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The AGILE approach in project management

Whether you are a project manager or involved in the field of project management, you must have heard or applied the Agile method.

If it is the case, the subject of this article will seem familiar to you. If you are not familiar with the subject, don’t panic! This article will explain this approach to you in a simple way so that you can tame it.

Are you ready? Then let’s do it!

The Agile approach

When talking about project management it is common to think about planning. This is indeed an essential point in traditional project management methods. It is often said that 20% of the project’s time should be devoted to planning and that project that is not sufficiently planned is more likely to fail. On this point the Agile method differs. According to the Agile approach, too much planning in the long term would be counterproductive. Especially since a project generally never goes as planned. Imagine planning a vacation for a month an unexpected event disrupts everything, or even makes the planning obsolete. Frustrating, isn’t it?

The second major difference is in the reasoning. In an Agile approach the reasoning is more in relation to the product than to the project. The goal is to deliver the most accomplished product as close as possible to the customer’s expectations. With the Agile methodology, the place given to the customer is not the same as in traditional project management because the project team maintains a close collaboration with the customer. In a traditional project management approach, the customer is mainly involved at the beginning of the project when he gives his expectation and at the end, when the product is delivered. In an Agile approach there is an ongoing relationship with the customer in the development of the product. He is involved from the beginning to the end of the project and is in direct contact with the collaborators of the project. Customer satisfaction must be the first concern of the team.

Another element of differentiation is the special concern for communication. Indeed, face-to-face interactions are preferred to other means of communication. This allows a better transmission of information between the different parties and therefore, more efficiency.

Finally, unlike traditional project management methods, the Agile approach accepts the unexpected as well as requests for changes encountered along the way. This is one of the main principles of this method: constructive changes must be accepted, even if they arrive late in the project or at the end. They represent an added value that will bring the product closer to the customer’s expectations.

The Agile way of working

Let us now look at how it works in a little more detail.

At the start of the project, the project team meets with the customer to discuss their expectations regarding the product and the specifics to be brought to the table. The goal is to understand what the customer wants to achieve and to determine the tasks to be carried out.

From there the project will be broken down into several short-term cycles called iterations. The project team sets a first objective to achieve for the first iteration. Behind this objective is a set of tasks to be accomplished. These tasks are selected in order of priority in the product development. The team then launches directly the development by self-organizing itself to gain even more efficiency.

Once the first objective has been reached, a first version of the product is ready to be presented to the client. Of course, the product is only partially realized, but it is already in working order. At the end of each iteration a new version of the product is presented, either with new features or with improvements. This way of working allows to progress step by step in an empirical way, to reduce the risks linked to the project and to have a feedback from the customer throughout the development. The customer gives feedback on what has been achieved, he can also ask for changes to be made or make some adjustments if necessary. The project team also meets following every iteration to look back on what has been done to improve the product for the next iteration. The Agile method is a race for efficiency.

Operating by iterations has another advantage. It makes it possible to put the product into production, even partially finished, in order to collect first opinions and feedbacks from users. Because the opinion of users is essential in the design of a product, this way of proceeding makes it possible to best meet their expectations.

Another specificity of this method is that it is possible to stop the project at any time. If at the end of an iteration the product is suitable for the customer, it is possible to stop the project development and deliver the product definitively. In this case if there are no financial means to continue the project, the product will not be completed but will still be functional in a partially finished version.

Project management tools compatible with the Agile approach

To accompany you in your Agile approach, web-based project management software such as Gouti are available. A tool like Gouti offers you a way to be in direct contact with the customers of your projects but also a method to be able to fix your projects on the short term as well as on the long term and an efficient and flexible way to manage your changes.


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PMTimes June10 20 1

Project agility

Illustration of Agility in Project Management

An example is better than a long speech, let’s illustrate roughly (I insist on roughly) the Agile approach through an example that will speak to everyone: the design of a classroom.

