5 posts categorized "Adoption"

06/20/2011

4 Quick Thoughts on Buy-In for Project Management Software Tools and Processes

IStock_000004563504X_web Following up on my last post on how much buy-in is necessary for a successful project management software tool roll out, a question remains: how do you achieve buy-in?  This is not an easy question, but here are four quick thoughts on how to go about it:

1.  Accept the buy-in that you can get.

In other words, be content to start small.  You may not get the home run, organization-wide buy-in right away.  Start where you can and prove your ideas.

2.  Plant seeds.

Sometimes an organization is just simply not ready yet.  But you can plant seeds in a professional, courteous, and tactful way.  Forward an article you read as an idea for something in the future.  Let someone see the results you are getting in your own small area.

3.  Bide your time.

Sometimes the timing is just not right.  Perhaps there are too many things going on for the organization to buy-in right now.  Bide your time.  At some point, an event is going to occur which will put the organization in a better position to be open to your ideas.  Perhaps a new, key manager comes in who is more open to the idea, or perhaps a major failure occurs and there is a call to action.  You never know when or how quickly things can turn.

4.  Be prepared.

Know what you want to pitch and how to pitch it.  Show what you are accomplishing in your own area.  Show what other organizations have achieved.  Have a process mapped out for how it could be done.  Be prepared for the right time.

 





06/09/2011

How Much Organizational Buy-In Is Needed for Project Management Software Tools to be Successful?

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This is a question that I have been contemplating again.  Project management software tools need have buy-in to be successful.  That is especially true of management.  You need to have management buy-in, otherwise no one will use it.  It is not as much true of team members that are further down the "totem pole".  It is certainly great to get their buy-in and we should diligently seek that, but sometimes it does not matter how great a solution is, there will be resistance because it is different.

So do you need organization buy-in throughout an organization in order for a project management software tool to be successful?  Does the CEO need to buy-in to it?  Ideally, the CEO and the entire organization buys into both the software tool and the business processes it supports, and that does happen.  However, often times you might as well play the lottery, especially if it is a large organization.  You will have just as much of a chance of making it happen.  The question is...can you still get value from the tool?

The answer is...it depends.  How big is your organization and what do you want to accomplish with the tool?  Here are some principles for you:

1.  There must be a clear purpose for the project management software tool.  What are you trying to accomplish?  Understanding resource loads?  Providing visibility into project status?  Stopping tasks from falling through the cracks?  Centralizing information?

2.  There must be business processes that the tool supports.  The tool is only as good as the processes it is designed to support and automate.

3.  The purpose and processes must be associated with a team / group / department / organization.  In other words, are you trying to accomplish this purpose for your team?  Your group?  Your department?  Your entire organization?  Who is involved in the process?  Just your team?  Your department?

4.  Buy-in is needed throughout that sphere.  For example, if you are trying to understand resource loads for your team, then you need buy-in from the team, especially the leaders / managers of the team.  If you are trying to provide visibility into project status for the whole organization, then you need buy-in from the top of the entire organization.  If you are trying to use the tool to automate a process, then you need buy-in from those that participate in that process.

Do you agree or disagree?





06/01/2011

5 Keys to an Exceptional Dashboard in Your Project Management Software Tool

IStock_000003110526_web Dashboards are not created equal, even dashboards that display the same information.  One organization may have a vibrant dashboard that is used by everyone reliably.  Another organization may have a stagnant dashboard used by no one.  What makes the difference?  What are the keys to implementing a good dashboard?

Here are five keys to implementing a fantastic dashboard in your project management software tool:

1.  Keep it Simple

Some dashboards are overly complicated with too much information, or information that is too complex.  Keep your dashboard simple both in terms of the layout and the information presented.  Do not make it too complex.  Someone should be able to glean significant information from the dashboard in a matter of seconds.  If it takes a lot of effort and time for them to glean information, it will not be effective.

2.  Your Dashboard is Only as Good as the Data You Enter

It does not matter how fancy of a tool you have, how nice the reports are, or how fancy the presentation is if the underlying data is not solid.  In other words, all a dashboard does is present data that has been entered by people.  If people are not entering data correctly, or are not regularly keeping the data up to date, then your dashboard will be useless.

3.  Stay High-Level with the Ability to Drill-Down Into More Detail

It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of adding all of the significant detail to a dashboard.  That is not the purpose of a dashboard.  The purpose of a dashboard is to provide a high-level overview so that the viewer knows what action to take.  The viewer may then need the ability to drill-down into more detailed information, but this information should not all be displayed in the dashboard itself.  For example, it may be important to the viewer to know which projects need attention - perhaps a green / yellow / red indicator is attached to each project or portfolio.  However, the individual tasks, milestones, or issues that are causing the indication would not normally be displayed.  Those would be available upon the viewer drilling down further.  The exception to this would be a team member-level dashboard whose specific purpose is not to provide insight but to communicate a lot of detailed information, such as their current tasks.

4.  Only Present Actionable Information

There is a tendency to put information on the dashboard because it is neat and because you can show off the fact that you know the percentage of tasks within a portfolio that begin with the letter "M", started the Monday after a holiday, and the number of letters in the name is divisible by 2.  However, no one is going to use this information so there is no reason to display it and no reason to collect it.  The dashboard should be a tool where information is displayed that viewers will consider relevant, that they will actually look at, and that they can take action on.  Ask yourself whether the information in your dashboard meets this criteria.

