The technology consulting industry is debating how we provide data on projects. Some feel that there are no efficiencies to be found, while others argue that better overall service to the customer is possible.

In the past, the preferred way to collect and distribute data was to spend hours and money doing repetitive work, gathering numbers and preparing spreadsheets. Now, as the software tools we use continue to improve, automating these processes is becoming more viable.

For bigger projects, automation means saving time by getting the smaller work off the project team’s plate, opening up time for innovation and creative problem-solving. More importantly, simplifying the data collection process through automation saves the customer money.

There are a lot of reasons automation works — especially within our industry. Here are five compelling reasons that automation offers a better experience and why you should make use of it in your everyday operations.

  1. Encouraging transparency — Before automation, the project team was responsible for collecting and presenting data, creating room for error. Automation contributes to total visibility between both parties by giving the customer access to data that has been collected by the software as it was programmed instead of by a project team member. This means that any data collected through the process is unbiased and directly correlates to the status of the project, ultimately returning authority of ownership.
  1. Empowering clients — Speaking of giving back ownership, data automation offers a sense of empowerment, giving the customer an opportunity to control what data they can see and when. The ability to track project progress and metrics creates even more feeling of ownership in the project, furthering transparency and freeing the project team.
  1. Reporting data in real time — Assigning a project member to manually collect data for reporting meant working longer hours to get the most up-to-date information available. With automation, time is spent building a system that will provide reports automatically, pulling relevant information from all assigned project software and presenting it in a clear, concise way. Additionally, customers sometimes have the ability to pull data whenever they wish, updating the information in real time. This means the data is always up-to-date and representative of the project’s current status.
  1. Integrating data — The number of applications and software being used in the industry is astonishing. These tools are always changing and updating, making it difficult to develop a system that works toward a common goal. By automating data flow between these systems, each piece of the puzzle can be integrated to provide accurate data. For example, data collected from a mobile device can be added to the databases and posted immediately by systems built to automatically check for new data.
  1. Making legacy enterprise systems accessible — Existing enterprise systems have a steep learning curve and are typically only used by software developers. Data specialists are usually aware of the data but are sometimes uncomfortable using these enterprise software solutions. This creates a disconnect between data and software developers. However, layering solutions with simplistic interfaces allows data specialists to enter data themselves. Enterprise systems can be integrated with these overarching solutions, automating processes to show summary reports, charts and more. In this way, automation is helping to make existing enterprise systems more accessible to data owners, data viewers and decision-makers.

As the industry continues to strive for efficiency and quality, it’s becoming more evident that automation is the way of the future. Keeping up with trends will help us continue to be innovative and bring success to our customers and ourselves. Today’s world is teeming with technological advancements; missing the boat would be detrimental to our ability to stay relevant.

If you’d like to learn more about automation or integration, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Tapsi Puri, PMP, is a project manager in technology consulting at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell. With more than 11 years of experience in the software industry, her background in computer science and her exposure to engineering trends help her provide efficient and innovative geospatial and nongeospatial software solutions by understanding enterprise architectures, identifying gaps and recommending solutions. She has led implementations of a wide range of systems involving GIS, complex integrations, data analytics and reporting, and web- and mobile-based platforms.