  • During the product meeting, the client explains that he wants a square classroom, with a door, 20 tables, 20 chairs, a chalkboard, carpet on the floor, 10 lamps on the ceiling and a light switch.
  • The project team meets. The priority is to deliver the classroom structure at the end of the first iteration. The first iteration begins, and all four walls are installed. A door is added, then the lamps, the switch and finally the carpet. It took three weeks. The classroom is presented to the client, he is satisfied with the result and adds that he would like to have four windows in the room.
  • The project team gets together, and the second iteration begins, the goal is now to install the windows and set up the room. The team starts by installing the windows, then they set up the board, the 20 tables and 20 chairs. Two weeks later, once the iteration is completed, the classroom is presented to the client again. Finally, the chalkboard no longer suits him, he would like to replace it with a felt board. On top of that he would like to add 10 tables and 10 chairs because there will be more students than expected in the room.
  • The team meets again, one of the skills of one of the team members has not been well exploited, they could have been more efficient on the installation of the tables. For the third iteration this skill will be highlighted. The goal this time is to add 10 tables, 10 chairs and replace the current table with a felt board. Once this is done the objective is achieved and the room is presented to the client. The client is satisfied, and the room can start welcoming students, nevertheless he would still like to add a video projector with a projection screen…

The project will go on and on until the final validation of the product.

The advantages

Compared to traditional project management methods, the Agile approach has several advantages that makes it attractive.

One of the most important is the flexibility brought to project management. By following iterations, the project team becomes more responsive to unforeseen events and change requests. This reduces risks as the project progresses step by step. It also allows the quality and reliability of the product to be enhanced by additions and improvements made gradually and according to feedback from the customer and users.

Iteration operation provides several additional benefits for the customer. He has continuous visibility on the project and can request adjustments and changes along the way before final delivery. He can also decide to put the product into production before it is completely finalized, because even if some specific features or functionalities are not yet present, it can already be used. By making the product available to users before it is fully completed, he can get feedbacks for possible additions or simple adjustments of the product.

A final advantage is the cost control. By moving forward step by step, it is easier to follow the evolution of your budget throughout the project. However, the Agile method is not necessarily the best when it comes to staying within a budget.

Disadvantages

Since Agile is based on planning by very short-term objectives and opens the door to requests for change, it is not the safest approach when a certain budget has to be followed. At the beginning of the project a provisional budget can be evaluated but it will vary throughout the life of the project. With each request for change or new addition desired the budget will change. This is a fact that can be unpredictable.

Another disadvantage can be the importance given to the customer. The fact that the client must be available and involved throughout the project can be problematic because they might not always be available.

Also, the emphasis on interaction and direct communication rather than written documentation can be a problem. Direct communication usually takes more time and means that the collaborators must be there in person to communicate which can sometimes be difficult or even impossible.

To summarize

This new approach to project management greatly differs from more traditional methods. It proposes a more autonomous and collaborative organization, with a focus on interactions and the human factor. The skills of each team member are used to the best of their abilities in order to become more and more efficient in the realization of a project.

The main preoccupation is refocused towards the satisfaction of both the client and the users, with a concern for reliability and quality.

11 lessons learned from automation rollouts

It is written based on my RPA project and programme experience over the last 5 years rolling out RPA with vendors such as UiPath, Pega Open Span and Thoughtonomy.

It is intended to give both higher level and more detailed lessons of what can go wrong (and right) in automation/RPA rollouts.

Lesson 1

Prioritisation and choice of the right process is key

This means a definitive Process description, plus the formulation of a questionnaire to assess automation feasibility using higher level and lower level questions as you go through the automation lifecycle. This evolves as more becomes known about the process. If the process to automate has not already been chosen this helps assess viability, but even if it has been chosen, this step can assess how appropriate the “as is” process is for automation

  • Process assessment Roadmap leading onto an automation plan should follow. This should help embed the changes for the longer term and lay the building blocks for building a Centre of Excellence, which is where RPA, along with other initiatives can be done at scale
  • Most importantly: Celebrate successes and build RPA from there – don’t start with the most complex process just because this has highest ROI – you will fail!

Lesson 2

Ensure you are solving the right problem, with the right toolset.