5.  Don't Forget Training

 No matter how simple your dashboard may be, do not assume that people understand what they are seeing.  Sometimes there are nuances in language or procedures that are interpreted differently by different departments, people, and organizations.  Provide some training so that people know they are using the information in the dashboards appropriately and effectively.  I am not talking about formal training, but either holding periodic brown bag lunch sessions and / or providing a one-page cheat sheet on the information presented.

What other keys have you seen make a dashboard effective?

Happy Dashboarding!





05/26/2011

How to Make Automation (or Project Management Software Tools) Work: Part 2

IStock_000010045800_web In my last post, I talked about learning from the aviation field and how they use automation technology effectively to fulfill their objectives.  We are taking that and applying that to how we could use automation technology in project management (aka project management software tools) effectively.

You can read the first post here.

Let's turn to some practical lessons that we can apply:

Provide Training to Your Team, Managers, and Stakeholders

Can you imagine a pilot flying a new airplane without being thoroughly trained on the automation technology in that airplane?  The consequences would be serious.  Yet we provide tools of a sort to our project teams, managers, and stakeholders without the training for them to use the tools effectively.  As I mentioned in the last post, people have to build a trust in the system.  Training plays a big role in building this trust.  Training should also be process-driven.  In other words, most people do not need to know all the ins and outs of every feature in the system.  They just need to know how to perform their job in the tool.  That means that you do not need to send everyone through two weeks of formal training.  But you can and should hold some informal sessions (such as brown bag lunch sessions) and produce some organization-specific documentation on how they should use the system.

Document and Understand Your Processes

Technology without a clear purpose just frustrates people.  Technology should support your key processes, make them easier to follow, and provide insight into the execution of those processes.  That means that you need to know what your processes are.  And you need to communicate those to your organization.  You cannot assume that everyone knows through some type of "tribal knowledge."  You need to have a set of documents that details out the key processes that you expect people to follow, such as how to initiate a new project, how to assign staff to that project, how to submit status, how to obtain a client's approval, and so forth.

After that, you can look at your technology and how to implement those processes in the technology tools that you have.  In fact, within your documented processes you could include steps on how to fulfill those processes using the tool.  You end up with a set of "standard operating procedures" that everyone understands.  Do you see the difference?  This is far more effective then simply getting a tool because we are "having a problem with schedules slipping."  After doing this, you may determine that you need to use the tools differently, that you need different tools, or that you need to simply train people on the proper way to use the existing tools.

Reduce Complexity

Automation technology should not be complex.  If there are a lot of steps that a person needs to follow to perform something in a tool, then it is too complex.  Automation technology should do just that: automate key functions that would take a lot of time otherwise.  This could include generating a report, collecting status, identifying resource overloads, and others.  Your tool should make these key items in your process easier.  Part of this means that you should not overreach and make your tools overly complex.  Keep them as simple as possible.  Said another way, set them up so that you can run your processes and get the information out of them that you need, but no more.  Don't do things just because you can in the tool or because it is "cool."

Provide an Expert

Someone in your organization should be an expert in the tool.  They should understand how to implement your processes in the tool, what the tool is doing, and how to extract information out of the tool (although everyone should understand this).  They should be a resource for others that are perhaps new to the tool.  If you have a larger organization, create a network of these people that can provide assistance to team members, and ensure the tool is being utilized properly.  In other words, don't leave people to fend for themselves.  And do not always rely on the vendor for understanding how to use the tool.  This is going to be a key part of your processes so make the investment to have someone inside with in depth knowledge.

Technology in project management can be a valuable, game changing piece when implemented well.  Try these lessons in your own organization regardless of the particular tool(s) that you may be using.

 

 





05/24/2011

How to Make Automation (or Project Management Software Tools) Work

IStock_000010045800_web In the midst of doing some research for a post on the Flying Into Project Management blog on team interactions, I came across some relevant lessons to this blog on project tools.  Specifically, I was looking at how the aviation field makes automation technology work in today's airline cockpits.  There were some interesting insights, parallels, and lessons to how organizations can make project management software tools work for project teams.

First of all, what is automation?  I am simply referring to technology that automates certain tasks.  That could be a number of things such as finding out the current status, identifying problems, generating alerts, seeing where you have been, visualizing the upcoming plan / path, etc., etc.

Automation should have two goals:

  1. Improve situational awareness (the awareness that one has about the true, real state of the project or portfolio of projects).
  2. Decrease the workload required to maintain situational awareness.

In other words, our automation tools should always enable us to know what the real state of our projects are, and they should reduce the work that is required for us to know that state.

There are some common responses that people have to automation technology:

  • They look at it as helpful (this is a real plus and saves me time).
  • They look at it as confusing (what is it doing now?).
  • They look at it as unneeded (why do we need this, we've always done it this other way).

That means that automation technology needs to:

  • Fulfill a real need.
  • Fit seamlessly into a person's / organization's process.
  • Be easy enough to earn a person's trust.

In a follow-up post, I will discuss some practical lessons as to how to make automation technology work in light of these insights.  Please note that much of this insight came from the source www.crewresourcemanagement.net.






 

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