Permission to launch: why project management tools need a unique permissions structure

Spreadsheets force project managers to work in the dark, with no ability to control who has access to proprietary information. Here’s why that doesn’t make sense.

There’s a reason that pharmaceutical companies make child proof bottles. A kid doesn’t know how much medicine to take. Instead, it falls to a parent or guardian to authorize. The same logic applies to kids using computers in schools or at home – parents or administrators are just not going to give them free reign over what they can see. That, in the project management sphere, is what we call a permissions structure – a hierarchy of who can access what information. It makes sense! But guess what? With Excel, or an old-house system, this possibility doesn’t exist. We’re going to lay out the benefits of having a tiered permissions structure, and why not having one can cause major headaches.

Control and Flexibility

Telecom projects are collaborative undertakings. You have different functions (construction, real estate, regulatory) that include team members internal and external to your company coming together to ensure a successful project. But not all of them need access to the same data. So it makes sense to have a tool that gives the project manager the ability to control the flow and accessibility of information. A project includes specific information about sites, equipment, and financial data. Our project manager (let’s call him Jake) wants the construction manager to be able to enter and edit project-related information, the real estate manager to be able to view but not edit the site information. He also wants to restrict the financial team’s access to this information, since it isn’t relevant to them. Guess what? You can’t do any of that in Excel. Or on your in-house system that’s a decade old.

Permissions just make sense. They ensure that people have access to the information they’re supposed to. Project manager Jake wants to make sure his employees and hired contractors get access to the appropriate information. With a permissions strucutre in place, Jake can feel confident that the construction manager is not going to alter financial data. Having a tool with tiered permissions allows Jake to both encourage collaboration by keeping records open for viewing and ensure that the right personnel have access to the right data.

Data Quality Wins Out

In Excel, if a team member puts a comment in a date or time field, that’s fine for them, because they know what that means. The problem is, no one else does. That requires explanations and wasted time. It also compromises data quality. Spreadsheets that have comments in date cells are not reportable – you’re handcuffing the ability to gain relevant insight from your spreadsheets. A robust permission structure ensures consistently accurate data. In SiteTraker, for example, the project manager doesn’t even have to worry about someone changing info, because even if they do, every change is audited and tracked, and you can deal with the offender immediately.

A Better Vendor Relationship

All of this also applies to the project manager-vendor relationship. Think about how much you dread sending/receiving the weekly spreadsheet to/from the vendor. You have to import it into a different format. And then respond with an email with proposed changes. It’s almost elegantly inefficient. With a proper permissions structure – your vendors are now working with live data and you as the project manager can specify which fields they can access. Now you’re collaborating in real-time without the hindrance of a bloated and inaccurate spreadsheet, and you have a new level of accountability you’ve never had before with your vendors.

A comprehensive permissions structure fosters collaboration, accountability, and security, both internally and externally. It saves time, focuses team responsibilities, and ensures people have access to exactly what they need – no more, no less. Don’t believe me?