To be successful, you must first understand your success criteria. There is more than one reason to perform an automation project – to achieve better transparency of work in progress, to automate hand-offs between teams in an end to end process, to improve consistency and quality of processing, to increase capacity or to reduce cost. Understanding the outcome desired, and how this will be measured, is critical.

If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail[1]. RPA is not the only automation approach available and will not always be the most appropriate. However, where legacy systems are involved, which do not have easily accessible APIs, where people play an essential role as the ‘glue’ between a number of systems, RPA may provide a quick and cost effective approach to automation.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument

Lesson 3

Don’t do change management as an afterthought.

I have developed a “5R model” for this purpose based on my experience and learnings. The model looks to not only assess if the organisation is ready for change, but also whether reverting back to old habits/bad processes might occur. Are you really ready for this?

Lesson 4

RPA is rapid but it is not a miracle worker

You don’t have to have all the answers as an SME, but it helps to bring in an Automation Expert that does have the practical experience. Understanding RPA and its benefits will not turn a PM or a technical domain expert into an overnight developer. Get R&R quickly defined up front, a lot of the vendors suggest templates for that very reason. Ensure the training plan is clearly defined and realistic in the timeframe available

Lesson 5

Re-engineer first, if you can, but there is still a role for tactical initiatives

In the words of Michael Hammer, “don’t automate, obliterate”[2]. The greatest value comes from considering the end to end process – what changes upstream can eliminate the need for downstream work altogether. Indeed, automating just one isolated component of an end-to-end process might actually lead to ‘sub-optimisation’ problems. Ideally then, before considering automation we should take the opportunity to re-engineer our processes. The trouble is, process re-engineering and process improvement projects are most effective when they have access to objective process data. This may not be available. There is an argument to performing a tactical process automation project, perhaps implementation of BPM software for an existing process, to help gather empirical data about current process performance. This can provide the objective data that will facilitate future process improvement projects. A project may implement something “throwaway”, and still add considerable value.

[2] Michael Hammer, “Reengineering work: don’t automate, obliterate.” Harvard business review 68.4 (1990): 104-112

Lesson 6

Where possible become involved right at the start of the sales process.

  • Ensure you have a very clear understanding of how the project has been sold by the sales lead or the consultancy itself including timeline promises, deliverables, different pricing models offered and quality metrics
  • You need to get past the sales speak of the automation vendors and understand exactly what type of documents can be read and interpreted and which cannot. There is still a lot of development going on in this area and still a lot of over selling, not always by the vendors themselves

Lesson 7

Ensure you are aware which vendors operate at enterprise level versus those that are better catered to smaller offerings/SME.

Make a decision as to whether this digital initiative is a one off or something longer term and chose the automation vendor appropriately. Likewise does the vendor have extensive experience of enterprise applications like SAP. Is there agreement on how will changes in upstream systems be managed?


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Lesson 8

Beware of averages and snapshots; choose effective metrics

How long does a task typically take, how much effort is typically involved? Averages provide a convenient summary descriptive statistic, but they may hide interesting aspects of process performance. Rather than presenting averages, understand the distribution of your values. Boxplots provide a useful way to graphically summarise a distribution of values. When trying to understand why current performance of a process is unacceptable, you may need to examine the distribution not just the average.

How does the performance of your process change over time? Too often we think an increase or decrease in performance is noteworthy. Too often, managers provide commentary around things they really have no control over. A simple ‘run chart’ or ‘control chart’ helps you distinguish the true signals in your data, from normal process performance as a result of inherent variation.

This leads to the subject of metrics. The most useful process metrics are those which are leading, measure causes and are controllable. This is because they are measuring things which have an impact down the line, can be controlled/manipulated, and let you find out about them in enough time to be able to do something. In contrast, the very worst process metrics are those that are symptoms that you could never control in the first place, and which you find out about far too late anyway[3].

[3] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/good-bad-ugly-kpis-ian-g-macleod/

Lesson 9

Build a digital culture.

