The recent Chilean volcano ash cloud and resulting closure of airports across southern Australia and New Zealand really goes to show how easily our travel plans can go awry. If you happened to be one of the many stuck at Melbourne airport last Monday, I’m sure the delays were not only frustrating, but also straining on your time. And even though this happened on a public holiday in Australia, there were still delays for people returning to work for days afterwards.

Project management often involves travel, and unexpected travel delays and long stopovers can have big impacts on your work. But what if you had the tools to use these delays to your advantage?

I recently read a blog entry posted on the PMI’s Voices on Project Management site by Dmitri Ivanenko about how project managers can effectively use travelling time. The blog talks about how project management often involves the need for travel, and this travel time is a perfect opportunity to catch up on emails, project documentation or review schedules.

But what if it only takes you a few minutes to catch up on those emails, or the documents you really need to work on are still at the office, or saved on the office PC? Sometimes free airport Wi-Fi and remote access to your emails can only take you so far. What you really need is the ability to access exactly the same information on the go as you would if you were in the office, especially in the event of an unexpected delay like the volcanic ash cloud.

With software like IPM, the database is central and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. So you can work from the office, home or gate lounge 3 of an airport whilst waiting for your plane to take off, and you still have access to all the same data you would have if you were in the office.

One of my posts a couple of months ago also looked at how virtual communication is changing the face of project management, and this same technology can help you make the most of any unexpected travel delays or long stopovers. Microsoft’s CRM technology means certain project management software programs, such as IPM, can be accessed remotely from your smart phone, so even if you are stuck without your laptop, you can still get full access to the database.

The ability to use software offline is also important. In the event you are delayed and can’t get internet access, you are still able to work on your project documents using the project management software, then sync the information you have entered with the main database once an internet connection is restored.

We all agree that travel delays are frustrating and inconvenient, but they are also sometimes unavoidable. But with the right tools you can turn your travel delays into effective time to work on your project.