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4 posts from February 2011

02/25/2011

5 Obvious Benefits of Online Project Management

IStock_000000418676Small_2 Online project management is in vogue today.  Actually, online everythingis in vogue today.  Our investments are online, our news is online, even our friends are online.  Why should business and project management be any different?

However, our project management processes should not go online simply because that is the current fad.  There needs to be a reason that helps us meet our key objectives.  Here are five obvious benefits of online project management.  I say "obvious" because you have probably heard these before, but I find that sometimes what is right in front of us is not always obvious - especially if we have not done it before.  In other words, what might be obvious to me, might not be obvious to you or someone you work for.  You will need to decide whether or not those are benefits that will help you meet your particular key objectives.

First, what do I mean by online project management?  In my context, I am referring to the act of taking your project management processes and information and using an online tool to manage them.  An online tool could be a website, a blog site, online project management software, a wiki, a discussion forum, a document repository, etc.  The key similarity is that it is online, accessible in some way by everyone.  Note that this does not necessarily mean that you outsource to a vendor on the Internet.  It could mean you setup your own online repository on your own server(s) and make that accessible via the Internet.  It also does not necessarily mean it is online over the Internet - it could be online across your organization.  However, much of the value and benefits are greatly increased when it is accessible via the Internet.

#1: Everyone Can Access the Information

I realize that this is obvious, but it still needs to be stated.  Sometimes folks do not understand the value in everyone having access to the same information at the same time.  Put another way, sometimes we do not understand the drain due to the time it takes to track down the right information at the time when we desperately need it.

#2: The Information is Accessible from Anywhere

By nature of the fact that all information is online, the information can be accessed from anywhere.  This means that you can access the information from the in-flight WiFi, hotel room, Starbucks, or client site.  With the advent of Smart phones, it also means that you can access the information from your smart phone while walking around.

#3: Information is in One Place

Information is important, we use it all the time.  We need information on the latest status of a project, information on a document, information on how we are using our resources, or information on issues that have arisen.  We cannot get this information easily if it is de-centralized, such as what happens when information is sitting on everyone's individual computers or individual network drives.  The very fact that the information is online means that it should be centralized which means that we can (by definition) easily access it.

#4: Security Can Be Improved

Sometimes information needs to be controlled.  Either it is important that certain information is not displayed to everyone for security reasons, or it is important that we know where the information is, or it is important that only certain people access any of the information - period.  It is very difficult to do this without the information being centralized and many online project management tools provide for this level of security.  In other words, if it is in one place we know where it is and it is easier to secure.  I should say that there is a feeling that if the information is not online it is secure.  I would conclude that information that is scattered in spreadsheets and documents all around the organization with no control whatsoever can never be secure.

I realize that this somewhat depends on the tools that you use - if there is no security built into the tool you cannot make it secure - however I am assuming that you will implement a tool with security if security is one of your requirements.

#5: Lower Cost

Online project management tools do not have to be expensive.  Yes, there are high-end tools that will cost you a bundle.  But there are also mid-range tools and simple tools that can be brought online for much lower cost.  If you need to experience the benefits listed here, it is far more costly to bring online a fancy client/server based tool in-house such as a traditional ERP system or high-end database.

Next time we will flip this and look at some of the pitfalls or hurdles to cross in online project management.





02/23/2011

SharePoint and Project Management Software

It is not uncommon to get a question on SharePoint and how that plays into the whole project management software tools discussion.  It is a good question.  SharePoint can definitely play role.  We just released a whitepaper (article) on how to integrate project management capability and SharePoint.  You can find it here.  Happy reading!





02/15/2011

Video Training

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I mentioned in the last post (actually in several posts) about the importance of continual, process-oriented training in the implementation of your project management software.  This can be done through brown bag lunch sessions, one-on-one sessions, formal training classes, and other methods.  But it does not always need to be you performing the instruction.  Producing short, focused videos is a great way of doing this.  There are tools that make it easy to capture screenshots (or screencasts) and quickly turn that into a video.  The video does not need to be exceptional, just functional, relevant, and fairly short.  You do not even need to have narration on the video, you can simply have text "boxes" describing what to do.

The advantage of this is that you could develop, over time, a library of short videos on your key processes such as:

  • How to Create a Project
  • How to Update your Time
  • How to Upload, Find, or View a Document
  • How to Run Projected Resource Reports

There are a couple of tools that I have personally used to create videos such as these:

Camtasia is more full featured and more money, but is a slick tool.  BB Flashback is a great tool if you just want to create a simple video with text callouts from basic screenshots.

Of course there are many other tools and you may already have a tool.  You could easily just create a Powerpoint presentation with screenshots of the key steps in your process.

You do not need to create a lot of videos right away, I would go with the long-term approach.  Create one video a week.  You will have all of the videos that you really need to support your project management software implementation before you know it.

 





02/11/2011

4 Ways to Get More Out of Your Project Management Software

IStock_000005305116XSmall Project management software is bestowed with promises of higher productivity, better efficiency, and a host of other benefits.  And rightly so - there is a lot of benefit to the right system being installed in the right away for the right organization.  Like any organizational tool however, it does not always live up to expectations for a variety of reasons.  Here are four ways that you can get more out of your project management software today.

1.  Hold Brown Bag Lunch Sessions

A common issue is that no one has (or takes) the time to talk about how the organization is using the software tool, much less do any type of training on it.  The solution?  Hold brown bag lunch sessions.  These are great ways to informally communicate, discuss the use of the system, and even do some training in bite size pieces.  It does not matter if you are using spreadsheets, a complicated enterprise-wide tool, or a middle of the road tool (like EnterPlicity), there is always value in this.  You may very well find that not everyone has the same perception of how the software should be used, and that everyone is not using the software the same way.  You will come away with insight into some not-too-difficult things you can do to increase value, and the participants will come away with more knowledge and understanding of the how's and why's of the system.

2.  Put Together Cheat Sheets

Organizations use project management software differently to implement different processes for meet different needs and objectives.  A lot of focus is put on how to use software features.  Instead, create cheat sheets on how to accomplish key processes within the software.  For example, create a cheat sheet for creating a new project noting the information required, the specific steps in the tool, and even any steps outside of the tool (i.e. job numbers to be created in the accounting system, or documents to be created for customers).  In other words, what are the expectations and process for people to do their job?  These are not vendor documents - those will be focused on features.  These are your internally generated cheat sheets focused on your processes.  People will appreciate the clarity and the focus on what they need to do (and not unneeded feature information).

3.  Eliminate a Manual Process

It is not difficult to find a process being performed manually now that could be done with your software tool.  Perhaps someone is manually entering information into spreadsheets and someone else is spending hours compiling information from various spreadsheets for a weekly status report.  I almost always find ways to streamline and even eliminate manual steps.  It may take some technical work, but sometimes it may be as simple as streamlining how people are entering the data.  You would be surprised at what you can find to streamline when you put a laser focus on that objective.

4.  Create an Internal Help Resource

I recommend putting in place an internal webpage, blog, or similar resource that everyone can go to for all information on your software system.  This sounds more complicated than it has to be.  It could simply be a page that contains all of your cheat sheets and links to vendor training documents.  It could be expanded with information on upcoming updates, brown bag lunch sessions, how-to's, faq's, etc.  The internal aspect is because this is not focused on how to use the tool, but how your organization uses the tool to accomplish its objectives.

What other ways have you gotten "more" out of project management software for your organization?

 






 

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EnterPlicity is project management software that enables your organization to extend project management software tools to everyone, share any project information, automate key processes, and analyze project data in a single, easy to implement system.