This means a shared ownership and prioritisation of the automation pipeline. Consider whether your business want to have a name for the new user id (ie the automation id) that will work alongside the human, or if you should choose this. Treat this as a hand off point to more skilled workers when the automation cannot resolve an issue, rather than an “us and them” worker scenario

  • Start a competition for the best automation name!
  • Ensure there is sufficient technical aptitude – plus interest – in your digitalised business to support it for the longer term. Spend time to define back up plans
  • Secure trailblazers and champions who will also come to present their positive experiences to senior management once the proof of concept is complete. These trailblazers should be carefully chosen but as an example could be secured from larger processing areas who are in a lot of pain with multiple customer complaints and potentially flailing SLAs

Lesson 10

Full understanding of automation service support model to ensure longevity and ROI is key

  • Ensure clear understanding of exceptions handling- or the business will make up their own exception rules with little to no technical expertise nor understanding of vendor technical constraints. Best practice (and to ensure proposed ROI) is to ensure a retry at least once by the automation OR to reassign the same transaction to another robot for retry; if the retry is unsuccessful, the task is assigned to a human and a level 1 alert is raised to report the exception.
  • Define your service support model and level 1-3 SLAs with a full understanding of the technical constraints of the vendor, working together with the relevant internal technical architects and IT support teams AND the business.

Lesson 11

Take security requirements into account upfront.

Are credentials stored in a secured repository and available to deployed robots via encrypted channels? Confirm all channels between deployed robotics, UI automation, linked applications and system servers are protected by high level encryption and SSL protocols. Ensure these match your own internal policies and procedures and no additional kit is required to have that security

And finally don’t try to do it alone! Some other articles and thought leaders are:

A bit more about Ian:

Ian is Head of Process Engineering at Insight Investment. He has a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science (AI), and a master’s in Technology Management. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Data Science, and his research relates to the application of agent based simulation to organisational and process modelling.

Ian’s career spans technology development, consulting, programme management and process improvement roles, in Defence, Investment Banking and Asset Management industries.

Although trained as a lean six sigma blackbelt, Ian’s approach is to adapt and use whatever proves to work. Ian does not believe in ‘cook book’ methods for success – since all organisations are different. Trial and error, systematic use of data, quick feedback cycles and a willingness to admit when you’re wrong, will help you find what works best for your particular organisation.

A bit more about me:

As an Investment Banking Operations SME for 10 years I had always been au fait with algorithmic trading and the benefits it provides through automation. Since 2014 I have been an independent Automation consultant: RPA has impacted my career and the evolving technology around it exponentially. I have recently completed a part time MBA in Technology Management through which I have been able to add even more value to my RPA rollouts. Soft skills are essential in RPA delivery and those who possess both technical and change management skills will feel right at home in this environment. This technology really does have the potential to changes lives. It allows you to partner with some cutting edge companies who are at the forefront of the digital revolution and take ownership of programmes, due to their initial small size, right from the start.

Yes there are still some industry pain points around over selling, security and scaling up, along with media negativity, but hopefully some of the above lessons will help navigate through the fog of information out there. Nobody lost their job due to the proliferation of mobiles – and in my experience to date – automation is no different.

Automation, if done correctly, really does free up humans to do what we were built for – creativity & innovation

6 Reasons You Should Never Embark on a Project Without a Roadmap

Sometimes in the excitement (or pressure) of a new project, it’s tempting to jump in and start to work without first making a plan.

This impulse is understandable. Maybe you’re passionate about the project and can’t wait to get started. Possibly you have a boss who talks a lot about seeing results quickly. Perhaps you’re eager to show tangible progress to your client. Whatever the reason for your hurry, you must resist this temptation!

A hastily begun project is almost always destined for failure. You should never embark on a project without a roadmap. Here’s why:

6 reasons you must make a project roadmap

Every project needs good goals from the outset

It’s essential to set your goals before work begins so that you, your client, and your team are all on the same page. Starting without good goals is an invitation for failure. What makes good goals? They need to be realistic, clear, and measurable.

  • Realistic– Can we accomplish this goal with the allotted time and resources available to us?
  • Clear– Do we know exactly what is being asked of us? Does everyone understand?
  • Measurable– Are there quantifiable indicators with which we can judge each goal?

There’s no way to know you’ve succeeded if you don’t set goals, but with good goals as the foundation of your project roadmap, you’ll always know you’re headed in the right direction.

