Consider a business bereft of proper management protocols.
Every obstacle in the project lifecycle is a potential for chaos. Ad hoc fixes are called in without much concern for resources. The schedule is torn up because attention must be diverted to “putting out fires.” Delivery times falter, undermining customer’s trust in the organization.
A survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon found that when organizations become better at project management, key performance metrics significantly increase. Scheduling adherence rises 50 percent. Productivity can improve by over 60 percent.
For the modern organization, the success of any project management initiative will be tied to the tools they use. For financial and data heavy positions, spreadsheets still have a tremendous amount of value. But for centralizing and sharing information, fostering collaboration, and tracking productivity, spreadsheets are quite limited.
That’s why project management software has grown so popular over the last decade. Companies need to supplement their operations and reporting with intuitive tools.
With the right combination of protocols and software tools, project management can engender significant cultural and operational changes that can propel your business forward. Here are some benefits of project management software.
Base Your Projects on Data
At the most basic level, the goal of every project lead should be to create processes and tasks that yield short-term, predictable results. Each team needs a framework for measuring and managing their output, and this framework must quantify the resources allocated to each task at each phase of a project.
Basically, you’ll need to gather data that helps you predict how long each task will take. These task level calculations can be as simple as hours spent completing the task, or they can take into account material costs and other variables.
Either way, extrapolating this information helps you predict how long each phase of the project will take. It helps you create milestones and a schedule predicated on data rather than vague estimates. This data allows you to draw up deliverables and calculate the budget you need to deliver a project and compare it with your return on investment once it’s completed.
Again, spreadsheets are ill-suited for calculating the resources each task consumes. Many of your team members will find working with them arduous, and their inherent design makes it difficult to quickly view reports.
Time tracking has become a hallmark of many project management applications, making them effective tools for supporting this type of data gathering and organizational change.
Improve Delivery with Task Dependencies
Once you have a means to calculate output, you can expand your thinking to include task dependencies. What needs to happen with A before B can be completed? You need to begin thinking of workflow within your own department to ensure that your processes reduce variance and encourage predictability.
Formally, this process is known as a work breakdown structure, and it helps develop a clearer picture of how the productivity engine of your organization hums. After you’ve laid the foundation within your own department, you can begin to think about collaboration with other areas of the business.
Improving interdepartmental work flows is a large step up from calculating time allocation standards for tasks, but it prevents the slip ups and misunderstandings that happen when assignments are transferred between groups or departments
The divisions within a business often harbor a number of process idiosyncrasies, making it difficult to rally every domain under the banner of one PM software flag. It’s common to use one system as your department’s task management tool and implement another system as a reporting and milestone mechanism for other stakeholders.
Centralize Resources and Reporting
Planning your work breakdown structure and supplementing it with data for your planning predictions are important initiatives, but unless performing the tasks and adhering to the processes is simple, it’s going to be difficult to change the habits of your team.
Perhaps here more than in any other aspect, intuitive software tools make the act of completing tasks and moving a project forward much simpler. Particularly from a collaboration and reporting standpoint, having a system that acts a hub for project information and status reporting can significantly improve the organization of a project.
For example, Kayak improved its processes for software development and customer feedback by implementing Quickbase as a centralized project management system.
Regarding customer feedback, the travel website needed a standard method for distributing customer feedback so issues could be resolved quickly. Before Quickbase, the customer feedback was varied and unorganized, ranging from underperforming travel vendors to a bug in the company’s software.
“Updating and exchanging huge single-user spreadsheets among dozens of people just wasn’t an option for us. we had too many people who needed visibility into project data and statuses,” said Director of Technology Jim Giza.
After implementing Quickbase, Kayak was able to create a ticketing system that notified project stakeholders by email about new customer service feedback. Users needed only to click on the link in the email and it would take them directly to the ticket item.
The simplicity of this system has made Kayak’s development process more effective, and has helped them solve significantly more issues in the three years after implementing Quickbase than in the preceding period.
Improve Transparency for Executives
Developing effective processes and forecasting deliverables are all hallmarks of mature project management. But those accomplishments aren’t always enough for the executive branch. Visibility and reporting on a range of metrics need to accompany your accomplishments within your department.
Executives bear important responsibilities when it comes to project management, including:
- Providing project managers with guidance on strategic goals and monitoring alignment between organizational and project objectives
- Tracking project progress on a periodic basis to ensure progress is being made against the original plan
- Allocating resources to projects in accordance with the organization’s priorities and commitments
For these stakeholders, transparency is key. That means finding a project management application with powerful dashboards should be a priority. Here’s an idea of what to look for in a solution if you’re using the Agile development philosophy:
Project management shouldn’t be consigned to certain industries or departments. It’s part of how every business unit functions and how every manager delivers projects that fulfill business requirements.
When implemented with care and with the right tools, project management can diffuse throughout your entire organization, increasing productivity, reliability, and ideally, your return on investment for each project.