates well beyond the launch date of an updated version. With a repository, changes could be pushed immediately with all instances getting updated simultaneously.
- Enter once, use often. A document-centric approach can generate redundant information spread across multiple documents for the same project. Hosting all this information within a single repository facilitates elimination of data duplication which will both reduce project team frustration and will avoid the inconsistencies which invariably occur when a team member forgets to update all instances of a given data element.
- Greater value realization from centralized information. Identifying common organization blockers affecting multiple projects across the portfolio or creating a knowledge base of lessons learned is simplified when a centralized repository is available.
- Encourages collaboration. When elaborating the details of requirements, design elements, test artifacts or even code, the ability for multiple team members to work together in near real time without having to constantly check in or check out shared documents reduces collaboration effort.
But as usual there are no silver bullets when it comes to project management!
Such repositories have their own challenges including:
- Increased difficulty in sharing information outside the company. Control partners are usually unwilling to permit project teams to open up their project repositories to all the third party delivery organizations they might be partnering with. Documents can be easily shared whereas online repositories require access to be granted and taken away once the third party’s involvement has ended.
- Increased learning curve. No matter how intuitive, a project information system requires staff to be trained to a greater extent than if documents were used to capture the same information. Such training needs to cover not only how a tool works but also appropriate usage.
- Higher one-time and ongoing costs. Even if a tool is developed in house, build and maintenance costs will be significantly greater than what’s required with a document-based approach.
- Potential versioning challenges. Online repositories lend themselves to increased collaboration which means that content can evolve over time. This can make it more challenging to identify which version of a given information set has been reviewed and approved.
- Potential inefficiencies for power users (thanks for suggesting that one, Michael!). While online repositories can be made more foolproof than document templates, this fool proofing can actually slow down advanced users. Also, the record-centric approach found in such tools can increase the effort required to perform simple search or global find & replace actions.
For some information, a document-centric approach might yield the best results whereas for others, an online repository is the way to go.
True victory is achieved by picking the right tool or practice to fulfill a given context.