Yaniv Shor is the founder and CEO of Proggio and the author of the book Time to Deliver, a must read for project managers.
Between the shift to remote work and the accelerating speed of business, project managers have their hands more than full. Juggling multiple projects and multiple teams across multiple locations, as well as relying on multiple software tools to keep everything straight, is enough to make even the most experienced PM feel overwhelmed.
Part of the problem is the fact that the tools most PMs have available haven’t kept pace with the evolution and demands of modern project management. Many are still relying on static Excel spreadsheets to track project status and PowerPoint to create reports. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 30% of organizations only consider methods that have proved effective for them in the past. In other words, they stick with the status quo.
That’s a serious problem because it directly hinders their success. PMI data shows that organizations that can adapt and evolve are nearly twice as agile, more productive and able to deliver better value—meeting their project objectives while staying on budget and with less waste. On the other hand, organizations that can’t react quickly to change or are unable to forecast trends and capitalize on them are at risk of being quickly passed up by the competition.
If it’s time for a PM modernization effort within your organization, here are some tips to guide the process.
1. Clarify your needs. Modern PM solutions run the gamut from providing top-level project portfolio management to complete end-to-end platforms that include granular task management. Not every organization needs a soup-to-nuts solution. Giving your PMs a powerful project portfolio management platform and allowing end users to continue with the task management tools of their choice may be just fine.
2. Identify your user base. Who is your intended audience? Are they experienced, certified PMPs or business end users with no formal project management experience? While both deserve a solution that’s intuitive and easy to use for their level of experience, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. Too many features can be overwhelming.
3. Develop a sound organizational structure. For some organizations, it’s not just their tools that aren’t working—it’s their entire structure. Doing the same thing you’ve always done but adding a new tool won’t fix the lack of communication, organization and structure. Consider restructuring business units, if needed, and identifying champions for units or departments so that each has a designated representative.
4. Establish a framework for prioritizing. Regardless of how you manage projects, each one that you undertake must have a direct tie to your overall business strategy. Before diving headfirst into every new idea, establish criteria for deciding what to work on, how new projects will be prioritized and who makes that call. Instead of doing projects for the sake of doing projects, make sure you’re working on projects that actually move the needle in terms of business growth.
In order to successfully deploy any new project management strategy, you’ll want to make sure you have the capability to address these four key factors that can make or break your program.
• Visibility. The problem with using Excel or even Gantt charts to track project status is that they’re perpetually outdated. The entire team depends on the PM to make updates to the timeline by culling through emails, Slack messages and sticky notes. Meanwhile, work on the project is ongoing, so there’s virtually no way the PM can keep up.
Look to incorporate real-time visibility to help your team plan ahead and be ready for the next task or phase. A clearer view of project statuses can also allow PMs and project leaders to spot roadblocks sooner so they can adapt quickly before falling behind schedule.
• Efficient reporting. PMs often spend hours compiling data from a myriad of sources into a PowerPoint deck to report to stakeholders. By the time this report is delivered, it’s already old news. This is not only an inefficient use of PMPs’ time and talent, but it also means leadership never gets a clear picture of project status. It may not find out things are going poorly until they’ve gone completely off the rails, putting the entire project in jeopardy.
Look to establish systems for efficient, real-time reporting in order to keep stakeholders up to date, which can save the entire organization a tremendous amount of time. Reporting is a critical part of project management, so addressing it upfront can prevent a huge hassle and headache down the road.
• Adaptability. How many times have you been sitting in a meeting, and there’s a request to change priorities or objectives? Other times, things go wrong—a setback, a technical glitch or another hurdle means missing an important milestone. These events have obvious downstream effects, but in most organizations, those are hard to quantify.
Ensure you have the ability to adapt to changes. Seeing how a priority change or a roadblock will impact future milestones, project completion and deliverables across the portfolio is essential. Without it, the organization is flying blind and crossing its fingers that everything will work out in the end.
• Resource planning. Employees are already feeling overworked and stressed out, and nearly one in five project managers has considered leaving the profession largely because of burnout. No organization can afford to lose great talent right now (or ever).
Look to create an efficient resource planning process in order to not only prevent burnout but also make sure projects actually get across the finish line. By prioritizing projects around business objectives and gaining clarity into who’s working on what, your organization can be much more effective at managing workloads and ensuring projects get over the finish line on time.
While it’s reasonable to encounter some challenges as you modernize your project management approach, it’s also important that you keep an open mind and be willing to try something new. Having a modern, adaptable project management strategy can give you the clarity and agility you need to gain and maintain a competitive advantage in a fast-moving business environment.
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