Technology to Make Project Management Easier

At its heart, project management is really more about people than anything else. It’s about your team members, your stakeholders and the company’s customers. However, while projects should be people-centric, that doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t and shouldn’t play an essential role. That’s particularly true today, with the incredible pace of technological evolution in myriad industries. In fact, there are quite a few pieces of technology that can make project management easier and more effective. What should you know?
The Master Multi-Tasker
Perhaps the most essential piece of technology for project managers and their teams is the master multi-tasker – the modern cell phone. Once clunky, bulky and capable of nothing more than making phone calls, today’s cell phones have evolved considerably. These smartphones can still make calls, of course, but they can also send email, instant messages and even run program management apps that sync to desktop computers and tablets. For any PM and his or her team, having good cell phone technology underlying your efforts is invaluable. That doesn’t mean you all have to have the latest and greatest device on the market, but they should all be comparable in terms of software capabilities.
The New Kid on the Block
There are many new innovations out there, but few have had the same repercussions on the world of industry that the tablet computer has had. We’re not talking about jumped up e-readers here. We’re talking about true tablet computers – the iPad, Microsoft’s Surface, and the myriad Android devices out there. These handy little devices take the capabilities of the modern smartphone and build on them, offering most of the functionality of a desktop computer in a portable package that’s smaller and more transportable than a normal laptop. That’s particularly true of the Surface, as it runs a full version of Windows 8, but the iPad and those aforementioned Android devices can also work just as well. Tablet computers are must haves for any PM and their team.
While both tablets and smartphones are immensely capable devices, they don’t offer much without the right apps. Mobile apps provide a broad range of capabilities, and can be found in a dizzying array of types, formats and price points. There are full-blown project management apps designed for the needs of massive projects using waterfall management. There are svelte apps designed for teams operating within the bounds of Agile. There are apps designed for file sharing, those for basic communication and more. The world of mobile apps has grown so diverse that it can take a considerable effort to sort through and choose those most appropriate for your needs, but it’s important that you take the time to do so.
Between smartphones, tablet computers and the host of mobile apps available, you and your team can enjoy the best in terms of collaboration, communication, information and file sharing, and much more. It’s vital that every team have the right technology underlying their project, and PMs will find that technology can make their job much, much easier.

Reviews of the Book ‘Effective Complex Project Management’

Just because a blog has a tongue-in-cheek name, doesn’t mean it can’t impart some serious wisdom. Or, at least a good review of some serious wisdom in the case of Herding Cats’ review of the book, “Effective Complex Project Management: An Adaptive Agile Framework for Delivering Business Value.”

The book, available via Amazon, is written by Robert Wysocki. An online blurb about it says the book has these key features:

Demonstrates why program and project managers need a framework that continuously analyzes and adapts to changing conditions to be consistently successful in managing complex projects
Defines the four-quadrant project landscape in order to classify Linear, Incremental, Iterative, Adaptive and Extreme project management model types
Presents an implementation model for defining and transitioning to an effective complex project management environment
Defines a complex project support office and emphasizes meaningful client involvement using a co-manager project team model to increase business value
Glen B. Alleman, writing at Herding Cats, says in his review, “The book is based on an Adaptive Complex Project Framework. The notion, a naive notion, that complexity can be reduced and complex systems should be avoided, is just that notional. In practice complex systems can’t be avoided in any business or technical domain where mission critical systems exist. That is non-trivial systems are complex.”

He explains how it was derived from a 2010 IBM report of 1,541 executives in 60 countries about the preparedness for complex systems work. Capitalizing on Complexity. Alleman, in his review, points out 10 critical success factors from the report. Here are what he considers to be the top 5 in order of importance:

Executive support – if those at the top aren’t willing to support your project, it’s going to be difficult to get help when things start going bad.
User involvement – projects are about users getting their needs met through new capabilities, delivered through technical and operational requirements.
Clear business objectives – if we don’t know what Done looks like in units of measure meaningful to the decision makers, we’ll never recognize Done before we run out of time and money.
Emotional maturity – project work is hard work. If you’re easily offended by blunt questions about where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, assures that when you arrive the product or service will actually work and what evidence there is to show you spend the money wisely – you’re not ready for project work.
Optimizing scope – full functionality can never be foreseen. But a set of needed capabilities must be foreseen if the project is not to turn into a death march.
Others have also spoken up about the book. “Change drives today’s business, it is the only constant. Unfortunately, the processes that businesses use are decades old and built for a time that was much more predictive. Effective Complex Project Management is the first book to define a practical and rigorous yet adaptive solution for addressing rapid change in projects,” said Todd C. Williams, president, eCameron Inc.

Kathleen Hass, project management and business analysis practice leader, consultant, and author of “Managing Complex Projects: A New Model,” says, “Wysocki’s approach is to use an adaptive framework and decision-making tool which includes a robust project management methodology that seamlessly integrates change, and can be applied to all types of projects across industries. This adaptive complex project framework is aligned with the most contemporary principles of innovation, agility, and lean approaches to change, and represents the most advanced thinking in applied complex project management to date.”

