Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Project Management's Dirty Little Secret

Most of the project management methodologies utilized today in traditional project management practice evolved from creating and managing the processes used in developing the assembly lines of the early industrial revolution. The next big push in project management thought, in my opinion, came with NASA and the race into space. The list of benefits from the space race is long and varied, Tang and titanium being two of them. You might even be able to include project management software on that list, although I believe it is more likely directly attributable to independent aerospace contractors than NASA (although sometimes I get carried away and could be writing revisionist history here).
That being said, you might be interested to know that next to accounting software, project management software is the oldest software product. It’s been around, in a very similar form to what it is now, for a very long time. What’s more, although project management software has improved and accommodated things like resource management, stage gates, portfolio management and other needed tools for project managers, it isn’t all a bed of roses for organizations doing project-based work.
The dirty little secret of project management is that after all these years of software development, the tools have become so complicated that end users don’t use them. If you’re like me, there were times when I had to spend (waste) time reminding, cajoling, even begging my team members to update their status information in the project management tools we were using at the time. Or worse, I had to guess as to what real project status was.
Project management software has come a long way, but the way the end users interact with the process has largely been ignored. Why? Because they are not a real buying influence and their needs are considered unimportant to those who do influence purchasing decisions. This is a mistake in my opinion.
Capturing information at the source (the end user) is the best way to collect accurate and timely information for informing project decisions. When team members have an easy, and dare I suggest intuitive, way to contribute project data; project managers, line of business managers, and other business leaders will have the timely information they need to make decisions that could increase competitiveness and profitability (which is what CEOs want to see their projects do).
Team members shouldn’t have to be project management experts to update their status.
As project leaders, it’s our job to find the solutions that will make the process simple for the members of our teams so that we have visibility into projects, can identify and eliminate bottlenecks and encourage collaboration. Once we expose the dirty little secret for what it is, we will start to see project management software vendors make tools that will make it easy for end users to engage in the process and facilitate work management for businesses of all types.

Author: Ty Kiisel

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