Project management tools can be useful for routine task flows, but purpose-built workstream collaboration tools are transforming how teams handle dynamic, in-context workflows.
For companies or departments working through operational struggles — like consistently losing track of shipments or missing internal deadlines — it’s only natural that one of the first steps might be to look for a suitable project management (PM) tool. Project management tools can be extremely useful, but they are far from the only option to fix operational issues. In fact, depending on your circumstances, they might not actually be an ideal fit.
Workstream collaboration is an emerging solution that’s poised to shake up how business teams communicate and complete tasks. While project management and workstream collaboration tools both help teams organize around their work, the two offer different capabilities. As workstream collaboration gains traction, more and more teams are finding that purpose-built tools support a collaborative, cohesive workflow in ways that project management tools simply cannot.
What Project Management Tools Lack
Project management tools have traditionally been used for solidifying timelines and deliverables around how plans should be executed. Essentially, a team can create a plan of how a project gets from point A to point B, then simply follow the outlined steps to achieve their goal. This is absolutely a helpful function in some business contexts, especially those that don’t require flexibility.
However, project management tools quickly fall short for certain types of teams. One major issue is that they don’t offer much adaptability in dynamic situations. With PM tools, teams can’t easily adjust their workflows to reflect real-time information, meaning that any updates generally need to be incorporated into workflows manually. Project management simply isn’t designed for the kind of agility that many teams need.
PM tools also lack asset tracking capabilities, which means they aren’t aligned with the status or location of physical assets — whether that means IoT devices, equipment, or personnel. For operational teams, this is a huge loss, as updates and alerts about these assets (and other circumstantial changes) directly inform strategy. In contrast, project management notifications are typically limited to the task statuses themselves (like “completed” tasks or “overdue” tasks).
Perhaps most critically, few teams successfully use PM tools to communicate — especially not in a real-time manner. These platforms simply don’t offer the instant, collaborative features that operational teams need. That means teams are forced to revert to ad-hoc emails, chats, or in-person meetings to fill in the gaps. Without communication channels built around events and tasks, conversations often happen outside the platform and can quickly become detached from the matter at hand. In a similar sense, PM tools aren’t geared toward integrated info-sharing, which means that contextual knowledge and data aren’t truly being leveraged for the betterment of individual projects.
What is Workstream Collaboration?
Workstream collaboration, a new way of handling dynamic workflows, is already making waves across organizations. Enabled by emerging technologies, the strategic shift to workstream collaboration promises to improve how operational teams coordinate, communicate, and deliver. Here’s how key capabilities play into each of those objectives:
Communication: Distributed teams require a tool that can help them communicate as if they were in the same room, discussing ideas and sharing information. This calls for channels of communication that are integrated into the project workflow itself. By organizing the discussion around tasks, workstream collaboration tools can create spaces for ongoing, shared, and persistent conversations. These conversations are further bolstered by chat, voice, and video capabilities.
Coordination: Effective coordination is all about keeping everyone on the same page. Does everyone have the same view of tasks and maps? Is the team automatically coordinating with data housed in other tools? Additionally, actionable alerts can help keep relevant team members apprised of next steps. A common operational picture can ensure that team members understand their location in relation to other team members and key assets in order to execute tasks as efficiently as possible. All of these capabilities help deliver situational awareness and a more contextual approach to the task at hand.
Performance: Successful performance is the outcome of good collaboration, but it’s built every step of the way. Unlike PM tools that require strict workflows to keep teams on target according to set plans, operational teams need more flexibility. It’s critical that workflow and responsibilities shift in response to incoming information. This empowers teams to make dynamic decisions and ensures they respond accurately and effectively based on real-time data.
While PM tools might be an appropriate choice for routine tasks, their limited features just don’t cut it for organizations that need to pivot and adapt in real-time. Many companies need to rapidly respond to changes outside of their control, whether that means shifts in customer behavior, slowdowns in a supply chain, or some kind of equipment or system failure.
Using Workstream Collaboration to Enhance or Replace Project Management
Imagine this: Your team gets started on achieving a critical, time-sensitive objective, even though not all the pieces are in place. Information continues to roll in, often pushed directly to a workstream collaboration tool from integrated GPS or IoT technologies. Urgent tasks appear as actionable alerts that are delivered only to relevant parties. The team as a whole enjoys improved situational awareness, which means they make more informed decisions — aided by easy communication via task-based channels.
Project management tools do provide a clear structure, segmented tasks, and set expectations. However, great workstream collaboration tools can support a diverse array of use cases and objectives that are more suited to operational or distributed teams. While project management tools are valuable, they aren’t enough to guarantee success in a wide variety of situations.
In the scenario we just illustrated, the traditional project management tool can still be useful for checking off tasks as they get done, but it just isn’t where the process happens. For many organizations, it’s to their advantage to either integrate current PM tools or replace them altogether with a purpose-built collaboration tool. It’s the workstream collaboration tool that provides the visibility, flexibility, and functionality the team really needs.