In my last post, I discussed the issue of "garbage in, garbage out" in our project management software tools. In other words, if we do not have good data going into the tools, we will not have good data coming out of the tools. And that is a problem, since retrieving good data is a fundamental reason to have a tool in the first place. There are a variety of causes for this that we discussed in that post.
Fortunately, there is hope. Organizations have overcome this problem and produced a useful tool with useful information. Here are seven ways that you can overcome this problem in your own organization:
1. Make it public
Collin wrote a comment on a previous post on the importance of visibility. Don't hide the information in the system. Make it visible to everyone. This produces natural accountability. Who wants to be the one that is "holding up the system" and whose area is clearly lacking with input into the system?
2. Use it
If you do not use the information in the system, why would anyone take the time to accurately enter that data? Do not expect people to do so. However, if you consistently use the data and expect the data to be accurate, people will start to realize this is serious and will enter the right data. For example, instead of asking people to write up a report and email it to you once a week, insist that they use the project management software tool.
3. Implement Accountability
There has to be some level of accountability to use the tool. If there is not, many people will do what is most comfortable: doing things the way they have always done them. We have discussed this more than one time in the past and so do not need to rehash this here, other than to re-iterate that accountability is a key component.
You cannot expect people to enter accurate data if they do not understand how to enter accurate data. They may simply be lazy in not entering accurate data (or no data). But they may also be sincere and simply do not understand how to enter the data correctly. Or they are reticent to use the system to enter data because they do not understand it. This is where training comes in. Hold some brown bag lunch sessions that cover the process (not the features) that you want them to follow.
5. Set expectations
Expectations can be a wonderful thing. If I expect my kids to do something and I act that way consistently over time, they will often (not always) rise up to my expectation. If I do not raise my expectation for them and act accordingly, they will almost always revert to the lowest common denominator. I believe the same is true for our project teams. If you set the expectation - i.e. that the important information you use weekly will be pulled from the project management software system - you inherently raise the bar. But you have to act appropriately. Meaning, you go to the system and expect the information to be there. That is just how things are done. I am not saying that is a magic bullet and it is that easy. But I am saying that plays a key part in raising the bar for your organization. Your organization (whether a corporation, company, group, department, or team) will only match the expectations that you have for it.
6. Understand it is a process, not an event
Getting accurate, good, actionable data into your project management software tool is a continuous process, not a one time event. You need to continuously do these things, talk about it in your meetings, and make them an integral part of your processes and culture.
7. Understand it is a management issue, not a technology issue
In most cases, getting garbage in your project management software tool is not a technology issue. It is a management issue. It is a matter of managing the team and organization so that they indeed do enter quality data into the system.
Choose at least two of these things to work on and pay attention to the level of quality in your project management software tool.