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08/30/2010

5 Ways to Ensure your Project Tool Stays Updated

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A common question we get is how do I know that our people will keep the project management software or tool database updated?  Here are five practical ways that you can use to do just that:

 

1.  What’s in it for them?

What can you do to make your staff’s work easier?  If you can solve a problem for them, it will be embraced better than if you are adding to their workload.  Let them fill out a timesheet in the project tool in five minutes instead of thirty minutes in a manual spreadsheet.  Let them input information once in the project tool instead of in three different spreadsheets.

2.  Implement accountability

What happens if people do not keep the project tool updated?  Some organizations have the culture that people will adopt the tool naturally, but this is the exception. Most organizations need to have some reasonable accountability.  Only you can figure out what that means for your organization.  This could be some soft accountability – for example you use the tool for a key weekly meeting and if someone’s information is not updated there is some direct but soft accountability.  It could be more formal such as using participation as part of performance reviews.  You know your culture and organization better than anyone.  Figure out some way to institute some sort of reasonable accountability.

3.  Keep it simple

Don’t ask for more than you really need.  If you are not going to use the information, don’t ask people to input the information.  Don’t require users to track the status of two hundred tasks if you are really only interested in the top five.  That means you need to take the time to make some decisions on what information you really need.

4.  Mimic a core process

Many organizations have a core process that everyone is familiar with: filling out a timesheet form, updating a spreadsheet to initiate a new project, putting together a weekly report.  Whatever it is, choose one core process and do it in the project tool.  This will become a de facto essential reason that everyone needs to be in the project tool.  If everyone puts together a status report in Word, have them put it together in the project tool and extract it from there.  If everyone fills out and submits a timesheet in Excel, have them do it in the project tool and extract it from there.

5.  Use reporting

Management loves good reporting.  What type of critical information is management missing?  Actual hours spent on key projects?  Current expenses vs. budget?  Late tasks?  Key milestone dates with status?  Give it to them as much as is possible.  Give them a flavor of this information and you just might find an ally to keep the information flow going.

 

Whether you are using a homegrown tool, an online project management software tool, a spreadsheet system, or whatever, use these tips to keep the information flow refreshed and current.





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