Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #166

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

People, Process, and Technology - A Balancing Act
by Craig Bailey

In previous articles, we've written about the importance of balancing "people, process and technology" in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiatives. The purpose of this series of articles is to share a case study that highlights the importance of this balance for any project that is introducing new or enhanced technology.

I've recently engaged with a client who is in the process of implementing Microsoft Project Server. This essentially involves the extension of the MS Project desktop application to the web, to allow online collaboration and visibility to project management information. A recent pilot received mixed reviews from all involved (Project Managers and project team-members). Of the approximately 15 PM's involved in the pilot, only a couple think the solution is the greatest thing since sliced bread. On the flip side, MOST others had less than stellar reviews.

The common concerns include:

  • Getting lost in the learning curve of MS Project (desktop, let alone the server extension)
  • Unclear on benefit vs. the effort necessary to maintain plans
  • Skepticism about the accuracy of the shared resource pool
  • Not wanting to enter tasks at a low-level of granularity [which would be required to allow people to enter their time spent, and remaining, against discrete tasks]
  • Experiencing silos where managers are saying "I don't want others to see the availability of my resources"
  • Constant thrashing of resources due to changing priorities which makes it difficult to lock-in and manage to a plan

In the above list, which are technology issues and which are people and process issues? Really, only the first item in the list relates to technology, and training can easily solve that. The other issues are related to aligning people and defining process.

Aligning the people involves helping everyone to understand how the process and tool help them and the organization as a whole. To be clear, the benefits are enormous. With proper implementation of an Enterprise Project Management solution, you can (at a minimum):

  • Provide dashboards that share top-level / objective status on all your key projects (are we on time / on budget?), in a consistent format
  • Determine if your most precious resources (personnel) are working on the most important projects, or other less-important projects
  • Determine the availability of your personnel to engage on a project
  • Minimize "administrative" meeting time by enabling team-members to update project task status allowing project managers to be alerted to exceptions requiring their attention

All of the above should NOT be misconstrued as making it unnecessary for a project manager to have constant dialogue with their team-members; rather, it reduces the non-value-added "chatter" and/or meeting time. For example, one project manager in the above mentioned pilot indicated that he previously invested 5-hours per week in meetings (with his team-members) to obtain updates on project tasks. He is now able to do this in less than 30 minutes per week. To fully appreciate the time savings, you'll want to multiply that difference by the number of people in the weekly meetings. Obviously, everyone's time is much better spent working on the project rather than sitting in a meeting waiting for each person to report on the status of a task. Of course, when an exception occurs, the PM can initiate a conversation to respond to the matter.

Defining the process involves putting in place Project Management building blocks that all Project Managers must adhere to (a.k.a. PM 101). In future editions of our newsletter, we will explore how to effectively deploy an Enterprise Project Management solution, by defining the project management process and ONLY THEN layering in the technology.

If you are struggling with this right now, and can't wait for our future editions, please feel free to contact us. We'd be happy to discuss your situation, share pointers, and determine if there are opportunities to more formally assist you.


+ People, Process, and Technology - A Balancing Act


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