Monday, 07 May 2018 07:23

Are project managers isolationists?

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No project is an island.There are lots of components that make up a project, often requiring the involvement of multiple departments.

Take a building project in the construction industry, where logistics, timelines, and budgets all need to work together seamlessly for projects to be finished on time. Just one chink in this chain could cost someone their job.

Without solid communication which is fluid between all stakeholders, such as contractors, local councils and senior management. The success of your project could be heavily hampered.

The project manager is another separate entity, who despite having resources scattered across roles, departments, and sometimes even countries is expected to unify everyone and keep on top of everyone’s workload.

The company has to make an executive decision to improve the fluidity of work processes for two reasons:

1. To increase the speed at which work is completed, making teams much more productive, efficient, and creative.

2. To foster a new company culture by prioritizing the morale of staff, creating fluid teams and centralizing all communication.

When you isolate you kill visibility

At some point in the project lifecycle the temptation to isolate tasks can affect project managers everywhere. For instance, a brief conversation at the desk of the build manager to slightly delay a shipment of timber means that suddenly the site joiners are out of the loop and need to inform the roofer and delay the bricklayer. That single decision has now cost you 2 days and put a team of disorganized people in a panic. It’s easy to forget the grand scheme of the project when a few tweaks need to be made here and there, but the success rate of all projects, big or small, can be significantly improved with better visibility.

It’s one thing unifying communication between your teams but measuring each person’s productivity amidst the tasks you’ve given them is crucial, and that’s where visibility or lack thereof comes into play. Especially if you’re going to manage your project in the most cost-effective way possible.


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Hidden visibility

You might be surprised at just how little some project managers know about the effectiveness of their resources. Assigning tasks to the right talent is one thing, but visibility is all about measuring exactly what they do, how they approach it, and how long it takes them to accomplish a task. Understanding how your resources work makes it a lot easier to plot your project journey, helping to see overlaps with other departments or barriers and delays.

How we know is as important as what we know

Your employees are bound to approach tasks in their own unique way and measuring performance can be a tricky exercise.

Timesheets and temperature mapping are two features of a resource management tool that are key to understanding how your employees work. Timesheets will track employee hours against projects, so you can literally see what you planned versus what you actually achieved. And temperature mapping shows you a visual representation of your resource allocation. So, you can visualize maps by role, department, or skill, with the ability to drill down into individual resources. This is helpful for seeing if any of your resources are over or underworked.

Once you equip yourself with this information, you’ll start approaching project management with an entirely new perspective.

Expect the best, prepare for the worst, capitalize on what comes

In an ideal situation – timeframes would be realistic, budget estimates would be exact, and you’d react like lightning to any sudden changes. A good resource management tool provides you with useable information that you can apply immediately. You can even break down a single process into 5, 10 or 20 tiny parts to pinpoint exactly where your weakest links are hiding.

What if you moved your resources from one task to another for the next two weeks? Or what if you allocated extra resources to a part of your project to help speed things up? You may even be wondering if a new hire could be more cost-effective in the long-run. But without easy-to-use what-if analysis it can be very difficult to see the outcomes of these potential decisions. And you certainly can’t risk the flow of your strategy by chopping and changing workflows without fully understanding the consequences.

‘What-if’ scenario planning presents you with a virtual display of your project strategy, including resource allocation, timelines and budgets. It then let’s you move parts around, all the while calculating in real-time the outcome of your new hypothetical scenarios you’ve just created. So now you can anticipate and prepare for inevitable project changes, which will help you to make far better decisions.

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Greg Bailey

With over 25 years’ experience in the project management sector, Greg Bailey is Vice President Resource Management at ProSymmetry. He writes about tech trends, with a focus on resource management.

For more of Greg's views on resource management, you can visit the ProSymmetry blog (http://prosymmetry.com/blog/) or follow the company on Twitter - @ProSymmetry.

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