The project vision must be communicated

Many project managers have a mental picture of exactly what needs to be done and how. The problem is when it remains a mental picture. A vision contained in just one person’s mind can’t be realized by a team of people. There are multiple stakeholders in any project– the client, the company, the team, the end users, and sometimes the larger community. All of these people have questions that need to be answered and even concerns that need to be addressed. A project roadmap can help with that.

Your team needs direction

Without a clear roadmap, each member of your team is left to interpret the vision of the project for his or herself. No matter how skilled the individuals are, every team needs the direction of a clear project plan. Beyond clearly defined goals, your team needs deadlines, communication guidelines, and a way to track their individual progress and that of the project. Lack of direction can result in demotivation, poor performance, and even high turnover, all of which are bad for both short and long-term outcomes. Without direction, the team–and your project–may end up in chaos.


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Resources are limited

Project management involves resource management because your team and your company have a finite number of resources to work with. Good resource planning often includes taking other projects into consideration to ensure that the resource demands of your project aren’t in conflict with any concurrent projects at your company. Most of us know that financial resource planning is important. You also need to plan for human resources, physical work spaces, outside vendors, and any knowledge or skill gaps on your team. Including all of these factors in your project roadmap from the beginning will help you avert collisions along the way.

A good roadmap prevents scope creep

Scope creep is when, over the course of your project, the vision is expanded to include things that were not part of the original scheme. It’s a common cause of project failure, but having a clear plan can prevent it. Scope creep happens when either a) the parameters of the project were not well-defined from the outset or b) there’s pressure–either internally from the team or externally from customers or bosses. If you’ve drawn a good roadmap for your project, you can point back to the plan any time someone suggests an idea that would expand your scope and possibly derail your project.

A good roadmap aids project transparency

In the realm of projects and processes, transparency means creating a system in which all team members can access all relevant information about a project easily and efficiently. While some managers feel that providing transparency poses risks to the project, the benefits of transparency far outweigh these risks. Some of those benefits include clear communication, establishing collectively recognized expectations and standards, and improved motivation on the team and individual levels. When combined with a clear roadmap in the form of a string project plan, project transparency leads to better outcomes for both the team and the project itself.

Give your roadmap superpowers with automation

With a clear roadmap from the beginning of your project, you can take advantage of the power of automation.

  • Have clear goals– Having measurable goals enables you to automate reminders and status checks to keep your project on track.
  • Communicate the vision– Automated communication on missed deadlines, task completion, and changes to the project can remove the time burden of composing emails and also prevent lapses in communication.
  • Provide direction for your team– Using automated processes to help guide you team’s activities can take a huge burden off the project manager, allowing you to focus on larger issues as they arise.
  • Manage resources– Automated resource tracking helps prevent conflicts among projects and gives you time to adjust if resources become delayed or unavailable.
  • Avoid scope creep– With automated process management, there’s less room extra tasks to creep in and disrupt the tasks and goals at the core of your project.
  • Effortlessly promote transparency– Transparency is important, but manually generating and sharing status updates other reports can consume valuable time. Automated reports and updates provide transparency without burdening your team.

Automation and roadmaps go hand in hand. You can’t automate what you haven’t clearly defined, but once you have a good plan in place, automation can take your project management to the next level.

4 Ways to Improve Your PM Efforts When Expanding Your Business

Running a company nowadays has become a fairly seamless process, especially if we rely on a number of digital, automation tools that help us stay on track with our chores and responsibilities.

We have email notifications, alerts for social media, analytics and reporting tools that collect and analyze relevant data for us, and we use cloud-based storage solutions to share data across borders with all of our clients and employees. When it comes to expanding your business, however, even with access to a vast number of tech tools, your ability to put them to good use will greatly shape how successful you’ll be in the process. 
Too many growing businesses fail to contain and streamline their growth and development through proper project management systems, and end up returning home defeated and wondering what went wrong. Sometimes, your local operations will suffer when the time comes to allocate funds and expertise to a new market, while at other times, you take a leap of faith without fully understanding the legalities and intricacies of any new market you’re about to penetrate. This is where optimal project management can make all the difference, when you know how to utilize it to your advantage.

