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Project Administration – Sure Beats Root Canal Surgery!

Project administration is as appealing as root canal surgery for most project team members. They are already accountable for completing in scope activities and helping to resolve issues on multiple projects as well as completing their normal operational tasks, so where can they find the time to do this overhead, low value work?

Regardless of the PM methodology used for a given project, project administration exists. On the low end it may be as minimal as reporting which specific work items have been completed and effort remaining on incomplete work items. On the high end it may include time entry, issue, action, task and risk status updating.

Convincing project team members that these activities are a necessary part of their work on your project is a challenge, especially when you have no formal authority over these resources. As project managers, what can we do to alleviate this pain? One approach could be for the project manager to shoulder this burden on behalf of the team, but that is hardly a good solution. The PM will end up with little time to manage all but the smallest projects.

Here are a few ideas that may help to minimize the effort spent by team members on project administration:

  • Reduce the need for duplicate data entry: If your organization requires staff to complete a timesheet for payroll purposes, work with your Human Resources department to determine if time data provided by team members across projects can be utilized (or better yet, imported) into the payroll reporting system. If you have multiple stakeholders on a project requiring different levels of project status data, remove the need for team members to have to report on the same work at multiple levels of detail – make them responsible for providing status updates at the task or issue level. You (or if you are lucky enough to have one, a Project Control Officer!) can generate the necessary reports at other levels of detail.
  • Strive for a consistent status reporting approach across all the projects worked on by your team: It is very frustrating for a resource to have to learn and complete different formats or types of status reports for different projects. In organizations with a PMO or that use a centralized project information reporting or tracking tool, this procedural consistency may be easy to attain. In organizations without these support mechanisms, consistency is still possible through coordination and communication between project managers.
  • Minimize the effort required to complete a status report: A simple status report for a project resource should be able to capture the following information within less than a half an hour of effort per week: updated status of assigned tasks & issues as well as actual time expended (tracked at the highest level required to meet management reporting and schedule and financial control objectives). Leverage technology or standard templates as much as possible.
  • Use these status updates as the primary source of information for management reporting: if stakeholders continue to go directly to individual team members in an interrupt or ad hoc fashion to understand what is going on, this defeats the value and rationale for team member-driven status updates.

Assuming you follow these practices, how can you sell your project team members on the benefits of their complying with project administration procedures? Communication messages to help with this change can center on:

  • Empowering them to own all information related to their work on a project.
  • Putting them back in control of their schedule as opposed to be being interrupted frequently by project stakeholders demanding updates.

While team building during project initiation or planning, set expectations around project status reporting, and actively solicit and attempt to incorporate feedback received from the team into fine-tuning these reporting procedures. This will help to strike a good balance between management reporting and control objectives, and effort expended.

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