If ‘Location, Location, Location’ is the battle cry of Property Agents worldwide, then I guess ‘Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration’ would be that of Project Managers.
I once worked with a Project Manager in the ‘80s, doing entertainment shows. He was a genius, spreadsheeting every single part of the procedure, down to the minutiae of where to place flowers, and what refreshments had been requested in the technical rider. But he was a lousy communicator, with the result that simple people like me would end up bothering him constantly. And, of course, he was always busy. The old hands were left to figure it out, using their knowledge base from previous shows. I had no such knowledge, but, as a newly minted manager, was responsible for the end result. Panic often ensued.
Looking at the way Project Management is done today, I wonder if our afore-mentioned genius would have welcomed it…or not. Some people are fixed in their ways, and change can be difficult to implement. But, if your Project Management could do with a little tweaking, here are some ideas that might help everything come together.
What is Enterprise Project Management?
Simply put, it is the process of creating, organising and executing a temporary plan to meet a unique product, service or result, with a defined beginning and end. Along the way, there are critical objectives to define and achieve, for example, cost, timing and risk assessment.
The ability to deliver a project on time, within budget, and matched with the intended outcomes, is essential in today’s global business environment. Additionally, expertise and problem-solving skills are needed to overcome issues and disputes.
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Why is EPM so important?
Increasing efficiency is the desire of every Enterprise. Good EPM will have a clearly anticipated planning and execution process, with the ability to stick to budgets, schedules and scope. It can recognise roadblocks and other problems quicker and easier. Identification and management of risk becomes clearer, and it vastly improves collaboration between different teams. Finally, with a clear overview, it can remove parts of projects that have no intrinsic business value.
The role of a Project Manager
Project Managers are charged with the layout of the best possible course of the project, including scope, timeline, budget and resources. They have to assemble the required teams that have the expertise and skills necessary to complete the project within the specified parameters, assigning the right tasks to the right people, and ensuring complete understanding of their functions in the project.
Project Managers must manage the budget and timelines, and maintain a good relationship and an open line of communication with all stakeholders, internal and external, allowing for any roadblocks to be highlighted and dealt with. Finally, on project completion, a handover to the relevant team responsible for managing and maintaining the finished product or service.
In the current pandemic, Digital Project Managers are proving to be highly desirable, with their ability to be completely remote, yet still being able to maintain command and control over a project. No need to have a Project Management Office at your workplace!
Cooperation vs Collaboration
Many managers and team leaders are very cooperative, friendly and helpful to other groups in the organisation, but they lack the ‘gung ho’ (working together) skills for true collaboration. To cooperate is to work with others by achieving your goal as part of a common goal. To collaborate is to work together to achieve a single shared goal. Small difference in language, big difference in business.
How to get collaboration going is not easy, but it’s achievable. First, think about the result required, and lay out a start-to-finish map that is needed to get that result. Think of the teams or groups that will need to be a part of this process and include them in the plan. The sequence of activities and timeline should also be added. An explicit framework can be dispersed to the groups or teams, so that they know what is needed, how it is to be done, and by when. They can make an informed decision about whether the result is possible. Finally, prepare for a meeting with all parties involved so that the framework can be reviewed, revised and corrected, allowing the stakeholders to make commitments to the project.
Methodologies of EPM
There are three popular categories of Enterprise Project Management, each having its own set of processes.
- Change Management
The most common is Waterfall Project Management. All tasks are laid out and are worked on in order. It’s perfect for physical objects, such as bridges, buildings and suchlike, and can be re-used for similar purposes. However, it is not very flexible as you can imagine, and changes introduced by stakeholders can cause major disruptions and time delays.
The Critical Path Method is based around finishing each task before a new one is started, therefore it allows a certain flexibility if requirements are altered, changed or removed. High priority tasks get the most resources, with lower priority tasks getting rescheduled for later attention. It’s a fairly old method, but it still works well.
For software developers, Agile is the most used method, giving cross platform teams the ability to adjust, change, add, or remove changes in requirements and capacity. Flexibility is the key here. It welcomes change even towards the end of the project. If the client requests it, it can be done. It allows close, even daily interaction between the teams and the clients, constantly tweaking and improving the product or service. Speed to market and risk mitigation are advantageous. Some say that using an Agile methodology improves teamwork and effectiveness, but there is a lack of empirical evidence of this.
Here, there is an extra focus on risk and change planning and preparation. There will be some risks that are outside of the project’s scope, so preparing for these risks and planning a suitable response is vital to keep the project going. For shorter projects, days or a few weeks, Extreme Project Management is the counter to the Waterfall approach, where massive changes can be implemented without damaging the end result.
Software and Communication tools
If you only use email and group meetings to manage a project, information will be misplaced, misunderstood, and cause a lack of focus and clarity. Of course, it is possible, but Project Management software will remove many, if not all, problems encountered within a project. There is a much-reduced risk of losing progress, and you can coordinate tasks and improve workflow. Everyone is on the same page.
Project Management software will increase efficiency by removing the need to do repetitive tasks, thus freeing up the team to do more engaging work, improves clear communication lines and flexibility, and allows stakeholders, both internal and external, to have a hands-on approach.
Free vs Paid
If you have been doing things in the traditional way, with spreadsheets and meetings, why not download a free project management software to see how it works. There are plenty out there, with different plans and styles. Wryke, Jira, Trello, Asana and Airtable all have free plans, but they come with limitations, and little in the way of support and instruction. Still, it would be a good idea for a small business to get started.
Paid software is obviously better in the long run, and you can upscale depending on your business needs. Plans are available for different needs and business models.
Getting everyone involved at the start, reducing potential obstacles and setting the scope out clearly is so important. It will help to prevent any major upsets along the way. With everyone on board, understanding their role in the outcome, there will be a sense of ‘buy-in’ and collective responsibility.
Highlight any possible risks
Better to do this at the start, when all are focussed on the project as a whole. Risks will vary from project to project, such as budget overspend, missed deadlines that affect others, and resource reduction. Flagging them will allow for later recognition and response.
Strategic Goal Alignment
With a strong Project Management plan, every project will contribute to company strategic goals. Teamwork and collaboration increases productivity and satisfaction.
Too many Projects on the go?
Trying to keep all teams focussed and not stressed is a juggling act, especially when you have more than one project on the go. Instead of a weekly meeting with all stakeholders, why not try for a pro-forma email every Thursday, with Project name, Status (Green, Yellow, Red + brief explanation), What’s the way back to green if not green, Potential Risks, Next Steps, to be completed by end of next business day. That way, you can flag any blockers, tighten up focus and cheer on accomplishments! Stick a reminder in your calendar, or automate the email.
Plan for the best outcome, but prepare for the worst. It gives you adaptation and flexibility. In addition, take into account individual work styles. Everyone works in a different way, and it is important to understand and take that into account.
Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
Speaks for itself. Enabling a method of team communication, with scheduled meetings, will increase performance and keep everyone up-to-date with the project. Celebrate any progress in the project, encourage the team to keep up the good work, and keep motivation high.