Give Employees Actionable Feedback

Even the best employees can stand to improve their performance. Every worker has nearly limitless potential and can grow if handled properly.
Now, this doesn’t mean that contributors have to be coddled and treated like delicate flowers. In fact, that approach could be quite problematic, especially when project managers need their team members to improve from one initiative to the next.
You need to give constructive feedback so that your employees can develop new skills. If you offer an overabundance of praise, your workers will likely become complacent and production will stagnate as a result.
It can be a bit difficult to tell employees that they aren’t meeting expectations. Further, talking to talented professionals about ways in which they can improve might feel useless because they’re already your best associates. However, your job as a project manager is to ensure that workers are on the right path to continually grow throughout their careers.
Be realistic
If you’re explaining to contributors that they need to double their production while also handling other duties, you’re already making a couple of mistakes. While you want employees to reach for the stars, you shouldn’t set them up for complete failure by creating unreasonable objectives.
Before you start critiquing your team members, think about how they performed on the latest project. Identify trouble areas and praiseworthy moments so you understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you have those, you’ll be able to create realistic goals for the entire staff and provide actionable feedback based on their most recent performance.
Give instructions
You shouldn’t compliment or critique a contributor and leave it that. Feedback should entail both your professional opinions and instructions on how to act on those thoughts. Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor, recently explained to Fox Business’ Andrea Murad that this strategy should be used at all times, even during positive discussions.
“When giving positive feedback, also give suggestions and direction on how they can improve and get to the next level,” Dobroski said.
As the project manager, you know what it takes for an employee to ascend to new positions and develop additional skills. However, your workers likely don’t share that same knowledge so they’re left wondering how they should go about implementing your suggestions.
By giving directions as well as feedback, you’re ensuring that your team members know how to respond and grow as professionals. Ultimately, this will strengthen your team and lead to enhanced production on future projects.
Further, directions will also show that you’re not just giving feedback just for the sake of being critical. The instructions will show your contributors that you’re invested in their development and want to give them all the necessary tools to thrive.
Frame it in a positive way
Your tone and delivery play a large part in how your employees will react to your feedback. If you’re overly positive, team members will walk away thinking that they don’t have to do anything in order to improve because you seemed so happy. Meanwhile, a negative approach can cause unnecessary stress and lead to emotional reactions, which can prevent contributors from learning.
In a report for the Harvard Business Review, Robert Pozen, a senior business lecturer at Harvard and author of “Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours,” wrote that managers have to find ways to cushion the blow so that workers can act on feedback instead of feeling attacked.
One strategy is to offer a compliment for every critique. This will show staff members that you’ve noticed the positive aspects of their performance and aren’t just focusing on the negative ones.

Why Project Management Software Is A Necessity

Almost every project team is completely reliant on technology to complete even the simplest task. This is mainly because cutting-edge tools have streamlined intricate assignments and eliminated unnecessary steps.
However, project management software isn’t a necessity just because employees are accustomed to using digital resources. There’s a veritable laundry list of reasons why technology is essential to the production of every single project. Let’s take a look at some of items from that list.
Advanced planning and monitoring
Our own Marie Larsen recently pointed that there are applications that allow project managers to plan their initiatives and track progress. The software assists teams by providing detailed insights into an assignment from start to finish, enabling every worker to see what’s been completed and what’s on the horizon.
Larsen even recommended some of the best applications: Mindjet MindManager, MindMapper and Mind Genius are all effective options becomes they integrate various services to create central project hubs. Managers can rely on these to carefully monitor progress.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of these software systems is they combine disparate elements so a project can be easily completed. This is an improvement over employees working in silos and then spending time combining all of their completed assignments.
Enhanced collaboration
Every project team has to be highly communicative in order to succeed so managers have to find ways to encourage associates to collaborate on every issue. In a report for Business 2 Community, Julian Hooks explains that project management software can facilitate communication between employees. Many applications have chat functions and messaging tools so team members can ask questions and provide feedback.
These features are especially beneficial for supervisors who are leading remote teams. When workers aren’t in the same office, there needs to be a way to overcome the distance. By implementing a reliable system, managers can ensure that everyone can stay in touch.
A project tool with an integrated communications platform is much simpler to use than a separate resource, such as a video conferencing channel. Some employees might not want to download applications and running multiple programs can slow a computer’s performance to a crawl.
Further, Hooks points out that there are some programs with document-sharing features. This can be a boon to collaboration as workers can edit and update each others’ reports without having to email them or load them into hard drives.
There are applications that feature cloud integration so companies can capitalize on online tools. The additional functionality can be helpful as it ensures that employees can work on their projects from any location, instead of being forced to come into the office every day. This benefit also helps project teams overcome hardware malfunctions as workers can access their documents from any Internet-connected device.
Better budgeting
In today’s uncertain economic environment, project managers have had to become adept at managing finances and ensuring that they are working well within their budgets. Leaders who frequently exceed their spending limits damage profit margins and negatively affect how much revenue the company can generate from an assignment.
Fortunately, management software has made this task somewhat simple. According to an article Arif Mohamed wrote for ComputerWeekly, many applications provide budgeting assistance. This is an invaluable feature for every supervisor, especially those who have limited funding for new initiatives.
Because the software can track expenditures and estimate potential costs, managers won’t have to keep close eyes on their wallets. Instead, they can spend additional time working with their team members and focusing on important matters, including identifying risks, resolving conflicts and communicating with stakeholders.
The days of desktops being the only devices project teams can use are long gone. These days employees can use laptops, tablets and smartphones to work on almost everything. That’s why it’s so important that managers implement solutions that are compatible with multiple devices.
We recently published our list of the best project management apps, some of which are available on various mobile operating systems. This allows employees to use the same applications despite using gadgets with different software.
Managers should search for systems that can work on every platform to ensure that team members won’t need to buy new hardware to access their company’s tools. Ultimately, choosing a universal channel allows an enterprise to increase productivity.

Older posts »