John dreads his Friday evenings. It is that time of the week when he tries to track the progress of his team of thirty, spread out across the country, working on a mega project to migrate the company’s on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. He feels overwhelmed as he spends all weekend sifting through hundreds of emails, chat messages, spreadsheets, printouts and even sticky notes to put together a coherent picture of where the team stands on the project front. Are they on track to finish setting up the cloud database by next Thursday? Is his team overworked (well, he certainly is!)? Will adding that extra replica exceeds their budget? Will he be able to spare a team member to work on that long-pending patch? With more questions than answers, John wonders about his performance and that of the team he manages. John’s boss has similar concerns about his team of managers. So does John’s boss’s boss and so on.
In companies such as John’s, the lack of visibility and inefficiencies get amplified as one goes higher up the chain, with errors falling through the cracks and unpleasant surprises always around the corner. The problem lies in
1. Outmoded project planning methods, archaic management practices and sluggish organization culture, and
2. Poor tooling for effective management and collaboration. For organizations to be competent in the constantly evolving, dynamic marketplace of today, it is imperative for them to address both the aforementioned issues.
Organizations the world over have successfully tackled the former by moving away from rigid management practices and towards more flexible ones, such as those based on Agile Program Management principles. An agile organization is a company that puts people ahead of processes, promotes collaboration, values transparency and adapts quickly to changes to stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace. According to research published by McKinsey & Company, “…agile organizations have a 70 percent chance of being in the top quartile of organizational health, the best indicator of long-term performance”.
To address the second challenge of giving teeth to project management methodologies, organizations would be wise to invest in the right tools. Enterprise-class software with agile project management tools and capabilities, such as Digite’s SwiftEnterprise, can help large companies conveniently streamline their project management. With all the right features to manage a project through its entire lifecycle from concept to launch, such software can give a company and its people the reins to effectively manage and control their projects.
Here’s how organizations, big or small, with projects, budgets and workforces of varying sizes can reap the benefits of using the right project management software.
1. Working seamlessly from anywhere on the planet
The difficulties associated with working collaboratively have never been as pronounced as in current times, with employees spread out geographically, across time zones and with varying levels of connectivity. Flexible work schedules and remote working options have necessitated the use of tools to manage a scattered workforce.
When team members are not in the same physical location, project management tools provide features that support and enable the daily SCRUM/Standup meetings, help share files securely, allow real-time messaging and help everyone stay on the same page.
2. Fostering a sense of Responsibility/ Accountability
A good project management software lays out workflows, task assignments, statuses, and deadlines openly for all to see. This transparency helps managers as well as team members track progress, understand expectations, and feel accountable. An increased sense of responsibility is a huge motivator that spurs better performance.
3. Tracking Status made Easy
Team managers swear by the value added by project management tools to the process of organizing their project-related activities. Backlog management, story mapping, and sprint planning among many other key activities, can be simplified by the use of these tools. The use of Gantt charts, Kanban boards and other visual aids can help to map out, itemize, conceptualize and prioritize tasks, and track workflows while monitoring critical paths and activities that are in the red.
Advanced, AI-enabled features such as those offered by SwiftEnterprise can further optimize project management by auto-populating work items, offering ML-based suggestions and forecasts, and having bots to automate routine administrative tasks.
4. Helping Managers reduce Overburdening
Managing people is challenging since it involves the human aspects of employee morale, work-life balance, and job satisfaction. Using a project management tool gives project and team managers a bird’s eye view of their people and their workloads, helping them best utilize every team member’s time and skills, while ensuring that they don’t get overburdened and stay motivated and energized.
5. Knowing the Risks and planning for them
Project management tools help teams adopt an incremental and iterative approach to working, equipping them to deal with risks by being more flexible and easily course-correct in case of unexpected changes, without any major adverse impacts on the deliverables. Such teams have the ability to proactively identify and understand potential risks and put together plans to avoid or mitigate them.
6. Revitalizing productivity
Easy access to all important information related to a project simplifies collaboration, scheduling and resource management, shortening decision cycles. Automating routine tasks such as preparing weekly/monthly reports, facilitating speedy standups and retrospectives, timesheet approvals, etc. saves a significant amount of time and effort for project managers and team members alike. Also, with increased transparency, the workforce is more accountable and therefore more driven to perform.
7. One team, one spirit
Project Management tools help realize the intangible benefit of promoting a sense of belonging among team members. Having a common workspace to share issues, highlight risks or ask for help are just some examples of how a good project management tool can help team members support each other and humanize their work. They help bring everyone to a single virtual table, communicate, and form bonds as they work towards meeting common goals.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” is an adage popularised by a certain, webbed superhero. If you have the power to do something, you are duty-bound to use it for the greater good. In the context of program management and agile methodologies, the same adage can be interpreted to mean that an empowered workforce will work responsibly. Companies will benefit by reflecting on how they can equip their workforce with the right processes and tools, and a safe, trusting environment to make them feel empowered and work towards the success of their projects.