Wednesday, 12 December 2012 07:50

Turn Project Chaos Into Success, On Your Terms

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The Chaotic State of Project Management Today

Despite the proliferation of project management technologies over the past 10 years, the low adoption of collaboration and project management solutions is truly astounding. Sure, many people have access to tools, such as SharePoint, Microsoft Project, or third-party software as a service (SaaS) tools (e.g., Basecamp, eRooms, etc.), but project management chaos still exists in many organizations. Where is the disconnect?

Common Approaches and Why They Fail

There are two common approaches that organizations usually take when it comes to implementing and managing collaboration and project management technologies: 1) self-service approach or 2) big bang approach.

Self-Service Approach
When organizations implement Line of Business (LOB) and core business systems for various departments, such as accounting, HR, etc., a substantial effort and cost is usually put forth to map these systems to their processes and people. However, when it comes to improving management processes around project collaboration, delivery and information management, it is very common to see organizations take a “self-service” approach that leaves workgroup and department managers on their own to choose and implement tools.

The self-service approach to implementing collaboration and project management technologies allows users to choose whatever tools they want and use them in whatever manner they desire.
For many organizations that use the self-service approach, any project management technologies that are implemented become glorified file shares, leaving people to do most of the real project process work using independent tools, such as email, word processors, and spreadsheets. In these instances, there is often no enterprise project management strategy or corresponding technology and process support platform. This leaves workgroups and departments on their own for solutions acquisition, development and support. When they attempt to build project management support tools internally, they face a host of challenges including:

  • Incomplete process definition for the processes they are trying to automate
  • Lack of knowledge of various technology capabilities and limitations as related to existing business processes
  • Inability to demonstrate business value to stakeholders
  • Lack of experience customizing tools to fit processes
  • Inability or lack of human resources to provide ongoing support, training and enhancements

Big Bang Approach
The opposite of the self-service approach is the “big bang” approach to implementing collaboration and project management technologies. In the big bang approach, executives lead a top-down initiative that modifies or replaces existing systems and processes to implement a single collaboration and project management tool enterprise-wide. The new system may be completely unfamiliar to end users and it may not align with existing processes, which increases the learning curve and may decrease user adoption levels.

The all-at-once, big bang approach to building an enterprise-wide project management information system (PMIS) may achieve some level of success in certain departments, but often it will not achieve long-term adoption in other areas of the enterprise. Common causes include:

• The system doesn’t address business problems of individual departments/workgroups. 
• The system doesn’t take into account existing processes and tools.
• Line managers and end users find little value return from onerous additional daily work.
• The accuracy of information decreases with less accurate (or no) user data entry/maintenance.

Project Management on Your Terms 

TaylorDec12 Img01If project management chaos exists within an organization, it is likely that there is a need for more structure than the self-service approach provides, but it may not be necessary to implement an entirely new system or completely new processes all at once, as is often the case with the big bang approach. Taking stock of what is already working and changing only what is not is the foundation for experiencing project management “on your terms.” 

Project management on your terms is the concept of applying just enough process and organizational change to get meaningful results through systems that are effectively meeting business challenges with the least disruption to individuals. By building on what already exists within a company, project data can be turned into actionable, relevant and valuable information using existing processes, built on existing IT-supported technologies, while maintaining an environment familiar to users. As successes are realized, additional projects can be implemented over time. The concept of project management on your terms maximizes value with the least disruption to your organization using three key steps: 

  • Collaborate - Get people working efficiently together instead of in silos 
  • Manage - Manage work proactively instead of reactively 
  • Win - Build on enthusiasm over time by adding increasingly beneficial capabilities through successive iterations

Ultimately it is this progressive, upward spiral of success that will assure the adoption, usage and value realization that is so vitally needed in most organizations today.

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Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is president and CEO of Innovative-e, Inc., a business consulting and technology services company that helps enterprise clients turn project management chaos into success with innovative PM solutions powered by Microsoft technologies. Taylor is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with more than 20 years of IT experience. 

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