Meeting the Challenge of Effective Communication for PPM in a Technical World
Unless you are a hermit, being a good communicator has to be at the top of your list of skills to manage. The more people you need to communicate with, the more technology that is involved, the trickier it becomes. It is a never-ending and universal struggle. In the project management world there are multiple players each with their own specialized technology and language. Is there a way to get the technology to speak the same language? Can we interpret and translate the data so everyone gets what they need, in the format they need without interrupting the work cycle?
Let’s start by looking at the issue from the perspective of the various roles involved in running projects and their preferred methods of communication:
- Leadership – Dashboards and Meetings! This is where leadership lives and what leadership wants, it typically gets – at least from a format perspective. They tend to have little or no time to learn systems because they spend most of their days wrapped up in meetings. When they have time for analysis and planning, they need information at their fingertips. Ideally, that information is available to them on a tablet or other device with easy, intuitive drill down capabilities. Sometimes, the information is needed in a PowerPoint presentation or other static, formal document. In other cases, it must be presented in a meeting followed by Q&A. No matter what, the information includes a graphic component so that data is visible and analysis can be done very quickly.
- Portfolio (or Program) Management Office (PMO) – The PMO is typically responsible for the standardization of processes and metrics across the organization. They are often stuck in the middle because even though they are not directly responsible for running the projects, they are accountable for reporting, dashboards, forecasting, and overall improvement of the metrics for project management. They need to be comfortable that the data they are reporting is accurate and timely so automation is a driving force. Depending on the maturity of the organization’s PPM processes, their daily routine can range from pulling data from project managers’ heads, spreadsheets, and scheduling tools to full automation in a PPM software solution.
- Project Management – If you’re a project manager, your job is to deliver a project within the constraints and objectives set for the project. You spend your time dealing with multiple team members: developers, sales, finance, quality experts, etc. Your daily life revolves around project schedules, risks & issues, managing change, updating status, and taking care of presentations to leadership. You live in this world and use tools that help you manage all of the above. Like a PMO, your job depends on accurate data and your creative ability to drive a team towards a goal.
- Project Team Members – This is the toughest group to describe because no two teams look alike. Depending on the types of projects your organization manages, the team members use different tools to create project deliverables. One thing this group has in common is that they do not spend their time working on project schedules yet they are required to report their time against a project. Naturally reporting their project status is certainly not the thing that is top of mind for them.
For example, software developers spend most of their time working in development environments (TFS, JIRA, Rally, Version One, etc.). Ideally, you want them to continue that process, understand what work is expected of them, and get regular feedback on status. They live in a development tool set while the PMO/PM lives in a PPM tool set. This is an example of at least two separate systems that work autonomously but need to report similar information to the project. All of your team members use systems critical to the success of the project and all of them need to collaborate in some way with your project management software. As a Project Manager, the quality and accuracy of the data from these systems is critical to the success of the project and the company.
A unified work management solution works like an interpreter to help systems that don’t speak the same language communicate effectively. A system like Salesforce speaks its own language and doesn’t communicate natively with a PPM solution such as Microsoft Project Online. Project Online has its own language as well. With the right connection, these systems can seamlessly communicate, translate data and populate the appropriate fields in each system. Automation allows the PM and the team members to work in the systems that are most comfortable for them and yet share important communications without a lot of extra work.
Let’s look at a real life application of the unified work management principle. An energy distribution company manages multiple project reports weekly on project status, resource usage, and future resource forecasts. Extensive analytics are critical to keeping all the balls in the air at the same time. Unfortunately, all of the data does not reside in one system. Pulling data manually from multiple systems to create the required reports is tedious and time consuming, taking almost 20 resource hours each week. They knew those hours could be better spent doing critical project work as opposed to creating reports so they decided to implement a work management solution that integrated the data from a variety of software platforms. The language barrier between systems was fixed and the weekly reporting process is now completed automatically and with greater accuracy. The company is now able to rely on the accuracy of the system rather than the individual who created the report. To learn the details about how this challenge was met, read the case study.
Using a unified work management solution to allow diverse systems to share data easily is one sure way to make your work life easier. It seems like a no brainer, why shouldn’t systems converse with each other? The very nature of project management is to understand and manage the entire scope of a project. With a unified work management solution connecting systems, translating data and using it to better understand your project just makes sense.