Define your projects based on the market

No business chooses its new targets haphazardly. You already know how to recognize markets with great growth potential and spot where your brand fits well so that you can have a strong position in that new market. However, your projects will not be defined in accordance to the same old goals and key metrics you’ve automatically used for your local endeavors. It’s time to do some research and understand what makes this new market tick, and treat it like a unique project that it is.
Perhaps a project located abroad will require a greater budget (or a smaller one, for that matter), or maybe you’ll need to go through a series of projects before you can even start launching your business abroad. Have you adapted your logo and your brand voice to the new market? Is your team ready and trained to deliver work based on these new parameters? Expectations change based on each new market you wish to enter, so it pays to understand all the fine details you should take care of before you start creating automatized projects that have worked for you in the past. 

Choose the right tools for international operations

Not all project management tools are created equal. They might not be inherently better or worse, but they do fit certain criteria and certain business models, depending on your needs. In the case of companies looking to expand into new markets, you should look for scalable project management solutions that are easy to integrate with other technology you use. Not sure where to look for reliable PM tools that fit your needs? You can follow in the footsteps of companies that have similar needs and priorities. 
For example, Netflix uses Confluence for their project management needs, and we all know just how vast this content platform is, and how many ongoing projects they have on their plate. Maybe this particular example is too expansive for your taste, but researching what the world of PM has to offer will greatly help you find the finest solution for you. 

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Include your local partners

Expanding your company often means that you need to find and work with on-site partners of those new markets you wish to impress. Whether for legal, organizational, or resource purposes, partnering up entails changing your own internal structure so that you can exchange relevant information and collaborate effectively with your new partners scattered across the globe. 
For businesses eager to enter the Asian Pacific market, wanting to set up a local office may pose unique challenges from the perspective of legal ownership. In such instances, working with partners such as Invest Islands means you can get the right information on available real estate options, your legal rights, and how to proceed in terms of establishing yourself in Indonesia. In order to avoid delays in communication, missing files, and misunderstandings, using scalable PM tools in which you can include at least one representative of your partner can be useful in your endeavors to expand your business abroad. 

Monitor and reallocate your resources on the go

Although most well-established companies focus on deliverables almost exclusively when working on their projects, entering a new territory means that you cannot be certain your old project management approach works best. A certain level of flexibility within your project plans is a must. As the project unravels, you can see which teams need more resources, intellectual as well as financial, which deadlines are breached, and which tasks pose the greatest challenge for your employees. 
  • Refine your project goals depending on the market needs and your resource capabilities, and leave some “wiggle room” to make changes as each project moves forward.
  • Empower your employees to make changes when they see an opportunity, since micromanagement will not work in a growing business environment much like it never did even in a smaller business you once started.
  • Consider adding certified project managers to your teams, since running an international operation will always pose a far more complex challenge. 
  • Add post-project assessment, so that your analysis can benefit your future projects within the expansion. That is the only way you can tweak your PM efforts and educate your employees on how to be more productive and more efficient with their work. 

Project management may be an established, well-oiled routine for your existing structure, but when the time comes to penetrate new markets and expand your reach, you’ll need to think beyond your current scope even in terms of project management. Use these tips to improve your PM skills and your expansion will be much more efficient and streamlined for it. 

Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Project Management Software

There are a wide variety of project management software programs on the market.

However, having many competing solutions to choose from can create confusion and cause project managers and business professionals to feel overwhelmed. Selecting the wrong software program lends itself to a wide array of problems, such as reductions in the flow of communication, reporting, billing, and overall productivity. Basically, choosing the wrong project management software can increase the risk of making larger, unforeseen mistakes that can cost your company money.

Proper software selection is important, and it can start by avoiding some all too common mistakes. If you wish to avoid the sorts of mistakes associated with selecting project management software that isn’t right for your requirements, the information below will be helpful.

Mistake #1: Failing to Examine Your Business Processes and Match Them to Software Offerings

Just as with any type of selection project, it pays to start with a clear idea of what your requirements are. It is imperative to consider how projects come into being within your company, including which teams are usually involved, and what they need for optimal collaboration. What is working well in terms of how projects are currently managed and what could use improvement? (I.e., are there any requirements gaps?) Many projects managers should become more aware of what’s typically included in project management software solutions before making a purchase. They can accomplish this by spending more time analyzing project management software programs beforehand. As you read about what competing solutions offer, think about how those features fit with what your company needs.

If you find that there is not a lot of overlap between how your company manages projects and the approach taken by new project management software solutions, it’s worth considering revising how projects are managed to take full advantage of all of the software’s efficiencies. This is because many professional software products are designed to incorporate industry best practices. If your company’s project management practices have remained unchanged for a very long time, it’s possible that some proven best practices are being missed. However, this is not always the case. If some software provides features that seem to match up well with the way your company works and other software products do not, you obviously need to look for the ones that offer a good degree of compatibility.

The key here is to begin by performing a thorough needs analysis before making a final purchasing decision. An analysis will allow project managers to address the needs of the company’s projects in their totality. This includes:

  • Assessing how the organization communicates with all those working on projects, including both internal and external team members
  • Considering how file sharing is performed between team members
  • Analyzing how the company tracks resources such as costs, material, and human resources
  • Determining the types of reports that need to be prepared and their frequency

Basically, project managers should perform a detailed and thorough analysis of every step of the project management process. Beyond just accurately tracking projects, they should consider all aspects involved in the project management process to formulate a precise listing of their requirements.


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Mistake #2: Selecting the Solution That Has It All

It’s tempting to gravitate to project management software solutions that offer a wide array of features. The problem is that having too many features that will likely never be used can overwhelm and complicate the learning curve and sometimes even the software implementation process. This mistake leads to overspending and to staff members underusing the system. This is mainly because the more complicated the system is, the more difficult employees will find using it, and that increases the chance of errors.

A larger system, like Microsoft Project, might be perfect if you have long-term projects spanning many departments that require long-term planning. But if the projects you’re trying to wrangle are much smaller in scope and shorter in duration, you might consider a lighter application like BaseCamp or Trello. Regardless, careful thought and consideration should be put into software-related purchasing decisions long before making the purchase. And remember, the more features a software program has the more likely there will be additional costs to purchase and implement it. If many of those features are unnecessary, that extra expense will have been wasted.

There is an effective approach to minimizing the risk associated with selecting software solutions that have it all. Project managers can do something as simple as creating a checklist with prioritized needs. Create a list of prioritized features in the following order:

  • The “must-haves,” meaning the features that are absolutely necessary
  • A list of features that are not necessarily required would be nice to have
  • A list of features that are not completely unnecessary for your company

Prioritizing your needs in this type of organized manner will help you make better informed software purchasing decisions.

Mistake #3: Not Planning Ahead

Be wary of only considering project management software solutions that address current issues. When evaluating a software solutions, one must imagine it growing with the business. In other words, long-term considerations should also be taken into account during the initial evaluation stages. Project managers should look out for software that offers things such as flexibility as well as scalable solutions that meet both their current immediate needs as well as their projected future needs.

An alternative that could support your company‘s growth plan is adding features to your software as your company grows and requires more licenses for new staff members. Project managers that do not plan ahead in this regard often end up causing their companies to spend more money in the long run.

Successful businesses are profitable, and this leads to expansion in most all cases. Failing to plan ahead often results in higher costs and a reduction in production. Avoid this mistake by ensuring the solution is open to updates, upgrades, and the addition of custom features. Ask if the software tools you’re considering have the flexibility to handle other types of projects that may emerge in the future.

If you are interested in reducing the risks associated with purchasing the wrong project management software, then careful attention, planning, and forethought must go into choosing the right software solution for your company. That includes giving careful consideration not only to the company’s current needs, but also to future needs that can be anticipated due to growth.

Lastly, project managers and business professionals who invest time into seeking out the right project management software program—meaning the one that’s most compatible with their operations will experience the best results. They will see a more streamlined flow of information and processes that improves areas including the tracking of projects, billing, task assignment, and reporting.